My NPR affiliate is doing a piece on the Free Press’ endorsement of Barack Obama. They’re running down its bullet points as I write this. It’s not a long piece — it’s over now — but still: I am agog.
Never mind the dog-bites-man element here. The Freep has a left-leaning editorial page; for them, endorsing the Democrat is like the Wall Street Journal editorial page touting free enterprise. OK, it’s Monday, slow news day blah blah blah — that is, if you consider the unraveling of world financial markets, coupled with a potential GM-Chrysler merger that will likely be the death blow to the local economy, just two of today’s stories, “slow.” Never mind that. I have worked for newspapers, and I know how the endorsement process works, and all I can say is, why should the public give a shit who any editorial board thinks should be elected to any office?
Endorsements made sense when there were more newspapers in the world, and they had real authority, and great people behind them. Then, you wanted to know who Charles Foster Kane was backing for job one. Whether or not endorsements actually changed a single vote has always been a pretty theoretical question, and even the most generous estimates put the number of endorsement-led voters at tiny-to-miniscule. And yet, newspapers continue to make endorsements, like Brits gathering for high tea nomatterwhat. Looked at one way, it’s sorta charming. Looked at another, it’s a symptom of the problem at the root of the industry — their maddening, “this is the way we do it because this is the way we’ve always done it” attitude.
As I recall, editors like making endorsements about as much as readers like reading them, i.e., not so much. People don’t realize what goes into them; they think it’s all about gathering around a pastry-strewn table and arguing, when what it really involves is weeks of interviews with some of the most boring candidates you’ve ever met. Because the paper doesn’t just endorse for the big races — those are only the ones that make the news. No one writes about the ones headlined: “For 4th District village council: Herminghausen.” And to get to that endorsement, the editorial board chatted up Herminghausen and his opponents, Schiller and Grubman. Before that, if there was a primary, they might have talked to Herminghausen, Schiller, Grubman, Czerny, Skolnik, O’Reilly and Killeen. Multiply that by however many races there are, and you see why endorsement season is extra-martini season on the ed page.
When you think about it, the endorsements that you should pay attention to aren’t the ones that make news. Really, do you feel the need for a second opinion to make up your mind about the presidential race? But how much do you know, really, about the Court of Appeals, or the township assessor, or the 4th District rep? That’s where an endorsement can help, to the extent it says, “This person appeared before us, didn’t wet his or her pants and impressed us with at least rudimentary competence.” There are always a few spots on any ballot you just couldn’t get to in your research. That’s when you need to know Herminghausen got the paper’s endorsement.
Or, as Alec Baldwin’s character said of marriage in “The Departed:” Marriage is an important part of getting ahead: lets people know you’re not a homo; married guy seems more stable; people see the ring, they think at least somebody can stand the son of a bitch; ladies see the ring, they know immediately you must have some cash or your cock must work.
Well, he delivers it better. But you get the idea.
The Detroit News’ editorial page leans right. Now, if they endorse Obama, that’ll be news. We’ll see.
“The Cemetery Precincts” wrapped shooting last night. That means all we have to do now is the editing, the sound, the scoring, the this and the that. Then we have to fight about it, and change it all around, and do it all again. Listen to me: “We.” Most of this stuff will be done by others, but when a production is this small, it’s everybody’s baby, and you sweat every step of the process. I volunteered to put on zombie makeup and be a back-rank zombie, but somehow I got recruited to be the lead in the big gross-out scene, which is so unbelievably gross I don’t think I’ll be able to watch it. The prep:
(I suspect there was a lot of K-Y in that mix.) Thanks to our genius gross-out guy, Dan Phillips, who crafted the effect and signs his e-mails, “Stay scary, Dan.” I’ll say.
Not much bloggage today, but this: One of the things I like about Jon Stewart is his willingness to talk back to one of the nastiest myths of red-state America (at the moment, anyway), that people who live in cities aren’t the real America, or pro-America, or whatever. And he does it so well.
The rest I leave up to those of you who paid more attention to the news this weekend. I’m off to study Russian.