Readers of newspapers like The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star will probably have to choose a presidential candidate in November without the help of their local editorial boards, according to a memo circulated by the company that owns the newspapers, McClatchy.
McClatchy’s 30 papers will be permitted to make a presidential endorsement only if they conduct interviews with both Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Trump, who is not in the habit of talking to local newspaper editorial boards. The company’s policy was distributed internally by Colleen McCain Nelson, McClatchy’s national opinion editor.
“If we don’t interview the candidates, we won’t make a recommendation for president,” the memo says. “Most readers aren’t turning to us for national political commentary, and they can choose among dozens of news organizations that deploy journalists to cover the presidential campaign full-time. If we’re simply observing the race from afar, our ability to provide unique content and our own reporting is severely limited.”
The decision is part of an attempt to keep the newspapers, which were recently purchased out of bankruptcy by a hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management of New Jersey, focused on their local mission. “Local, Local, Local,” reads one section of the memo, which was first circulated in January, according to a McClatchy spokeswoman, but had not been previously reported.
The memo represents a retreat from an important feature of 20th-century newspaper journalism. It also reflects an effort to steer away from the all-consuming vortex of national news and carve out a place for local news sources whose businesses are in free fall. Other local papers, including The Dallas Morning News, have said they will not endorse this year.
The McClatchy newspapers include several in key swing states, including The Herald, The Charlotte Observer, and The Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
Newspaper endorsements, or a lack thereof, may not prove crucial to the outcome in November. In 2016, only two of the 100 largest newspapers in America endorsed the winner, Mr. Trump.