Via Romenesko, Mike Jacobs, editor and publisher of Grand Forks Herald, explains why his paper decided against endorsements in 2006 (sadly, this changed after the paper was bought by Forum Communications). Jacobs writes:
Endorsements have been under fire [...] as contributing more to the brand of the newspaper than to the knowledge that voters need to make informed decisions.
This is true of presidential endorsements, I concede, and I see little reason to make them. Farther down the ballot, however, endorsements do contribute something, if they are thoughtful and well-considered reviews of the candidates for an office.
By nature, endorsements shouldn’t be revelatory — any important information about candidates should be located in a news story, not an endorsement. To the contrary, the only revelatory information a reader can gather from an endorsement is a newspaper’s stance on certain issues.
The New York Times hasn’t endorsed one Republican candidate this year. This serves as ammunition for conservative bloggers and pundits who see the NYT as too liberal. As a result of this, news stories in the NYT that appear to praise a Democrat or denigrate a Republican are seen as opinion, not news — regardless of the legitimacy of the information in the articles. This is a disservice to readers who look to a newspaper for news, not opinion.