Wichita State News
Photo: Joe Kleinsasser
Les Anderson, a WSU print journalism professor and a former newspaper editor, says newspapers play a vital role in informing the electorate.

PODCAST: Newspapers still matter in election campaigns

Friday, October 08, 2010

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at


. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

It seems that every month layoffs in newsrooms of some large paper are reportedly taking place in the United States. But newspapers still play an important role of informing the public during election campaigns, according to Les Anderson, a print journalism professor at Wichita State University and a former newspaper editor.

Anderson: "Newspapers, I believe, play an important function in elections because I consider newspapers credible. I think that people will tell you that newspaper readers are voters, and I think that’s important, not only for the candidates, it’s important also for readers.”

Walter Cronkite, the former CBS News anchor, stated a couple of decades ago that his news show only skimmed the headlines, and for the public to get a more complete view of the world they needed to read their morning newspaper. Anderson says newspapers still play a vital role in informing the electorate.

Anderson: "Newspapers play a vital role, I think, in informing the electorate, people who are not only registered voters who’ve made up their minds, but undecided voters. And there’s a variety of ways they reach these people. It’s through stories. It’s through Q and A’s. It’s through candidate forum type discussions, and also letters to the editor and advertising.”
According to Anderson, it’s difficult at times determining what is really news during election campaigns.

Anderson: "I think one of the biggest problems or biggest challenges newspapers face is determining what is really news, what’s worthy of news coverage. And not everything that a candidate thinks is news is really newsworthy in a lot of cases.”
Although what’s fair or not fair in newspaper coverage of political candidates is in the eye of the beholder, newspapers do the best they can to remain unbiased, says Anderson.

Anderson: "Newspapers are inundated during political campaigns by letters to the editor. And a lot of newspapers have gotten to the point where they either select a representative sample of letters about a certain candidate or by a certain candidate’s campaign folks. And, you know, the idea is to be fair and balanced, even on the editorial pages.”

The bottom line is that for all the criticism, newspapers are still seen as credible.

Anderson: "I think it comes down to the fact that newspapers are reliable. Newspapers are credible, and I think newspapers are where people go to find that information that they decide in particular undecided voters in elections.”

And newspaper coverage of political campaigns benefits the public in several ways, according to Anderson.

Anderson: “Not every candidate would agree probably, but newspaper coverage is important in political races. I think it makes elections more vibrant. It makes politics more vibrant and lively, and I think you end up with not only better input, but better candidates, more candidates and more accountability to the public.”

Whether it has positive or negative effects, exposure to the news media does influence public awareness of elections. And although newspapers are losing readership to the Web, they still play an integral part of a citizen’s daily life.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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