If Tribune wants Trump defeated, why endorse Johnson?

When a friend asked Friday morning whether I was going to cancel my subscription in protest, I didn’t know what she was talking about. I hadn’t yet heard about the Chicago Tribune’s endorsement of Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson — the man who asked “What is Aleppo?” and couldn’t name a foreign leader he admired.

When I found out, I was stunned and dismayed. It may sound strange to say, but I don’t think of the Tribune as a conservative newspaper, probably because I don’t read most of the editorials. To me, the opinion pages are Eric Zorn and Clarence Page and — a welcome addition — Garrison Keillor. And the Tribune endorsed Barack Obama twice. Are Hillary Clinton’s positions much different from his?

According to the online editorial endorsing Johnson, Clinton was spurned because of her alleged untruthfulness and her proposed “orgies of spending,” although the writers acknowledged that she “is undeniably capable of leading the United States.”

For months now, the Tribune and its columnists, even the conservative ones, have been excoriating Donald Trump. Hard to believe then that the paper wouldn’t do everything it could to keep him away from the White House. Curious that the editorial board doesn’t see that voting for Clinton is the only way to defeat “a man not fit to be president,” in the editorial’s words.

It is interesting that both the Tribune and USA Today spoke of convictions and principles when they weighed in on the presidential race with editorials Friday. USA Today made an “anti-endorsement” of Trump and, without endorsing anyone, advised voters to “stay true to your convictions.” Considering the stakes, that is more responsible than the Tribune’s saying that voting for Johnson “is standing for principles” and “voting for someone they can admire.” Voting for Johnson, in fact, is running the risk of helping Trump.

Once I calmed down, I thought about the question my friend asked: Would I cancel my subscription in protest? The rationalizations for not doing so arose:

  • Illinois is pretty much a given for Clinton, so the endorsement won’t hurt her here.
  • Clinton is trouncing Trump in the newspaper endorsement count.
  • Newspaper endorsements don’t affect voting as much as they used to. Voters have so many other sources today.
  • The paper does try to offer a balanced array of columnists. The news coverage has never struck me as biased.
  • The Tribune has become a valued part of my retirement routine, and I look forward to reading it the first thing every morning.
  • I would miss Eric Zorn’s and Mary Schmich’s columns. I’d miss architecture critic Blair Kamin and theater critic Chris Jones and others. They are experts in their subjects and fine writers.
  • But more than any single writer, I’d miss the Tribune’s substance. I think the paper has done a good job of adjusting to the changes in the newspaper business by offering investigative, in-depth reporting.
  • I don’t know how to stay up on local news without it. The Sun-Times seems skimpy in comparison. WTTW’s Chicago Tonight and WBEZ’s news reporting are solid, but their coverage is more selective than comprehensive. As for the other broadcast media in town, I don’t pay enough attention to judge. I’m showing my age here, not thinking of digital sources.

So, I’m not sure whether I’ll drop the Tribune after more than 30 years as a daily subscriber, but it would be good to know what other choices exist. I’ll be looking into alternatives for local news and would welcome any suggestions. With the multiple sources for national and world news, I’m not so concerned about that.

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