NYT Rebuilding Its Presidential Endorsement Process

The New York Times’s editorial board is veering sharply away from its traditional closed-door endorsement process for Democratic presidential aspirants, conducting interviews with the 2020 Democratic contenders on the record and airing parts of the discussions — along with the board’s final decision — on its FX show, “The Weekly.”

“For the first time, interviews with the editorial board will be filmed, and portions may be broadcast as part of a special episode for the Times’ new documentary series The Weekly,” deputy editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury wrote in a pitch to a presidential campaign, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. An official from a second campaign confirmed also receiving the Times’s pitch.

“The show will also feature the editorial board’s deliberations, and the final decision on whom the board chooses to endorse will be revealed on television,” Kingsbury added.

Kingsbury and representatives from the Times were not immediately available for comment.

The Times’s decision to give viewers a glimpse into the process is a break with the traditionally back-room proceedings and demonstrates how the paper is increasingly adding a television component to showcase its journalism.

For instance, Sunday night’s episode of “The Weekly” covered the Times’s investigation into claims of a secret trove of Jeffrey Epstein information, a story that appeared online and in a special section of that morning’s print edition.

The Times has also been incorporating video in new ways this cycle, such as its reporters’ putting the same 18 questions to 21 Democratic contenders earlier this year.

In her pitch to the campaigns, Kingsbury said the Times believes “that putting these interviews on the record is a public service to our readers” and “gives voters insight into the criteria — experience, character, knowledge of issues — that inform our endorsements, as well as allows us to showcase the research and reporting that direct the endorsement process.”

Those deliberations this cycle will not include the paper’s editorial page editor. James Bennet, who assumed that role in 2016, has recused himself from 2020 opinion coverage while his brother, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, is in the presidential race.

The Times plans to make its Democratic endorsement before the 2020 Iowa Caucus, as it did in 2016 when backing Hillary Clinton. The 90-minute candidate interviews are expected to begin Monday and continue through Dec. 17.

Author: Lawrence Lease

Lawrence Lease is a freelance writer and screenwriter. His work can be seen on Blasting News, Cinema Gold and The Washington Ledger.

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