November 1, 2016 Last Updated 12:54 pm

Variety makes first presidential endorsement in 111-year history

Trade magazine has endorsed Hillary Clinton, who they say ‘enjoys widespread support’ in the industry, while warning that her opponent is a threat to the First Amendment

This election year is an odd one, with some magazines doing something they have never done before, make an endorsement for president. Today, the weekly entertainment trade magazine Variety is making its first endorsement of a presidential candiate in its 111-year history. Yep, its Hillary Clinton.

“While it is commonplace for mass-market newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to endorse candidates, that’s not the case for trade publications,” wrote Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein in the editorial. “But this year, the editors-in-chief and our publisher, Michelle Sobrino-Stearns, feel strongly that we should buck tradition and take a public stance on this historic election; for the same reason that The Atlantic endorsed Clinton (marking only the third time since its 1857 founding to back a candidate), we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and come down on the wrong side of history.”

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Variety was founded in 1905 as a weekly trade publication in New York, adding Daily Variety in 1933 in LA to cover the movie industry. In 1987 it was sold to Cahners (where I once worked), later renamed Reed Business Information. Penske Media now owns Variety after Reed exited the US market for trade publications.

While it may be rare for a magazine to make a presidential endorsement, it is even rarer for a trade publication to do it, if only out of fear of alienating a portion of the readership.

When I was publisher of a transportation construction magazine I would have loved to endorsed Bill Clinton against his Republican rival. The reason was that the Clinton administration was in favor of increasing spending in the next transportation bill, while Republicans were in favor of cutting back all forms of government spending. But contractors are generally Republican, and even though most knew that Clinton winning would benefit their businesses, they still preferred the Republican (likely over tax policies that might benefit them personally). So, no endorsement (actually, I never even thought about seriously).

Variety, though, is in a safer position. The entertainment industry is very liberal, despite the presence of notable stars such as Clint Eastwood and Jon Voight who are very visible Republicans.

The trade pub noted in its endorsement that “in the industry we cover, she (Hillary Clinton) enjoys widespread support, having cultivated relationships with entertainment figures dating back to her role as first lady. At a time when the industry is enjoying tremendous growth across borders and cultures, she will understand and embrace the importance of international cooperation and the influence of soft power.”

But Variety also noted that a Trump administration would likely be less friendly to the media, and the rights of the press and the entertainment industry.

“Let’s talk about another disconcerting issue that has cropped up during Trump’s campaign that is essential to the way the media business functions — his treatment of the First Amendment. Trump has intimidated reporters and made multiple threats to sue outlets for stories he despises — a tactic in keeping with his litigious past, but highly unusual for a candidate,” the Variety editorial said.

“Moreover, he has gone beyond libel threats to hint that he would use the levers of power to go after media companies he dislikes. He suggested that Amazon has antitrust issues. ‘Oh, do they have problems,’ he said. The size of tech giants may be a genuine issue, but Trump’s context was his unhappiness with the way he has been covered by The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.”

Don’t look for any of the trade publications that cover the newspaper or magazine industry to make an endorsement this cycle. Many are far too business kissing up to the big wigs in the industry that they need to speak at their events than to take a stand on an election.

But this is the only US election I can remember where they fate of the press in this country may be at stake. This website, I am sure, is not the only that has had to fight off DDoS attacks against it this fall, and I am likely not the only journalist that has received threatening phone calls from unidentified callers, unhappy that I have mentioned that a newspaper or magazine has endorsed the wrong candidate.

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