The UK votes, the Senate hears testimony; Do UK newspaper endorsements still sway voters?
North Carolina legislature is at it again: this time targeting newspaper carriers with law that would force papers to consider them employees rather than independent contractors
The expectations going into today were incredibly high: the UK is going to the polls for what could be a historic result, while the former director of the FBI is to give testimony to the Senate intelligence committee. But the truth of the matter is that today is just as likely to reinforce what we already know about UK and US society, that we live in a tribal era, where citizens and our representatives vote and act based on tribal identity more than what may be in their best interests, or how the facts present themselves.
I am not optimistic that when the day is over that anything of value will have come out of the events of today. Maybe I am worn down by the constant outrages, and the ability of so many of us to undervalue democracy and overvalue tribe.
In any case, beginning at 10 am ET any chance that you will be reading TNM, or any other trade news website, is nil. In the UK. polls close late, 10pm (that is amazing, here in the US we do everything possible to prevent people from voting, so I guess holding the election on a Thursday was the best the Brits could do to imitate the US), That means that results will start to come in about the time the NYT and WaPo are about to drop their daily scoops, and about the time people will be tired of rehashing Comey’s testimony.
What a day we have in store for us, but will it end up changing anything?
Does it really matter anymore who a newspaper endorses?
We’ve been asking ourselves that for a number of years here in the States and have concluded that the answer is a resounding No. The vast majority of newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton last fall, and of the few that did not, many of those wrote editorials saying voters should vote against Donald Trump, even if they did not want to vote for Clinton. It didn’t matter.
In the UK, the press is far more right wing and most of the newspapers have endorsed the Tories, even as Labour has climbed in the polls. But many are still asking the question, does it matter that their favorite newspaper is endorsing a candidate? Many still believe so, though believe it is only a matter of time when the UK papers catch up with their US counterparts and come to realize how little influence they still have on the voting public.
Overall the five titles have an average daily circulation of more than 4m (ABC figures for April 2017), equal to an 80 per cent share of the audience for the UK’s national Sunday newspapers.
The Labour Party have only received one full endorsement in the Sunday titles, from the Sunday Mirror, which headlined its leader column: “We need a PM with a common touch… and it’s not wobbly Theresa May.”
In previous elections, it’s not uncommon for some national newspapers to endorse a party or to hold a particular view. However, in the age of social media and “on the move” mobile news – how influential are newspapers when it comes to political party endorsements?
“Circulation of print papers has declined in most of Western industrialized countries, but I wouldn’t infer from that a decline in influence,” said Dr. Marco Bastos, lecturer in media and communications at City, University of London, in an email to CNBC.
Bastos gave two reasons for this: one, not all sectors of the news industry have been equally impacted by the drop in print ad revenues, and second, that newspapers’ influence is a result of their “structural coupling to the public opinion, a process that surely benefits from broad circulation but that’s not restricted to it.”
A number of states have been targeting public notices, passing legislation, or attempting to, which would end the requirement that local governments publish their notices in newspapers. Most of these efforts have gone nowhere as the issue has been seen as strictly partisan, with Republicans promoting the bills, Democrats defending their local newspapers.
But there are other ways to hurt a newspaper, as the legislature in North Carolina, a leader in passing controversial legislation, is pushing.
The legislature is looking to close a loophole in state law that allows newspapers to consider their newspaper carriers independent contractors, rather than employees. The consequences of the bill would be huge for many newspapers as it would mean that they would have to pay workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment, and payroll tax payments for their carriers.
It is easier to consider carriers as employees when one sees that most newspapers are delivered today by adults throwing papers out of their cars, rather than what we say decades ago, paperboys on bikes. The move to adult carriers was done because a paper could outsource much of its distribution and not employ supervisors to work with their youth carriers.
But the move to adult carriers also meant that communities felt more separated from their local newspapers. Many subscribed simply as a civic duty, and as a way to support their local youth carrier. I was once a circulation director** at a daily newspaper and understand all the arguments in favor of the move to adult carriers, but that move had consequences then, as it might today.
The North Carolina Press Association opposes the bill. Carriers are “classic examples of independent contractors,” said John Bussian, a lobbyist for the press association.
Carriers often deliver newspapers for a second or third source of income, he said…
…Sen. Trudy Wade, a Guilford County Republican, said in a statement last week that the provision was partly inspired by a series in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer on misclassification of employees.
The series focused on construction companies misclassifying workers to save money. Wade’s provision deals only with newspapers.
“We appreciate our state’s news media for shedding light on the far-too-common practice of employee misclassification in North Carolina,” Wade said in a statement last week. “Surely the same industry that brought the problem to our attention will recognize this inconsistency between what they report and editorialize on and what they practice, and support this important reform to protect their own hard workers.”
** I was also once a paperboy, though not a very good, I must admit. I delivered the papers just fine, but was not very aggressive about going around the neighborhood to sell subscriptions.