The New York Times has an outdated policy when it comes to endorsements. The various opinion writers are not allowed to explicitly endorse any candidate for office, although it’s pretty clear that Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd and Charles Blow favor President Obama, while Ross Douthat and David Brooks prefer Mitt Romney. They’re all allowed to write about all that it good about their preferred candidate, as well as the shortcomings of the other guy, but they can’t just recommend that the reader vote for their guy.
The New York Times, as an institution, usually endorses candidates. Many of the reporters are bothered by this, as it calls their impartiality into question. But it seems to me that the bigger problem is the suggestion that the Times, or any newspaper, is a monolithic entity. It seems an artificial way to try to tend lend credibility to something that is ultimately subjective.
The individual members of the editorial board have opinions on a diverse array of subjects. And they should be able to offer those opinions transparently, as well as responses to the pieces written by other opinion writers, or even the publisher. However, commentary on elections should be a discussion, rather than a monologue.
The major shortcoming when a newspaper endorses is that it doesn’t give a hint of the internal discussions. And those have the potential to be more nuanced, unpredictable, contradictory and worthwhile explorations of the issues at stake.