Voters in one Oklahoma small town helped propel President-elect Donald Trump to victory and now they’re voting with their wallets against the local newspaper.
Newspaper subscribers and advertisers in Enid are outraged their local editorial staff endorsed Trump’s now-defeated Democrat opponent.
Newspapers historically endorse presidential candidates. The Enid News & Eagle made a controversial choice by abandoning its conservative history and endorsing Hillary Clinton earlier this year.
The endorsement cost the newspaper money as subscribers and advertisers bolted. Editorial staff faced open opposition to the October endorsement and are scrambling to recover losses. From The Blaze:
The Enid News & Eagle, along with many other right-leaning newspapers around the country, threw its weight behind Clinton in hopes of stopping then-Republican presidential candidate Trump. He pulled off a stunning electoral victory in November.
The endorsement in the fall marked the first time the small Oklahoma newspaper, which was founded in 1893, endorsed a Democrat. And many of the small, 52,000-member town in which the publication is circulated have yet to forgive the editors.
In fact, according to the New York Times, circulation is down since the controversial endorsement:
The News & Eagle, with a circulation of 10,000, lost 162 subscribers who canceled the paper.
For a small-town newspaper, that many subscribers in a short time affects the bottom line of the business. Profits are hit harder when advertisers pull their ads.
Eleven advertisers pulled their ads, including a funeral home that had a sizable account.
Newspapers often forget they aren’t the only voice in town until their audience speaks out against them.
Someone stuck a “Crooked Hillary” bumper sticker on the glass doors of the paper’s downtown office. A man left a late-night message on the publisher’s voice mail, expressing his hope that readers would deliver, to put it delicately, a burning sack of steaming excrement to the paper.
The endorsement fallout has rippled into other arenas that hit the newspaper with bad publicity.
The town’s former mayor pulled out of an event that was slated to honor community leaders because the occasion was being sponsored by the News & Eagle. The Times reported that the paper has received numerous calls, emails and letters complaining about the endorsement, too.
Stubbornness is a common attitude for small-town newspapers, and the News & Eagle staff stands by its failed endorsement. They are trying to salvage a reputation now damaged.
One reader who stopped taking the paper said it was still trying to woo him back by delivering an occasional copy to his doorstep. The executive editor, Rob Collins, has worked the phones, talking to subscribers who had canceled or threatened to do so.
Controversial editorials in small towns can get dicey for the staff who have more direct contact with people who have opposing views.
One senior writer for the paper said he senses “almost a sense of betrayal” from readers, citing an experience he had when a man confronted him in a restaurant and threatened to beat him up. The reporter was not harmed.
The harm in Enid comes from an editorial staff charged with supporting and promoting the community that turned against its core subscribers. A newspaper can’t dismiss its long-standing editorial voice on the whim of one election after having voiced conservative values for generations.
The newspaper made a mistake. It should own up to that mistake and work to restore its reputation.
Subscribers and advertisers are the ones who feel betrayed by the newspaper. It will be awhile before that sentiment fades away.
Long-term effects to the newspaper will cost more than the immediate reaction.
Source: The Blaze