updated: 2:43 p.m. Tuesday
On Sunday, just two days before Election Day, one of Pittsburgh’s two newspapers finally addressed if it would endorse a presidential candidate.
But instead of endorsing Donald or Hillary — or neither of them — the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and its sister newspaper The Blade in Toledo published a joint editorial: “A guide to decide: Twelve tests to choose between Clinton and Trump.”
Many of us are unhappy with the choices the two major parties have offered for the presidency this year.
But that doesn’t take us very far.
While every American has the right to say “Hell, no” — to cast a protest vote for a third or fourth party or to abstain altogether — many Americans will see the choice, however unsavory, as binary: Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be president in the end.
From there, the editorial offers a 12-part test for the “undecided voter.”
“Our assessments are necessarily subjective, but we hope they will constitute a useful exercise for the citizen’s own decision-making,” the editorial boards wrote.
Cue critics — including the mayor’s spokesperson, a former PG reporter — calling the “subjective” test an endorsement for Trump in disguise.
Others, including 2 political junkies, took issue with the information the editorial included — or didn’t include — which split topics into values, issues and leadership traits.
Green is also a former PG reporter.
By mid-afternoon Monday, there were more than 140 comments on post-gazette.com that were overwhelmingly critical of the guide. A handful said they’d cancel their subscription. Others said the editorial was thoughtless, “perpetuating the false equivalency lie.”
At least one reader wrote that the PG should have endorsed Trump.
(The site listed the guide as being its “most commented” and second “most read” opinion piece.)
On toledoblade.com, there were only eight comments on the same editorial.
Readers of the Pittsburgh paper noted changes in local media and placed responsibility on John Robinson Block, publisher of the two newspapers.
In September, the Tribune-Review announced plans to stop publishing a Pittsburgh edition at the end of November, which will make the PG the only print newspaper in town.
The Trib hasn’t endorsed a candidate for president.
(Yes, the Post-Gazette endorsed Pat Toomey.)
Other commenters on the PG website noted that the “same non-endorsement” for presidential candidates in the two Block Communications, Inc. newspapers was a sign that “one must assume the editorial boards were under constraints from the owner.” It’s also something pointed out by 2 political junkies:
According to the editorial in today’s paper, the “test” is meant to be “a useful exercise for the citizen’s own decision-making” lovingly curated by…we assume the Block Family (owners of the P-G).
PGH Lesbian Correspondents also criticized Block, following the editorial, saying he was the “new Richard Mellon Scaife, just with less money and less integrity.”
He’s a Trump acolyte and has swallowed the Apprentice kool-aid, a beverage made with rich white people water versus that nasty poor folks tap water.
The Post-Gazette considered a nod to Trump during primary endorsement season, The Incline’s sibling site Billy Penn reported. It did not endorse presidential candidates at that time — a move, Billy Penn later learned, that was directly related to the outcry in its newsroom over the Trump rumor reporting.
In September, The Blade disclosed in a news story that John Robinson Block met with Trump.
After the campaign rally, Mr. Trump met with Blade Publisher and Editor-in-Chief John Robinson Block and Blade Editorial Page Editor Keith Burris on his plane at Toledo Express Airport.
When The Incline asked about a possible endorsement, Post-Gazette Editorial Page Editor John Allison wrote in an email at the time: “I appreciate your questions and your interest, but there’s really nothing to say. Our internal conversations about editorials are just that. We let our editorials speak for themselves when they emerge.”
Pittsburgh City Paper then published a Facebook photo of John Robinson Block and Trump from the meeting.
Sources tell City Paper that the photo was posted on Block’s Facebook page under the caption: “In 39 years of full time journalism I’ve met many interesting people. This one was more than memorable.” Both men are smiling and Trump is giving a thumbs up.
The Incline has reached out to the Post-Gazette editorial board and John Robinson Block for comment on the guide.
One editorial board member, Tony Norman, tweeted Sunday about his personal endorsement for president: