The Enid, Oklahoma, newspaper, the News & Eagle, located in the heart of a GOP-heavy county inside a GOP-dominated state in a GOP-led part of the country, this year endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
“I hope people can respect that we’re entitled to our opinion, too, and that that can be different from news,” said Rob Collins the executive editor.
Jeff L. Funk, the publisher, “supplied notes that formed the basis for the Clinton endorsement,” which was influenced by its corporate owner, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., according to the New York Times, which reported on the situation.
“It was our decision at the corporate level, which of course was made known to all of our papers, that Donald Trump did not meet our company and journalism values, particularly as they related to the First Amendment,” Bill Ketter, vice president, told the Times.
Now the people are expressing their opinion.
The paper, with a circulation of 10,000, has lost 162 subscribers already – and 11 advertisers have withdrawn their business from the publication, “including a funeral home that had a sizable account,” the Times reported.
And many more have wanted to leave the newspaper.
“I talked a lot of people off the ledge,” said Collins. “People knew my dad or know my mom and know my family here. A lot of people who were angry called expecting me to argue right back with them. Really, the only time I would raise my voice is when I would get cursed at or yelled at, which I don’t really like.”
Its political choice has left the newspaper in damage control mode.
“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 Times said.
Other reactions from readers haven’t always been polite.
The Times reported someone attached a “Crooked Hillary” bumper sticker to the newspaper office doors, and a late-night message on voice mail expressed hope “that readers would deliver, to put it delicately, a burning sack of steaming excrement to the paper.”
Funk, after the decision at and instructions from corporate headquarters in Alabama, out of which newspapers and websites in 23 states are operated, assembled notes and Collins served as the primary author of the Clinton endorsement.
A few other conservative state newspapers made the same endorsement, but in those places the dispute seems to have blown over, with Trump’s election night victory.
Not in Enid.
The Times reported that the community outrage continues to percolate.
“One Sunday after church, Jeff Mullin and his wife were in line at the Western Sizzlin steakhouse … when a man, fists clenched, threatened to beat the hell out of him,” the report said.
Mullin said, “My first thought was just to kind of try to keep things calm. Otherwise, it was going to be two old guys rolling around on the floor of the steakhouse, and that would be pretty unseemly.”
The newspaper had blasted Trump, describing him as lacking “the skills, experience or temperament to hold office,” and it was the “first Democratic endorsement for president in the modern history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1893,” the Times said.
The actual endorsement admitted Clinton has problems, but it said she should be supported anyway.
“We have policy disagreements with Clinton, but she is competent and capable of handling the incredible responsibility of being our nation’s commander in chief and leader of the free world. She has a record of public service as a senator, secretary of state and first lady. She has the temperament and experience to be president,” the newspaper said.
“Clinton is not without fault. She mishandled the controversy over her private email server while secretary of state, as well as her initial statements on the terrorist raid on the U.S. post in Benghazi. She should have put a firewall between the Clinton Foundation and her office to avoid the perception of donors buying access. However, her flaws pale in comparison with the irresponsible conduct demonstrated by Trump during the campaign. For several critical reasons, we believe he is unfit to be president.”
The newspaper cited Trump’s comments about a Gold Star family, Muslims, women, foreign trade agreements, federal income taxes and more, all issues on which the legacy media in the country blasted Trump.
The Enid paper said, “Traditionally, the Enid News & Eagle endorses Republicans for president. This newspaper supports conservative values such as less intrusive government, energy independence, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise, prioritization of national defense and more local control in our schools, businesses and lives.
“On those policies, we find areas of agreement and disagreement with Clinton. But we don’t elect policies, we elect people, and the person we need to elect is Hillary Clinton.
“Ours is not the only conservative newspaper editorial board with a tradition of supporting GOP candidates to now endorse Clinton. The Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune have endorsed her, as well.”
Reported the Times, “A retired businessman, Paul Allen, canceled his subscription over the newspaper’s endorsement of Ms. Clinton. ‘It was sickening to me,’ he said.”
And the report said former mayor Doug Frantz dropped out of this year’s Pillar of the Plains events, which are sponsored by the paper.
“Emails, letters, phone calls and comments denouncing the endorsement have poured into the paper’s website and Facebook page,” the Times reported.
Allen, described as a prominent resident who financed construction of a ballpark downtown, dropped his 43-year-old subscription.
“I just felt like it was kind of my duty almost. When I saw that headline, I was shocked. It was sickening to me,” he said.
In the Nov. 8 election, all 77 counties in Oklahoma voted for Trump.