Editor & Publisher has a tally of presidential endorsements by college newspapers that puts the count at 63-1 in favor of Democrat Barack Obama. The only paper to endorse Republican John McCain: the Daily Mississippian at the University of Missippi.
On the one hand, the overwhelming pro-Obama majority tracks with the long-running media narrative that Obama is king among young voters. If even young people who have no votes are going for Obama, then it makes perfect sense that college papers are going publicly for the candidate Oprah Winfrey dubbed "The One."
On the other hand, are we really supposed to believe that there are only 64 daily and weekly college papers in a country that has 50 states?
The first thing I noticed about Editor & Publisher's list is that it includes the newspapers of both West Virginia University (my alma mater) and Marshall University at the other end of my home state. Two college papers from one of the smallest states in the union, and we're supposed to believe this is a fair sampling of American academia?
In the big media scheme of things, it doesn't matter much which way college papers break in a presidential election. Political endorsements by major metropolitan dailies carry little weight today, if they ever did, so endorsements by obscure college papers pack no punch at all.
That's especially true when polling indicates that the much-vaunted youth vote of 2008 probably won't be much greater than it was in 2004 or any other presidential year.
But it's not too much to ask that Editor & Publisher broaden its intellectual horizons beyond the likes of The Crimson at Harvard University, the Columbia Daily Spectator, the Daily Northwestern and the Daily Californian in Berkeley in order to offer some balance in its reporting of college endorsements.
There are plenty of conservative academic institutions in this country, and they have newspapers, too. Odds are good that they're not backing Obama.