One of the new co-owners of The Baltimore Sun said the paper will cease endorsing political candidates on its editorial page, joining a slew of other publications in ending the age-old practice.
Armstrong Williams, a conservative columnist and entrepreneur who purchased the paper with Sinclair Broadcasting owner David D. Smith, in an interview published online Saturday in The Sun called endorsements unnecessary.
Williams said readers can expect “a more balanced editorial page, not by removing, but by adding ... You must have competing voices.”
The Sun’s decision to end endorsements brings the paper in line with others owned by the publication’s previous owners, Alden Global Capital. Papers owned by the investment firm, including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Boston Herald, Orlando Sentinel and San Jose Mercury News, stopped making political endorsements in recent years.
Of the country’s 100 biggest newspapers by circulation, 92 endorsed a presidential candidate in 2008. By 2020, only 54 endorsed a candidate, according to a study by the University of California Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.
Smith and Williams purchased The Sun and other, smaller publications in the communities surrounding Baltimore for an undisclosed amount. At a meeting with staff this past week, Smith said he spent “nine figures” last week to buy the papers from Alden. That would mean he spent more than $100 million.
In the meeting, Smith decried the Baltimore City School system, saying former students are “always going to be on welfare,” pledged to “fix” The Sun and told reporters several times he had “no idea what you do.”
In the interview, Williams, 61, said he pictures the publications as a way for expanding, not limiting, viewpoints and coverage that’s important to the community. Williams said the coverage will be fair and objective and aimed at building trust with readers.
“We have no agenda,” he said, other than “making The Baltimore Sun the prize of this region.”
Smith and Williams have been active in conservative politics and come under fire for their dealings with politicians.
Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting Inc., which owns or operates 185 local television stations across the country and is known for infusing a right-wing sensibility into its news products. In 2018, the company ordered its anchors across the country to read a statement that largely echoed what former President Donald Trump had said about “fake news.”
Williams acknowledged in 2005 he was paid $240,000 by the Department of Education under President George W. Bush to promote its initiatives on his syndicated television program and to other African Americans in the news media. He did not disclose the payments at the time the agreement was reached in 2003.
In the interview, Williams acknowledged the payments and said he used poor judgment.
“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future,” Williams said. “...The thing that I’ve learned is you can never compromise your integrity.”