I recently wondered whether the Tribune would endorse Barack Obama or yet another Republican for president, and what either endorsement would signify, given all the changes at the top. It matters little if a newspaper hews to or departs from its traditions when those traditions no longer matter. And I was worried that the Tribune‘s no longer did.

But I didn’t imagine what the Tribune has decided to do. It’s polling its readers: “As we think about that choice, we want to hear from you,” it says. “Do you support Barack Obama? Do you support John McCain? If you were writing an endorsement, what would you say?”

The Tribune doesn’t promise to endorse the candidate its readers favor — but why would it bother to ask if it’s going to ignore what they say? It this is a stunt, it’s stupid. If it’s earnest, it’s a disgrace. Bruce Dold, editor of the editorial page, tells me it’s a “great idea” and explains, “We’re considering our choice. We asked readers which candidate they would choose. We got a lot of interesting responses.”

I’m sure they did. After all, the Tribune is teasing readers with the idea it will say what they want it to say, be what they want it to be. Their wildest fantasy.