Vote, Voting and the Drive to Stay Informed
Today is election day, at least here in Wisconsin. As is my usual, I've been urging those around me to vote. And, as is my usual, I've been getting a lot of the same responses, "I don't like voting when I don't know anything about the candidates." A good sentiment, certainly, but with the wrong solution. Not voting isn't the answer here, folks, becoming informed is the answer. I know, I know, "If only it were that simple..."
Usually, when faced with a national election there is a plethora of information about any given candidate. Sure, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff, the fact from the fiction, but the internet has made that easier than ever. With local elections the story's a bit different. Often there just isn't any easily accessible information, so when you find a few precious nuggets, you often have to take them for what they are irregardless of their bias.
In preparation for the up-coming elections, The Janesville Gazette put out a Voters' Guide of sorts for the local area. For a lot of people this is the only source of news they may get concerning the elections. Even for myself, it was the bulk of it. Now, this is problematic for an obvious reason. The Janesville Gazette is run and written by human beings, which means truth is not always what you get. Sometimes you get bias, and when it comes to being informed in time for electing your representative within any government arena, bias is a BIG problem.
While I couldn't find a link for the Voters' Guide (which, unfortunately, doesn't surprise me in the least), I can tell you about the two biggest bits of bias I noticed. The first was in regards to the challengers for the seat of Rock County Judge. It's a language issue there. It's obvious that Folts is their man (and I admit I'm leaning that way too, but that's hardly the point), because when Folts says something that's not quite accurate they just tell the other side of it; when Welker says something equally inaccurate, they make sure to get in a "The charge is untrue..."
Hmm. Bias anyone?
Again, with the matter of Andreah Briarmoon, they make it blatantly obvious they dislike her and don't want her to get elected onto the City Council. Frankly, I agree with them. She's an alarmist who thinks our city is run as some sort of totalitarian government. She consistently equates our city police with militant enforcers of the will of the city administrator. This is, of course, ridiculous, imo, but I expect my news source to be able to report this factually without the dripping scorn, so that each individual resident can make their own decisions about Andreah Briarmoon and her flights of fancy.
(Remember, I am NOT a journalist, nor do I pretend to be one, but we'll go more into that, well, right now.)
The real reason this gets me, I guess, is that in the same paper there was this opinion piece by Molly Ivins.
Here's some high-lights:
But while Wall Street doesn't care, nor do many of the people who own and run newspapers, newspapers do, in fact, matter beyond producing profit -- they have a critical role in democracy. It's called a well-informed citizenry.
Hmm. Well-informed citizenry, huh? I agree that's important, but how exactly are papers making that happen when they can't keep their own bias out of their Voters' Guides?
Then there's this:
Television, radio and newspapers are all cutting staff, while the bloggers of the Internet either do not have the size or the interest to go out and gather news. Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter -- nothing like interviewing all four eyewitnesses to an automobile accident and then trying to write an accurate account of what happened.
Okay, breaking this down...
First, I have to take offense at the whole "bloggers are not news-gathers" thing. Some bloggers aren't. I, for one, am not a news-gatherer, nor a reporter, journalist or any other stripe of that lot. Nor do I claim to be! However, my friend and fellow blogger, Michael Brooks of Historymike's Musings is a journalist who goes out gathering news, taking pictures, and then posting it on his blog (as well as in actual newspapers). On behalf of Mike (and his fellow news-gathering bloggers), I am offended and disgusted with her ignorance (or assumed ignorance) of the facts. Tsk, tsk. A reporter (dripping scorn fully intentional) should know better.
She doesn't stop there, though. No, she has to push it a little bit further. "...no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter..."
Excuse me!?! First, it's obvious that spending years as a reporter hasn't given her any advantage in actually finding the facts. That's consistently obvious in the many opinion pieces of hers I've read. Second, since when was the freedom of the press limited to reporters!?!
Molly Ivins says, "We are in trouble." She concludes this because newspapers no longer have a strangle-hold on the news. She thinks this is a bad thing. If I could, I'd be laughing in her face about now. Apparently, Ivins thinks having access to a lot of people's opinions is bad for democracy. Apparently, Ivins thinks having access to reporters who aren't neck deep in newspaper politics (the kind within the organization itself) is bad for democracy. I, for one, don't give a damn what Molly Ivins thinks and am offended as hell that she'd dare suggest that my right to express my opinion should be limited to my ability/interest in being a member in her elitist club!
So, in conclusion, I must say, "Go out and vote!" It is, imo, the responsibility of every American citizen to be an informed voter. It isn't easy, but who ever said democracy is easy? Just don't be duped by the many reporters out there that cannot report facts without inserting their bias and be sure that if you choose to get your news from the many dedicated bloggers out there that you don't rely too heavily on any one set of us to make that happen. I have never been more "well-informed" in my life than I have been as a blogger, but I accomplish that by including a wide variety of blogs in my perusing. Unfortunately, I'm still way too reliant on reporters to inform me about local politics. Alas, I'm going to have to find a way to fix that!