Dwindling Information Makes Voters Susceptible to SpinPermalink +
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 11:39 pm // Whatcom Citizen
Whatcom Citizen is a pseudonym for a local writer whom we know and respect. The writer must remain anonymous, and is not necessarily the same person as last time.
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The biggest untold story of our political landscape over the last five years has not been the influx of coal money, or the increasingly violent rhetoric of everyone from presidential candidates to high school students, or even the shifting tide of voter demographics. All those are important factors, but they miss a key component: the apparatus for informing the voting public is broken.
Going back a mere ten years, to 2005, if a voter needed information on a local candidate, they would read the Bellingham Herald’s insightful endorsements, peruse the Cascadia Weekly’s columns, sample the good work here at Northwest Citizen, enjoy a healthy political debate either on KGMI or in person at the Bill Mize forum, or read the Voters Guide provided by the County Auditor’s office.
Now, the Herald is a shadow of its old self – unable to summon enough insight or (more likely) page space to offer endorsements on local races. They’ve surrendered their editorial page to whichever candidates want to write for them. Tim Johnson, editor of the Cascadia Weekly, was bragging on social media in September about being able to write all his Gristle columns ahead of time. As for political forums, they are left in the hands of obvious partisan hacks like KGMI’s Kris Halterman or ignored and neglected by the media.
This effect plays out on the national level as well. The Republican presidential debates, hosted by their favorite conservative cheerleaders, have become attempts to create “media moments” rather than efforts to illuminate policy differences between candidates. In the Democratic debate the candidates actually discussed details of issues like student loan debt, education standards, international relations and climate change without falling back on hackneyed slogans. The national media, such as it is, responded by mocking the “boring” debate.
This all has a damaging impact on the voting public. Without a good grounding in what the candidates plan to do and what the job entails, voters are left to choose based on trivial identity issues: “I don’t like the way that candidate introduces himself.” Or, “I’m voting for this person because they’re for farmers.”
Operating in this kind of informational vacuum is difficult, even for those trying to stay informed or make a considered decision. A case in point is the Charter Review measures. They are complicated and have very real repercussions, but the “debates” have mostly been supporters and detractors shouting at each other on social media. By the same token, the money spent on print mailers every year is nothing more than an opportunity to shout at each other through the mail. Neither mechanism is a good way to conduct an informative discussion or educate the public on the nuances of each position.
Unfortunately, there is no single solution that can solve this problem. Yes, the Herald could return to life and offer endorsements, and the Whatcom Watch could widely distribute their full-spread candidate comparisons, and, yes, KGMI could bring in experts and conduct town hall meetings to examine the repercussions of changing the County Charter, but it would not change voter behavior.
The reason newspaper endorsements used to matter, but no longer do, is that voters are changing how they consume information. Voters no longer look to newspapers as bastions of sage advice and none of the blaring 24-hour hyper-partisan news channels offer a stolid, trustworthy Walter Cronkite figure. Without access to facts they can trust, information about political debates is absorbed via tweets or casual conversations with friends. In short, information is fragmented and unreliable.
Most alarming is that national politics are racing full-tilt toward a post-policy world, where the leading Republican contenders for president can conjure specters of organ harvesting with no fear that their words will be fact-checked or contested by any trustworthy media source.
But not all is lost. Internet news ventures are allowing for better use of original source documents (Curious about the vote of a specific Senator? Here’s a video clip from 2007 of him talking about it.) And as high-speed internet access becomes a priority for rural communities, the tendrils of new media are trying to rebuild the credibility lost by our print media. But it will take time and resources.
The alternative is just too terrifying to imagine.
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 11:39 pm // Whatcom CitizenA perspective on the our changing news system, the consequences, and the challenges for the future. With a suggestion of the solution.
5 comments; last on Oct 28, 2015
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 4:38 am // Dick ConoboyBellingham police are obviously trained to de-escalate armed confrontations. This is the way it should be.
6 comments; last on Jul 14, 2015
Thu, Jan 22, 2015, 11:13 pm // John ServaisThe second annual award for Citizen Journalism will be to The Political Junkie himself who runs the Sweeney Politics blog, Riley Sweeney.
2 comments; last on Jan 24, 2015
Wed, Dec 24, 2014, 12:23 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Herald gave us their top 10 stories, Riley gives you his top 5
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 5:36 am // Riley SweeneyRiley does a local political comedy show
1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 8:01 pm // Guest writerIn the Weekly, Tim Johnson left out three words in quoting Craig Cole - and his story misleads readers. Guest article by Sandy Robson.
11 comments; last on Jul 01, 2014
Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 10:39 am // John ServaisWyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.
7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014
Wed, May 28, 2014, 2:15 pm // Guest writerA perspective by guest writer Ellen Murphy reflects on the Whatcom Watch and the threatened law suit by Craig Cole.
22 comments; last on Jun 01, 2014
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 7:20 am // John ServaisRiley posted this morning that Seth Fleetwood has decided to challenge Doug Ericksen for state senate in the 42nd District.
1 comments; last on Apr 30, 2014
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am // John ServaisFukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.
1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014
Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm // John ServaisThe editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.
8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm // John ServaisThe full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.
16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 12:16 am // Wendy HarrisAccepting the Paul deArmond award of citizen journalism on Feb 7, Wendh Harris gave this speech. We think it deserves its own post.
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm // John ServaisCraig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.
6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014
Sat, Feb 01, 2014, 12:35 am // Wendy HarrisFiling a public record request could land a citizen in jail under a proposal reflected in a Herald opinion article.
2 comments; last on Feb 03, 2014
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:18 am // Guest writerTim Johnson writes about the first recipient of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism award, Whatcom County writer Wendy Harris.
3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2014
Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 8:39 pm // John ServaisSuper Bowl ... Weed Bowl ... This bud's for you ... Bong Bowl ... Marijuana Bowl ... whatever. It is on!
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2014
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013
Thu, Aug 08, 2013, 12:05 am // John ServaisLiberal talking head Lawrence O'Donnell went into a bullying rant against a well qualified guest - and showed he's just like O'Reilly.
2 comments; last on Aug 08, 2013
Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 12:53 pm // John ServaisEdward Snowden is a very courageous patriot, in the opinion of the publisher of NWCitizen.
3 comments; last on Jun 14, 2013
Sat, Jun 08, 2013, 3:21 pm // John ServaisOver at the Political Junkie, Riley Sweeney has a report on one criteria the Herald uses to reject letters to the editor.
1 comments; last on Jun 10, 2013
Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm // John ServaisTuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.
9 comments; last on May 23, 2013
Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet
1 comments; last on Apr 22, 2013
Thu, Apr 04, 2013, 11:48 am // Dick ConoboyIt seems that for Apple products, you do not really own that hard drive... as a journalist recently discovered.
2 comments; last on Apr 13, 2013
Tue, Mar 19, 2013, 9:05 am // John ServaisThe Bellingham Herald article today is wrong. There is no hearing tomorrow, March 20
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 8:42 pm // John ServaisWendy Harris writes about the proposed $8 million concrete bridge along the Bellingham waterfront - using Greenways funds to build.
3 comments; last on Mar 20, 2013
Wed, Jan 02, 2013, 11:31 am // John ServaisA needed correction and apology for an error in a story that has been pulled.
3 comments; last on Jan 03, 2013
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 1:18 pm // John ServaisThe Tunnel Creek avalanche and three skiers' deaths last February was a confusing tragedy. Experts killed. How did it happen?
Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am // John ServaisA dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.
4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012
Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 3:15 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley talks about the Seattle Times, Newsweek and the future of Print Media
Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 11:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley patiently explains to the Whatcom Excavator what a flowchart should look like
Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 11:17 am // John ServaisNew report suggests U.S. weather stations reporting higher temperatures because NOAA has poorly managed sensors and caused false higher readings.
11 comments; last on Aug 06, 2012
Wed, Jul 04, 2012, 10:42 am // Riley SweeneyRiley interviews judicial candidates, reviews campaign tactics, and discusses fireworks
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back
1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012
Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 7:52 pm // John ServaisAn illegal serial Port Commission meeting should be investigated by the State Auditor, and two commissioners should be made accountable for their actions.
5 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012
Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 9:04 am // Riley SweeneyLatest from the Political Junkie on a variety of subjects
7 comments; last on Jan 16, 2012
Fri, Dec 30, 2011, 12:59 pm // Wendy HarrisDecide for yourself if this blog comment, posted under my own name, should have been flagged and removed from the Bellingham Herald Online Edition.
1 comments; last on Dec 31, 2011
Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 12:55 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley questions Pike's timing, and Occupy's choice of tactics
2 comments; last on Dec 28, 2011
Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 10:58 am // Riley SweeneyRiley has a conversation with Rick Perry
2 comments; last on Dec 16, 2011
Thu, Dec 08, 2011, 1:47 pm // Riley SweeneyPlease take my reader's survey, I'm planning 2012
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 11:11 am // John ServaisWall Street protests have been ongoing for over a week - but U.S. corporate news media have been covering them up.
1 comments; last on Sep 26, 2011
Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 9:54 pm // Riley SweeneyTune in to the Political Junkie for an election night liveblog!
Wed, Aug 03, 2011, 10:29 am // Riley SweeneyRiley shares what he is reading to help decide in this primary
16 comments; last on Aug 11, 2011
Mon, Jul 18, 2011, 9:03 pm // Riley SweeneyThe Political Junkie interviews Christina Maginnis
4 comments; last on Jul 22, 2011
Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 6:45 pm // John ServaisThe public meeting to hear opinions about the coal port last night saw local union leader Dave Warren playing games.
3 comments; last on Jun 05, 2011
Sun, May 22, 2011, 11:16 pm // Paul deArmondWhere Paul touches on Police reporting, where to get a good hamburger, and what is wrong with micro brews
4 comments; last on Jun 01, 2011
Sun, May 15, 2011, 1:16 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney outlines the three storylines defining Obama's Re-election Campaign
2 comments; last on May 17, 2011
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 7:38 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney shares video of Jay Inslee's speech to the Whatcom Dems
1 comments; last on Apr 24, 2011
Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 11:19 am // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney reports on the April 15th Tea Party Rally
10 comments; last on Apr 20, 2011
Mon, Apr 04, 2011, 4:00 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney reports on April 2nd Labor Rally
9 comments; last on Apr 09, 2011
Thu, Mar 24, 2011, 8:44 am // John ServaisSwitches from 3rd Ward race to At Large city council seat
Wed, Feb 09, 2011, 2:00 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley Sweeney compiles several local writings about the County Council breaking the law
1 comments; last on Feb 12, 2011
Wed, Feb 02, 2011, 9:22 am // John ServaisEgypt - just one citizen voicing his perspective on what is happening. Speaking freely.
4 comments; last on Feb 07, 2011
Sun, Jan 30, 2011, 10:52 am // John ServaisRegister provides reporting on local news
4 comments; last on Mar 23, 2011
Wed, Dec 08, 2010, 2:21 am // John ServaisWikiLeaks' Julian Assange faces rape charges. The facts are revealed only by foreign news media.
14 comments; last on Dec 15, 2010
Wed, Dec 01, 2010, 8:59 pm // John ServaisUpdated Dec 3. I support WikiLeaks and their release of government documents so citizens can vote intelligently.
12 comments; last on Dec 07, 2010
Mon, Aug 16, 2010, 1:03 pm // John ServaisHeadline and article paint U.S. Senate candidate Dino Rossi very badly on final day ballots are mailed. The Bellingham Herald editors print a perfect smear.
5 comments; last on Aug 18, 2010
Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 9:39 am // John ServaisAm looking for a writer to rebut Jack Petree's BIAW propaganda article the Herald saw fit to print.
3 comments; last on Aug 21, 2010
Sat, Aug 07, 2010, 9:18 am // John ServaisA library card from any Whatcom County library can now be used at any library in the county
5 comments; last on Aug 15, 2010
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 2:17 pm // John ServaisBP oil spill video taken on a private plane flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is worse than our media are telling us.
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