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    Success of ‘going negative’ changes campaign strategies
    [ # ] Political knowledge at a low, Bolster democracy by staying informed
    February 19th, 2007 under Politics and the Media


    By Sarah Stacy - KU Student 

    Our generation is growing up with dramatically greater access to information than any other, yet paradoxically, political knowledge hasn’t increased. The vast number of choices has allowed indolent Americans to avoid in-depth news coverage altogether in exchange for infotainment and petty political theater.

    In a study published in the July 2005 “American Journal of Political Science,” Princeton Professor Markus Prior states that because politics increasingly has to compete with entertainment, there’s a growing disparity in political knowledge between those who seek out political information and those who prefer amusement over substantive programming.

    There are still some estimable news sources that we can rely on and we might even learn something valuable from.

    Although that conclusion isn’t exactly earth-shattering, it does indicate that both the media and citizens are doing a crummy job at bolstering democracy.

    The media are responsible for making high-quality information available to the public in order for citizens to form authentic and rational opinions about politics. In turn citizens can articulate their demands to government and hold officials accountable.

    Instead we are offered news shows that assume we aren’t intelligent enough to understand that issues are nuanced that repeatedly play sound bites that cater to eight-second attention spans.

    Sensationalist cable news channels such as Fox News and CNN frame their debates that gives the illusion that there are only two sides to any issue. This simplifies issues for the general public, but it also decreases free thinking in America.

    Screaming pundits articulate what liberal or conservative niche audiences feel in their gut, but good journalism unsettles long-standing assumptions and provides an outlet where possible solutions can be discussed.

    Although some media deserve harsh criticism for their fixation on scandal, biased reporting and overall superficiality, we’re also to blame for tuning in to that drivel. There are still some estimable news sources that we can rely on and we might even learn something valuable from.

    Print media give the best context to grasp what is going on in the nation and the world and countless newspapers, journals and magazines can now be found online. Take advantage of the University’s Newspaper Readership Program that offers, among others, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal throughout campus, free with your KUID.

    There is no excuse for being uninformed. I have personally worked around this by integrating National Public Radio into my daily routine. Whether I am shaving my legs, cooking some pasta, in my car, or on a run, I have the highly thoughtful and diversified programs of NPR ringing through my ears.

    To stay in touch with local news, see what other students are saying in The University Daily Kansan and what your local government is up to in The Lawrence Journal World. Feeling enraged or inspired? Write letters to the editor. In the process, you will feel a closer tie with your community and have the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing your part in enlightening public discourse. Without such participation, democracy is meaningless.

    Stacy is a Germantown, Md., senior in political science, Spanish, international studies and history.
    Stacy also works as a student assistant at the Dole Institute of Politics. 

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    The Dole Institute of Politics is a bipartisan facility. Our mission; to encourage political and civic involvement, especially among young people; to encourage civil discussion on important issues; to emphasize that politics is an honorable profession; and to provide opportunities for all to interact with political leaders, practitioners and writers.
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    In December of 2006 Dr. Dhavan Shah of the University of Wisconsin and his “Blogclub” of graduate students and Dr. David D. Perlmutterof the University of Kansas conducted a survey of major political blogs and their readers. The project was partially sponsored by a grant from the Knight/Carnegie Foundation’s Future of Journalism initiative. The summary of the results are posted here--please fully cite us if you refer to the findings.

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