Staying Engaged

The first day of Pres. Trump’s impeachment trial drew approximately 11 million viewers, which is slightly less than a third the number of viewers of an NFL playoff game the night before. Neither contest featured a scintilla of drama. No impartial viewer believes that the impeachment will deviate from a party line vote, just as nobody with any sense believed the Packers would win unless they slipped ipecac syrup in the 49ers’ PowerAde.

Yet the impeachment process drones on. How ironic that the president who promised to drain the swamp is now being buoyed by it! The only swamps he will drain are the real-life estuaries that developers want to turn into condos. (Through executive order, Pres. Trump has rolled back environmental regulations that protect waterways.)

The only people I’ve seen who can muster up real interest in the impeachment–other than the senators themselves–are ideologues on the left and the right. Voters don’t care because they’ve already formed opinions on the matter; they’ve weighed likely outcomes; they peer on with less interest than they would have in a schoolyard brawl.

Which brings us to the conundrum: how can we encourage voters to stay engaged? Years of free internet access to the news have spoiled us. We don’t want to shell out $10 a month for subscriptions to traditional news sources–sources that certainly had their flaws, but which hired journalists who theoretically knew the importance of keeping the news objective. Instead, we turn to social media and to news sites that give us what we want to hear. Free news comes at a terrible cost: we lose the ability to think critically when we insulate ourselves from uncomfortable truths.

Of course, the media is not the only institution that deserves blame for the lack of engagement on civic issues. Legislators who fail to toe the party line know the needs of their constituents will be ignored by party leadership down the road. So they toe the line. The concomitant gridlock in Washington encourages presidents to rule via executive order. Fingers get pointed. Words spill on the floor and in newsprint. Not much gets done.

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9 Responses to Staying Engaged

  1. Ayden Dusek says:

    Honestly, the problem of biased news coverage has been a problem for many years. It isn’t a new thing. These days, I think that people aren’t engaged in the political debate, because of either social media or biased news coverages. People do tend to allow other people to make conclusions for them. Some people just don’t wanna think for themselves and are fine with accepting what people tell them. This seems to be the problem with society because people don’t wanna create their own thoughts. Solutions to this might be to somehow create unbiased news coverage, but this is difficult because human beings are biased.

    • Santayzia Anthony says:

      I extremely agree because nowadays you have lazy thinkers. And I do admit, I can be one at times, but its beginning to be a problem for all of society. As Ayden said, humans are biased on a regular, no matter how hard they try not to be. One person saying something could lead to another person thinking the same way just because they feel that the person is being honest. Therefore it’s hard to stay engaged because there is always some news source that is not telling the right story, and that’s going to cause people to not want to listen to it.

  2. Alexandria R Kerr says:

    No offence Dr. Easterling, but you are being a hypocrite. You have said in class on multiple occasions that the impeachment trial is useless, because we all know how it will end. Everyone who pays any attention to the state of our government knows that Trump has the numbers in the senate. It will take an extreme change of heart for many people in order to get Trump impeached, and this is common knowledge at this point. So, why would people waste their time watching a boring and useless trial that they know the inevitable result of. Also, your views of how people have consumed media throughout time seems to be quite skewed. Yes it is very true that nowadays people will only consume the news that has the same opinions that they do. In other words, people do not want their viewership to be challenged. However, this situation does result in that much of a different conclusion that older media forms did. In the past, the options for news consumption were highly limited; therefore, for many people, the opinion of a few journalists were the only opinion known. Also, people would likely still have been picky with what they read, only reading from papers that they trusted.
    There really is no foolproof way to keep the attention of voters, everyone has something more important to pay attention to in their life that the election. A good percentage of voters feel as though their votes do not matter, therefore they do not care about the election. Others will wait till the near end of the election when there are only two main nominees left. If the media wants to keep the attention of voters, they will have to change the way that people see the election. The media needs to emphasis the importance of watching the entire campaign of nominees, make people realize how the election can affect people’s lives, and make people believe that their vote matters.

  3. Chandler Bryant says:

    The media has changed with the rise of the internet. At least in the U.S., the news is available to everyone, almost universally, through their phone and computer. Reading news through the internet is much more fast-paced than it ever was through the paper. Headlines have become much more important as news outlets need to get the viewer’s attention immediately before they click away or are attracted by another article. This practice has lead to the loss of integrity from even some of the most trusted newspapers. Honesty is put on the backburner when outlets are trying to attract viewers and make more money. I wouldn’t conclude that journalists have lost their morals in recent years but that their media giants are whipping them into writing headlines and articles that are more entertaining than informative. The public must hold the “news” to a higher standard than we already are.

  4. Ads says:

    Social media’s information platform is important, and is an amazing shift from the ways governments used to limit the public knowledge of national/global issues by funneling carefully chosen knowledge into our brains, with rampant envelope journalism and propaganda ruling the intellectual grain supply. However, there are definitely issues of misinformation from romanticized news coverage, and focus on inconsequential social issues (such as which celebrity just got divorced from their spouse and INSIDE THEIR SHOCKING SPLIT, or how you, yes YOU(!!!) can look like Kylie Jenner) instead of focusing on any number of real issues actually relevant. There’s also the problem of freedom of thought. Choosing to follow specific outlets and ignoring others is insanely subjective to the person and not necessarily in a good way. For example, I can choose to only follow Trump and other accounts supporting him, but is that what I need, or just what I want? People have too much power to only look at things they agree with, and, with the help of social media, can personalize their intake of the world to their comfort level and liking.
    I don’t think there’s truly a way to motivate people to vote, or even just to educate themselves on the choices they could be making when wielding their suffrage. Things that could help would be to build in strong advocation for voting in our education system, and also place individuals and values into consideration for positions of power who actually represent what the people who aren’t currently voting can take a stand with. People aren’t going to vote until they see that their vote matters, and that there’s a substantial advocate for them in the running for power. Otherwise, I guess you could place a drastic threat on people’s right to vote and see if they fight it or not ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  5. Ethan Hill says:

    I don’t think that we can change the view of the majority of voters. As discussed, people surround themselves with information that supports their ideas and with people they agree with. Being at MSMS, my viewpoints on most political topics differ from most people here. I hate arguments. I do not argue with people because arguments are two people that neither are open to having their mind changed screaming their viewpoints at one another. I have mature, educated, civil discussions with people. Before I even discuss with someone i ask if i present an idea supported by unrefuted facts, “Will your mind be changed.” If they say no, which is often the case, I don’t bother. Like i said this is the majority of people in today’s society. People want to hear what they want to hear and nothing else, and chances are, their minds aren’t going to change.

  6. Cecile Roberts says:

    Personally, as someone who is not engaged in the news, I find the news boring. I don’t really tune into news channels to get the “facts”. Like many before me have said, new channels nowadays are biased. In this generation, we get so much information so quickly that for me just sitting down to watch a long piece is too much. I follow an Instagram account that has short news clips that keep me informed but don’t bore me. I think a problem is that news channels have to fill a certain amount of airtime to fill, so they spread out the facts instead of getting right to the point.

  7. Piper Britt says:

    I think that to increase voters we should start while people are young, making them watch little political clips here and there. I also agree with Cecile, that the news spreads everything out, as well as dramatizing it. And I think that if we want people to pay attention and engage we have to make it fun, short, and simple. Like, condense the news into 15, or 30, or 45 minutes instead of having news that drones on for hours and come on several times a day. I also feel that we should have people from different parties working on the same station so that the people can hear both party’s viewpoints instead of the one-sided news that we now have.

  8. Andrew says:

    There really is no foolproof way to keep the attention of voters, everyone has something more important to pay attention to in their life that the election. I don’t think that we can change the view of the majority of voters. As discussed, people surround themselves with information that supports their ideas and with people they agree with. There’s also the problem of freedom of thought. Choosing to follow specific outlets and ignoring others is insanely subjective to the person and not necessarily in a good way.

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