Political Reality Check: News Sampling and Media Literacy

The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for this week and voters will be heading to precincts to make their voices heard. In the weeks to come, state by state, voters will be voting or caucusing for their candidate of choice. In the meantime, they will be braving a blizzard of advertisements, endorsements, speeches, and of course debates. Information overload and burnout is a problem.

In this hail of information, it’s often difficult to find reliable sources of information, regardless of your own political affiliation. These days we all acknowledge bias. There are however a couple of strategies to deal with this challenge.

The first part is to find and familiarize yourself with baseline election information. Nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations such as Ballotpedia fill this niche offering baseline data on National, state, and local ballot issues and candidates with external links to citations and sources.

The second part is to test the political limits. For readers who identify with one end of the political spectrum, this can be unpleasant. Looking at a debate through political lenses by reading accounts on the conservative RedState and liberalTalking Points Memo or news reports on Fox News and Mother Jones lets you consider different perspectives.

In today’s era of political polarization it has never been more important to recognize that there are other voters who do not think like you. Moreover your fellow citizens who may not share your political views do have a reasons and rationale for their political beliefs. The Romney campaign’s disbelief in 2012 after their electoral defeat is testament to this disconnection.

Having sampled an array of views in America, now it’s time to read what people in other countries are saying about the situation. Again, seek a broad array of views from reputable sources like The Economist, BBC, and Al Jazeera. Why, you might ask, should I pay attention to international views? Sometimes we find that getting the perspective of someone outside the situation is helpful if not enlightening. Think of it as a global reality check.

Now it’s time to directly look at the candidates having armed yourself and make a choice.

This practice though is not just for the current political campaign. We encounter people every day with differing political views even if we don’t realize it. Increasingly it seems that the voices at the political extremes are so at odds that they can’t even hold a civil conversation. Our society is based upon the idea that citizens come together to civilly discuss issues of the day. That is being lost in the flood of rhetoric we are deluged with, especially in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections.

This is not an easy charge. We all have friends who sometimes make us cringe when they speak their minds. As the campaign season progresses, it is likely that this will happen more frequently. It’s time to take a step back, get a bit of perspectives, consider what values and positions are important to us, and vote accordingly. It’s our civil, civic responsibility. The least we can do is to consider the positions of others.

Originally published at gildshire.com.