Voters have to work harder to be informed
Democracy depends upon an informed citizenry, basing electoral decisions on accurate information and objective analysis. But it’s difficult for Americans to be informed.
Political advertising is usually an attempt to create a feeling rather than impart knowledge. Candidates are described in broad generalities. Issues lack specific details. Negative ads are worse; they provide little information about the candidate, and usually distort or misrepresent an opponent’s positions or actions.
Separation of hard news from editorial comment is repeatedly violated. Journalistic standards require objective, unbiased presentation of accurate, corroborated information, gathered from identifiable, reliable sources, without commentary or advocacy. Instead, the selection and delivery of reports frequently lack those characteristics. Presentations structured to further a political viewpoint or agenda do not differentiate factual from editorial content.
Some media have abandoned objectivity and accuracy in favor of advocacy. Rather than news organizations, those enterprises are propaganda outlets for favored political interests. Those who do not recognize this shift are not informed, but rather misled.
Politicians no longer face scrutiny as they limit availability to friendly media. Political commentators, free of journalistic standards, can spread misinformation as readily as information. But misinformation is usually more interesting and of greater immediate impact.
False or contrived matter is repeated in similar venues. Other markets and mainstream outlets are castigated for ignoring the story. Eventually, mainstream markets report, and many individuals accept, the misinformation as fact. Many continue to believe, even after the falsehood has been exposed, because the truth is not spread with the same breath and enthusiasm as the fiction.
As voters, we must analyze information in order to separate verified fact from distortions, misrepresentations and fabrications, and assure that our emotional connection to a candidate has a substantiated foundation. Then we can be confident that we have fulfilled our duty as responsible citizens.