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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion editorial

EDITORIAL: Fixing the political climate

Across the right and left, few people seem happy with the state of American politics. The griping about contemporary politics is as predictable as the election that inspires it. As it stands now, the Democratic and Republican parties seem ready to nominate candidates that large numbers of their voters dislike.

Most seem to blame the media for our political culture, and the Editorial Board has to agree. The media is an industry, and industries have to make money.

The New York Times reported the Donald Trump has received almost $2 billion in free media coverage, in contrast to the $10 million he has spent. Clinton is his runner-up in free media, but still doesn’t come close with $746 million.

Terms such as “soundbite culture” and the ever-present “24-hour news cycle” are thrown around by laymen and experts alike.

Americans enjoy a good spectacle, and this cycle’s controversial candidates have certainly supplied that. News organizations were happy to oblige their customers and voilà, the most obnoxious and insulting candidate gets the most screen time. This certainly didn’t start with Trump but he is perhaps the logical culmination of such a process.

However, this theory creates a certain chicken-egg dilemma. Does the 24-hour news cycle, complete with soundbites and all, create a misinformed public with attention problems, or does a misinformed public with attention problems create a soundbite media culture?

The issue could be an educational one. Do Americans simply lack the civics and policy background to demand the sort of news coverage that would clean up our political culture?

Assigning blame to this conundrum is certainly difficult and searching for a solution is even more agonizing.

For decades, media was dominated by a few key sources. Think Walter Cronkite-esque figures.

But now, with the rise of the Internet and social media, news distribution channels are no longer controlled by a few reliable and responsible players.

Americans can exist in an ideological bubble where sources of information have been pre-screened to provide the favored viewpoint or slant. This development, taken with the media culture we already have does not bode well for those hoping the political climate gets 
better.

The only conceivable way this situation is rectified is with a renewed focus on voter education and programs that acquaint Americans with policy and political 
issues.

Maybe if more Americans had participated in a policy debate, instead of aligning themselves with the most visible candidate, they would be less open to ad hominem attacks against candidates and more apt to do research going beyond mere soundbites.

Maybe the public would be less gullible to unreliable or sensational news outlets.

This is a solution that could be embraced at the high school level and beyond. Colleges, some of which already bemoan the fall of the traditional liberal arts education, could reorient toward offering more lessons focused on creating good citizens.

Academic organizations, such as debate clubs, could focus on outreach and education programs to combat the current culture as well.

Undoing the damage wrought by history is certainly an uphill climb for civic minded patriots.

But it’s a climb well worth making.

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