Careful election coverage promotes political engagement

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Whether the election you’re following is on campus or the world stage, community journalists are positioning their political coverage carefully.

In an era of clickbait and fake news, media credibility during elections is often accused of bias or unequal coverage. Last week, The Globe and Mail’s public editor, Sylvia Stead, responded to that presumption before Canada’s Oct. 21 federal election by listing the paper’s suggestions for stronger election coverage. These include informed editorializing on political candidates and in-depth information about candidate platforms, backgrounds, and key issues of focus.

This reporting can be just as compelling as world leaders’ end-of-year music playlists or profiles of mayors’ spouses. It’s possible to strike a middle ground between a boring but accurate story and sensationalist clickbait.

When your student government changes their election policy or establishes investigations into behaviour, it’s incumbent on journalists covering the campus community to relay that information to students.

Even if a candidate declines to comment on an issue or if 10 people attend an open election forum, election reporting indicates how governments impact people’s lives and holds powerful people to account.

In her column, Stead suggests policy-heavy coverage is incomplete without being contextualized and situated. Otherwise, covering a platform alone is more of a press release than a story.

The reverse is true as well—when reporting on a candidate’s personal conduct and character, it should be contextualized in terms of their political stance and policy development. Meticulous reporting holds leaders accountable, engaging potential voters in the political issues impacting their daily lives.

By prioritizing what they need to publish, The Globe raises standards for election coverage and confirms the essential nature of political journalism. Despite criticisms of “fake news,” the majority of journalists seek to combine factual reporting with stories that engage the public. 

Increasingly, politicians promoting their public brands have social media to use as a platform. That content plays a large role in our political surroundings, and can quickly spread. Sensitive and critical reporting mitigates the spread of that political branding for the better.

As a platform for political consideration, news outlets should ensure equal coverage of candidates to guarantee fundamental fairness. They should ensure they use all the facts before publishing stories. Overall, they should focus on giving the public the evidence they need to make the informed decisions that underlay democracy.

Journal Editorial Board

 

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