Politics news is one of the most significant topics in journalism. Proponents of civic journalism argue that it should be more involved in the political process by helping citizens become informed voters.
But what should journalists do with politicians’ statements that could be false? Some believe they should not report them at all.
Participatory democracy involves citizens informing and shaping policies and laws through consistent engagement. Its various conceptions are promoted by a range of theorists, activists, and social movements. It can be an organizing ethos or a specific political project, with goals that range from deepened civic engagement to procedural reform and a wholesale transformation of existing democratic institutions.
Whether people vote on policy and law directly or elect representatives to do so, the democratic process is considered participatory when the former enables broad citizen input, while the latter is structured to ensure that the interests of all groups are represented. It is also sometimes referred to as direct or deliberative democracy.
A key to the success of participatory democracy is that citizens must be trained in the skills needed to participate. This includes learning about policy issues and understanding the complexities of legal systems. It is also important to provide a safe space for discussion and debate.
Often, the most effective participation is collective action. Institutions tend to respond better to a group’s demands than to individual requests. Examples include protests, community meetings, and petition drives. When these activities are well designed, they can have a powerful impact on public policy. This is especially true if they are accompanied by robust media coverage. A well-designed strategy combines traditional and new media to reach the widest audience possible.
While civic journalism, also called collaborative media, participatory journalism, democratic journalism or guerrilla journalism, has its critics, it is gaining adherents among some new media start-ups. These outlets are attempting to bypass the fact-free, conflict-oriented world of cable shout shows, cliched horse race journalism and mean-spirited fake news websites to promote a deeper level of engagement between the public and journalists.
A growing list of nonprofit community-media organizations is bolstering local information ecosystems by connecting with people most impacted by systemic injustice and engaging them in fact finding efforts and deliberative forums. While more traditionally minded journalists and editors deplore these efforts as local boosterism and fear that they will discourage hard-hitting investigative reporting, there is promise in this movement.
Connection to local storytelling is a key driver of “neighborhood belonging, collective efficacy and civic participation,” Lewis Freidland argues in his study of people’s relationship with community media. This type of journalism is especially important during times of upheaval, such as disasters and protests, when citizens need critical information about the governing process. Ultimately, this new form of journalism may be able to overcome political polarization and the conflict framing that has plagued our society. It will take a major commitment from the public, however, to make this happen. And this commitment needs to extend beyond reading, commenting and liking stories on social media.
Information overload is the condition in which people feel overwhelmed by the amount of data they have to process. This has been a concern since the digital revolution. Alvin Toffler, who may have coined the term in 1970, wrote about this phenomenon in his book Future Shock. The advent of the computer, cell phone, and Internet swelled the volume of information that could be published, broadcast, and mailed without expensive printing and distribution costs. It also made it possible for information to be constantly updated and distributed.
Some of this new information is unimportant, irrelevant, or even inaccurate. However, a large proportion of this information is highly relevant and useful. It can be found in online news, magazines, and books. In addition, people are increasingly using social media to gather and share information. This creates the problem of social information overload, which is an issue of how much of this information is shared and how quickly it is discarded.
The proliferation of new information has also led to the rise of misinformation and fake news. These are spread through the same channels as official and truthful news, but they amplify content that preys on confirmation biases and accelerate the formation of polarized echo chambers. The result is a surfeit of competing information that overwhelms people’s limited processing capabilities (Bachmann et al., 2021).
The rapid growth of new media has altered the political landscape. Many people now get their news from social media, rather than traditional channels like local TV, newspapers, and radio. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of American adults reported getting their political news on social media sites “often” or “sometimes.” This is a significant increase from 2016, when only 42% of Americans got their political news on social media.
New media has also facilitated a trend towards more polarized political content. This has been exacerbated by the proliferation of new media platforms that feature highly incendiary content and are often influenced by commercial pressures to draw audiences. As a result, political coverage is often biased and skewed towards extreme viewpoints.
On the other hand, new media has allowed social movements to spread their ideas more easily. For example, feminists have used new media to promote their movement and demonstrate their activism. Similarly, the Free Hugs campaign used online videos and blogs to spread their message.
As such, new media has facilitated a more direct involvement of the public in politics by allowing them to voice their opinions and participate in discussions about issues that affect them. However, it is important to note that this does not always translate into actual participation or policy changes.