How to Stay Informed this Election Season
Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, most Americans said they had some form of political news fatigue, and the same is expected of this election season. It is important to stay informed as a voter, but you will have less success in this endeavor if you exhaust yourself in the process. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and practices that can help you stay on top of your news without sacrificing your sanity. And to make it even easier we did a roundup of those tools here.
1. Have a News Routine
Determine how much time you can commit to engaging with the news. It can be as little as long as works for your schedule. The important thing is that it is built into a regularly scheduled time in you. With the time you have, be sure to engage with multiple headlines and stories for sources with various leanings. Some tools will even summarize headlines for you. For example, The Skimm provides a daily digest of news stories intended to be simple and easy to read. For this election season, they have launched Skimm 2020 that provides state-specific voting rules, checks your registration status, allows you to request an absentee ballot, and helps you to stay informed about both candidates and the issues. She Should Run also sends a weekly newsletter, The Warm Up, which includes news highlights from the week.
2. Go Directly to the Source
Nearly all candidates at the federal, state and local levels regularly engage with the public through their websites and social media channels. When you are visiting a candidate’s website be sure to check out their issues page to get a feel for how they will engage with policy. Following candidates on social media can help give you a feel for what the candidate is most interested in and how they respond to current or crisis events.
3. Fact Check
The Internet is a wonderful, but potentially misguided place. It is tremendously easy to come across an inaccurate meme or post, especially one that reinforces your political leanings. Before accepting things at face value, be sure to do your research. A couple tips include using scholarly sources and non-partisan news outlets. If something seems off, check it against trusted fact-checkers like Politifact or factcheck.org. These organizations are committed to non-biased reporting and removing the deception from US politics.
If you aren’t sure if you are using trustworthy and credible sources, Ad Fontes Media is here to help. They have developed one of the best charts rating news outlets on two criteria: bias and reliability (meaning, the accuracy of factual and investigative reporting). By almost all credible accounts, the fairest, most balanced, least biased, and most accurate sources for news are The Associated Press (AP News) and Reuters. These wire services deal mainly with straight facts rather than analysis or opinion–both of which are also important to read, but with full awareness and a more critical eye.
4. Focus on the Issues
It is tempting to become distracted from the issues of an election and instead focus on personality traits. Particularly for women seeking office, this creates endless opportunities for sexism to guide the conversation around whether they were fit for office. Rather than focusing on “the sound of their voice” or “if you would enjoy their company at the bar” focus on what a potential candidate presents as their vision and their stance on the issues that you care about. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate, just as there is no such thing as a perfect person. When evaluating a candidate you can ask yourself these questions:
- Is the candidate honest? (a good chance to put those fact-checking skills to use)
- Does the candidate support the issues I care most about?
- Has the candidate demonstrated accountability to the jurisdiction that they will represent?
- Does the candidate possess values that align with my own?
For more ideas on how to stay informed this election season, we invite you to join our community where you can join with more than 21,000 women and discuss tips and tricks for staying informed, and you can watch a full webinar about engaging with media including guest speaker Eboni K. Williams, Host & Executive Producer of REVOLT BLACK NEWS, Co-host for State of the Culture.