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October 26, 2011 / benwolfson08

TOPIC BLOG: News v. Entertainment

News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Coverage Widens Gap in Political Knowledge and Turnout

This post is different from my usual blogs about Arsenal and the world of soccer. It has to do with an article published by Markus Prior from Princeton University titled, “News v. Enterainment: How Increasing Media Coverage Widens Gap in Political Knowledge and Turnout.”

As the title suggests, Prior is examining how all these available technologies affect various parts of politics — namely in if they help increase knowledge and the effect it has on voter turnout.

In the various experiments performed, Prior was able to come to a couple different conclusions. New media increases political knowledge in some people and leads to a higher electoral turnout. But with more media options such as satellite TV, digital cable, the Internet, etc., some people instead use those to tune out politics. People interested completely in entertainment were found to tune out politics completely and then be much less likely to vote.

This was in my opinion the key excerpt to take from Prior’s findings:

“It might seem counterintuitive  that political knowledge has decreased for for a substantial portion of the electorate even though the amount of political information  has multiplied and is more readily available  than ever before. The share of politically uninformed people has risen since we entered the so-called “information age.” Television as a medium has often been denigrated as “dumb,” but helped by the features of the broadcast environment, it may have been more successful in reaching less interested segments of the population than the “encyclopedic” Internet. In contrast to the view that politics is simply too difficult and complex to understand, this study shows that motivation, not ability, is the main obstacle that stands between  an abundance of political information and a well and evenly informed public.”

This statement echoes my feelings about politics. At my house I have a television with DirecTV and hundreds of channels, as well as high-speed internet on both my laptop and on my iPhone. I have an abundance of political information seemingly at my fingertips — the difference is I am not interested in politics at all. Just the very thought makes my head spin.

I don’t like politics for so many ways. Politicians all seem to be liars and just say or do anything to try and get elected. I am currently not caught up on current events, the current events I pay attention to involve my interests which is sports. I rarely read The New York Times and in any other newspapers I look at I read the sports section. I haven’t paid attention to the political climate, I don’t even watch shows like the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I realize I have all these resources, but I don’t want to deal with politics because its just a bunch of talk or that’s what it seems like to me. I would need to get caught up with the entire presidency of Obama and the current political climate as well as world current events before I even felt educated and informed enough to understand anything that is going on in the news these days.

Thats why I am one of these people that Prior speaks of. Its quite sad with all these resources at my disposal, but politics for me has always held an aura of boring topics that are for rich, old, white men. I really don’t want a part of it and the dishonesty I feel from every politician has turned me off from it forever.

If you’ve ever watched the HBO series The Wire, which is about the city of Baltimore and involves the

Mayor Clarence Royce and Senator Clay Davis may be fictional characters from the Wire, but they represent my view on what every politician is like.

functioning and eco-system of a city from the drug trade in the ghetto, the ports, the city hall, the school system and the press. It shows how all facets of society interact and despite it being a fictional show I feel like the way politicians are represented in the show is how I view them in real life: Corrupt, rich, self-centered and doing anything it takes to get elected.

I’m not surprised the findings from Prior’s article show that even if people have access to all these resources that they are even more likely to tune it out. I have more of a choice on my TV if I want to watch How I Met Your Mother, movies on HBO, or sports on ESPN as well as hundreds of other options before I’d even consider politics or watching CNN or MSNBC or Fox News.

The only time I actually pay attention to politics is during presidential elections and so I won’t start doing that until the candidates have been chosen for the 2012 election. It’s kind of sad by the findings Prior exposed, but in reality its the truth.


					
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