Granby " Here’s hoping the pundits are wrong about stereotyping voters
February 5, 2008
The week leading up the caucuses, my inbox has been of e-mails telling me how other people feel ” young people, women, minorities, rich, poor.
Political pundits, professors and nonprofits of every stripe have been offering me columns to publish on the ways of the world, leading up to the caucus.
Of the endless stream of stereotypes e-mailed my way this week, what interested me most were the comments about young people and women.
Young people live their life on a wave of apathy, they wrote. Young people are uninformed and disengaged.
And even though, at 34, I’m probably not considered young anymore, I don’t know many people in their 20s who are uninformed or disengaged. In fact, many of the teenagers I’ve met in Grand County ” even though they can’t yet vote ” are idealistic and interested.
But every election cycle, pundits come out with the same, tired “kids these days” speech that the apathy of young people is the downfall of our political system.
I’d heard all that before, so it was easy to tune out. Nothing new.
But, this year more than ever because there is a female candidate, columnists are making blanket statements about women.
What women want. What women think. How women will vote.
As a newspaper editor, what I found most interesting among the barrage was a statement about what women read.
This statement was part of a larger ” actually quite interesting ” article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine: “While men are more likely to follow international, national and local politics, women are more likely to attend to religion, health and entertainment, community, culture and the arts, crime and the weather. Men are significantly more likely than women to be regular consumers of “hard news” (32 percent of men versus 22 percent of women), and to turn to the Internet, radio news, talk radio, newspapers, political comedy shows and political talk shows. Women, by contrast, are more likely to get their news from the morning news broadcasts and network news programs. Although morning shows do offer news, they tend toward true crime, entertainment and lifestyle, and they regularly put a human-interest spin on government and foreign affairs.
“Even if you factor in all the ways in which people gather news ” women supposedly also get political information from the groups they join and from the people they know ” and control for political affiliations, race and class, men still know more about politics than women do.”
If that’s true, then most of the people I will see tonight at my precinct caucus will be male, and the women who do show up, probably won’t know much about what’s being discussed.
I hope that tonight will prove out differently. I hope that informed young people of both genders and members of both genders of all ages will come out tonight ” if for no other reason than to prove that political punditry is not an exact science.
On another note:
At a dinner party not too long ago, a guest commented that he first became disillusioned with a major network anchor when that reporter announced at a social gathering that he had just interviewed Gary Hart and believed he should be the next president of the United States.
The dinner party guest felt that hearing the reporter endorsing a candidate (though it was in a social, not professional, setting), robbed that journalist of his credibility.
That said, I pose this question to you: Tonight, we will be covering the local caucus ” as reporters, not as participants.
But, what if one of us did want to participate ” to speak our mind and join in the democratic process ” would that rob us and this newspaper of its position as an objective news source? Can a journalist only act as an observer in order to remain credible?
I’d be interested to hear your opinion. E-mail me your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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