The election is finally over and this year I can honestly say I'm glad.|
The combination of a presidential election year with the first election after the Census and resulting redistricting, is a perfect storm. Since every seat is up for election after redistricting, that means an awful lot of candidates for us to tell you about.
Couple that with the resurgence of the Republican Party in Rock Island County and the result is an election of almost historic proportions.
The coverage of local elections is one of the most important things your local newspaper can do. If we don't tell you about the candidates, who will?
This election has been particularly polarizing and I'm not at all happy about that. It used to be that you could have a civil conversation about the issues with people, but these days that is next to impossible.
For that I blame the U.S. Supreme Court and some cable news stations.
This is the first presidential election since the court ruled that corporations are "people" and thus their free speech is protected by the First Amendment.
This means that corporations can be established for the sole purpose of pumping money and lies into the election process while protecting the identity of those behind the effort.
Both national political parties followed their lead and ran their own ads that played fast and loose with the facts. Sadly, some of the local campaigns also joined the trend. They should know better.
I contend that this bombardment of lies and negativity over the course of a campaign that started in the summer of 2011 has brainwashed many Americans into viewing the campaign in a negative light.
That, coupled with some cable channels that peddle their own slant on the news, only serves to further distort the process many Americans take in weighing the value of the candidates.
Please don't let this happen. Don't let the money men on both sides turn you into a negative person. Regardless of your favorite source of news, balance it with additional sources.
Hopefully somewhere in the process you can stitch together the real truth.
Never before have I spoken with so many people who were so misinformed. Never before have I spoken with so many people who claimed we were wrong because the facts we were reporting didn't match their own. Never before have we been accused of not running so many stories we had already run. Never before have I spoken with so many people who were so angry.
Politics is serious stuff, but it's also supposed to be interesting and fun. I promise you that regardless of whether your guy got elected Tuesday or not, the world as we know it is not going to end.
Never in my memory has the effort of our newspapers been put under such a microscope. Unfortunately, it seems they all had red- or blue-colored lenses. People compared the placement of stories, the size of photos, the length of stories and the size of type.
I guarantee that if you get out the ruler, you can find something to complain about.
We do our best to provide a balance between candidates; to play similar stories about candidates in the same race on the same page; to give you all the facts you need to make an informed decision. But if one candidate can summarize his position on an issue in one well-stated paragraph, and the other has a five-point plan, the coverage is not going to be equal in length.
What is most important is that we stick to the facts and tell our readers the truth. Armed with that, you can compare what we tell you with what you hear from other sources and hopefully make an informed decision on who to choose.
Another great value we provide during the election season is to allow candidates to write pieces expressing their opinion in their own words on a variety of topics.
One final point: There is no conspiracy. We endorsed both Democrats and Republicans as we have in the past. I don't care who you vote for and neither does anyone else at the paper. We DO care that you make an informed decision. Our news stories, columns, letters and editorials should all contribute to a better educated electorate.
In the end, I can understand how our readers -- bombarded with all of this negativity day after day -- can become affected by it. What is really disappointing to me are the candidates who intentionally lied to the public to get elected.
Let's all work together -- people of all parties -- to put politics back on the right track.
Roger Ruthhart is managing editor of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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