Now’s the time for younger students at the University of Washington, Bothell to vote. What has shaped their opinions in the Nov. 4 presidential election, one that probably has generated more interest than most?
During a forum on democracy in the media held Oct. 21 at the school, six panelists from outside the so-called mainstream media talked about the growth of non-traditional journalism, namely blogs, alternative newspapers, community radio and so on.
While the election seemed a secondary issue to the overall discussion, those panelists might be a bit surprised or disappointed to find that the young, presumably tech-savvy students talked with are using TV and mainstream Internet sites to form their opinions on national politics.
At the ripe young age of 20, student Peter Chang said this will be the first presidential election for which he will be old enough to vote. He described himself as a strong Republican and planned to vote along party lines, from the Washington governor’s race to the presidential ballot and a nod to John McCain. He said he follows the mainstream media, mostly TV and local newspapers, for information on the election and related issues.
Student Lynette Jackson also will be voting in her first presidential election and seemed genuinely excited about the prospect. Like Chang, she said she’s been following the race mostly on TV, though she also mentioned visiting the Web sites of a couple of well-known news organizations. Unlike Chang, her take on the election has convinced her to cast a ballot for Democrat Barack Obama. She said McCain reminds her too much of President George W. Bush.
“We can’t have four more years of Bush,” Jackson said.
Student Nick Smith couldn’t name any blogs he’d visited recently, but, like the others, mentioned TV and mainstream Internet sites as his primary sources for political information. In terms of the presidential election, he’s still undecided, but is leaning more and more toward Obama.
“He may be more in tune with my generation,” Smith said.
Back inside the forum, panelist Jonathan Lawson described his Reclaim the Media organization as a media advocacy group. He criticized mainstream news outlets on a number of fronts, painting TV news coverage as superficial and not very good at covering issues in depth. Along with some other members of the panel, he took issue with what was seen as a continued lack of diversity among media ranks. Lawson particularly noted the moderators for the presidential debates were exclusively a cast of white males.
Clearly not students, but stating they were using the campus as a nice place for a walk, Marshall Otea, 56, and Alex Longo, 58, said they rely on TV and mainstream newspapers as their sources for information. Otea said he would be “nervous” about trusting the new media talked about at the conference.
For his part, Longo said he doesn’t own a computer and isn’t positive he knows what a blog is. He does subscribe to the New York Times.
Incidentally, both men described themselves as Republicans, though Longo added he isn’t a fan of President Bush and probably will “hold his nose” and cast a ballot for Obama.