Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware that election season is here. Locust Walk is once again littered with colorful posters, and your Facebook has been exploding with invitations to join various support groups. With all this publicity, the question must be raised: what do they actually stand for?
There are a few sources of information available to answer this question. Several candidates now produce videos in an effort to educate the student body on their campaigns. The Daily Pennsylvanian offers a Candidates Center that gives summaries of each candidate’s vision along with an array of multimedia features designed to help students make the right choice when they vote. And then there’s Under the Button, the blog run by the DP’s 34th Street Magazine.
UTB is one of the most popular daily sources of information on campus. “Usually we get up to 7,000 or 8,000 hits a day during the middle of the week,” says 34th Street Editor-in-Chief and College junior Sarah Beth McKay. Though the blog is intended to be humorous, it is fair to say that some students out there are influenced by the election coverage presented through this outlet.
When asked about the nature of the coverage, Undergraduate Assembly presidential candidate and College junior Matt Amalfitano characterized it as mostly “parody.” Amalfitano also said, “It’s an important part of the process. It gets a different group of people involved who might not be into the DP’s [election coverage], but might find UTB’s way of doing it interesting, and that’s a good thing.”
Fellow UA presidential candidate and College junior Grant Dubler was more critical: “[UTB] totally ignored the substance of some campaign films … They also have been pretty critical of freshman candidates, most of whom are actually qualified.” He added, “It’s a great blog, but not an unbiased news service.”
Last fall’s coverage of the elections was purely humorous (videos were ranked through an arbitrary system), while plans for this years coverage are more substantive. McKay characterized this year’s potential election-related posts as being less about “making jokes out of everything and more about presenting the facts.” Hillary Reinsberg, College junior and UTB Managing Editor, agreed. “Throughout this week, we’ll be putting a spotlight on different races, highlighting the controversies, drama and silliness where appropriate,” she wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday.
Planning additional coverage is one thing, but following through is something completely different.
Reinsberg’s vision of UTB’s additional political coverage sounds great, but so far not much has been done. In a week where several races were supposed to be highlighted, only a post about the UA presidential election has been published, in addition to covering a Nominations and Elections Committee event and, of course, taking shots at campaign videos. Following through on good political coverage would be a great first step, but more is also necessary.
Simple things, like encouraging readers more explicitly to head over to the DP’s candidate’s center, would help. It might be worthwhile to actually sit down and interview candidates too. Perhaps most importantly, it might be beneficial to remind readers that, although humor is important, it should not be the sole factor in choosing how to cast your vote.
Showcasing a candidate’s campaign video is good for a few laughs, but do you really want that person to be your UA representative for an entire year? These are people who do actually make important decisions once elected, so maybe a little more thought should go into your vote. After you laugh at a UTB elections-related post, click on over to the Candidate Center. Hopefully UTB will link you there. Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, N.Y. He is the former chair of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is email@example.com. A Dennie For Your Thoughts appears on Thursdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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