The Importance of Newspapers in an Election
By Wesley Odell
Every 4 years a new presidential election happens. As you already know, this is one of those years. Everywhere you go or look it seems there is some sort of political opinion, whether it be a Bernie Sanders sign on someone's lawn or an article on something Donald Trump said. With a bombardment of different media all telling you different and sometimes contradictory information, it's hard to decipher the difference between what's fact and what's fiction.
Newspapers don't just tell- they talk
Newspapers need to keep their readers engaged and one of the ways they decide to do this is with interactive products in their issues. Some product examples could be "debate bingo" or this especially innovative USA Today/Facebook Candidate Barometer, which monitors Facebook posts and maps each candidate based on number of hits a week. Newspapers also get involved directly with candidates through phone, email and interviews in person that allow questions that readers may have had to be asked. Some newspapers, like The Des Moines Register, hold events that bring candidates and voters to the same place so they can literally have a conversation.
Get the facts and none of the fiction In a recent study conducted by the American Press Institute, it was found that "more than eight in ten Americans have a favorable view of political fact-checking." Nowadays with so much content, it's important to know you're getting the truth. Newspapers use fact-checking journalism, which explores the claims made by candidates and evaluates the validity of those claims. By being fed true information, you can be better educated in your decision making and feel more confident in your choice.
Newspapers reach a large portion of voters
Over a 7 day period, as shown in the graph on the right, newspapers reach 64% of active voters. With that much reach to voters, newspapers have a lot of influence on the portrayal of candidates. Additionally, 55 million voters are exposed to newspaper content on social media sites.
What's extremely interesting about the people newspapers reach, though, is that newspapers reach a high portion of Opinion Leaders (An Opinion Leader is a person who described themselves as "always the first to find out about the top LOCAL news stories") and Early Followers (An Early Follower is a person who described themselves as "usually ahead of the curve when it comes to the top local stories of the day") who have the highest chance to "vote often. Opinion Leaders are important in an election because they inform and influence their less educated friends, and newspapers reach three of every four Opinion Leaders.
Newspapers encourage high voter turnout
In a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the correlation of voter turnout was tested. With data going back to 1869 till 2004, the study found that places with a local newspaper had on average a higher voter turnout. Comparing a single location before and after a local newspaper started, it was found that going from no local newspaper to a single one increased voter turnout by 1%, while subsequent papers increased turnout by .3% each.
All in all, newspapers play a key role in educating and encouraging voters to vote. It's evident that newspapers are very relevant and influential even in todays time.
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