By Meredith Hood
Opinions Editor Meredith Hood writes her first editorial of the year about the 2016 Presidential Election. She discusses the difficulty of getting a well-rounded perspective of the election in 2016.
Presidential elections have the tendency to divide the country. However, for the 2016 election the division feels deeper, as it has even split people within their own parties. The two controversial candidates sparked some of this division, but another factor prevents the two main political parties from ever seeing the other’s view. More than ever, people get their news from social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
I am not going to disparage either website as being a bad source for news. All citizens, young people especially, are more informed citizens because of social media’s ability to spread news rapidly. But often, we only see the side of the news we want to see. The Wall Street Journal created a simulation of two Facebook feeds, one that follows traditionally conservative sources and another that follows traditionally liberal sources. Viewers are able to click on an issue and compare how different sources portray the same issue side-by side. The page shows that depending on what sources we follow, we end up with completely different perspectives of the same event without much variation to challenge our viewpoints.
My main source of news comes from Twitter, with my my hard news coming from The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Between these different news sources, I usually feel like I get a fairly well-rounded view of events. I am aware of the lense that each newspaper writes from, though I will admit I am partial to the sources that align more with my views, and therefore I am more likely to read a full article written by those sources. But, I have read dozens of election columns, articles, and editorials from all three publications. When The New York Times condemned Trump and endorsed Clinton in September, they wrote that “this endorsement would be an empty exercise if it merely affirmed the choice of Clinton supporters.” With their endorsement, The New York Times Editorial Board hopes to persuade non-committed voters to vote for Clinton through columns and editorials about the two candidates. At first I was wondering what their endorsement meant for us, the readers. Since I have been making an effort to see the election from more perspectives than just my own, I was nervous that I read a majority of my news from a newspaper that aligned themselves so closely with one candidate. But as I thought more about The New York Times’ endorsement, I eventually realized that their endorsement, and the varying endorsements of newspapers around the country, can help all of us get a more well-rounded perspective.
Because of their endorsement of Clinton, readers know what to expect when they read an article from The New York Times. And if an opinion piece speaks either negatively of Clinton or positively of Trump, readers might pay more attention to that issue. Their endorsement also forces us, as consumers of news, to be a little less lazy about what we read. If we only read The New York Times, then we are only getting one perspective, which goes for reading any newspaper that has endorsed or condemned a certain candidate. We have to take it upon ourselves to find a source that has another view, because we know we are only seeing one side of the argument. Newspapers have made it easier for us to find another voice by directly declaring their views. Moreover, if a news source has not endorsed a specific candidate, then perhaps we should consider why when reading their articles. Surrounding ourselves with actual people who have a variety of views will help us all be more informed citizens. In fact, knowing a candidate’s strengths can be easy and reassuring but staying aware of a candidate’s weaknesses makes our continued support of that candidate even stronger.
Even after we try to stay aware of our biases, we can still get stuck in our own beliefs. For example, when I heard Donald Trump’s words in the 2005 tape of him talking to Billy Bush, I felt anger and disgust and frustration. So as I scrolled through my Twitter feed to see these feelings mirrored by everyone I was following, I felt some relief because, from what I saw, the world was outraged too. But, when I scrolled down to view the comments on a tweet condemning Trump, I was shocked that many Twitter users seemed to be making peace with Trump’s words, and I realized just how different our perspectives of the election were. So while many media outlets are handing Clinton the presidency, I’m not so sure that the election is over. If people think that their votes are less important because the election is already settled, and therefore voter turnout decreases, then anything could happen. No matter where the candidates stand on the morning of November 8th, and regardless of who we support, every single one of us who is eligible must vote with an educated opinion.
Tatler welcomes your comments about the election and forming educated opinions. Tell us what you think by writing a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thoughtful letters may be posted in the future!