|July 17th, 2012 by Student Vote||Leave Comments »|
Samara’s new report, entitled “Occupiers and Legislators: A Snapshot of Political Media Coverage,” contrasts the media’s coverage of two major political stories from the fall of 2011: the federal government’s legislative agenda and the Occupy movement.
Despite many “long-held beliefs” to the contrary, Samara found that the political coverage was not “uniformly negative or focused on political games.” However, the investigation found that the news media may not offer Canadians enough information on Canadian politics.
Specifically, “Occupiers and Legislators” found that:
- The tone of political coverage is not uniformly negative; it fluctuates in response to events.
- There were notable differences between the tone of coverage on television and newspapers. In the two stories considered for the report, television tended to be more positive when covering government legislation and negative when covering the Occupy movement. Newspapers tended to be more neutral when covering Occupy and more negative when covering government legislation.
- Between one third (for television) and one half (for newspapers) of all news stories are focused on the issues, with the remainder focusing on political games and process.
- With regards to the two stories covered by the report, Samara found that media coverage lacked context and facts, with less than one third of stories about Occupy and one quarter of stories about government legislation considered “very informative.”
With only about one quarter of new stories considered “very informative,” learning about politics requires significant time and energy. The National Youth Survey (which also confirmed the success of the Student Vote program) notes a direct correlation between interest in politics and voting, as 88% of youth who were very interested in the last general election voted, while only 28% of those who were not at all interested voted. It is important that political information can be easily obtained through the media and civic education programs like Student Vote that increase political interest and knowledge to combat the trend of low voter turnout.
“Although [Samara’s] report covers a small snapshot in time, it highlights the concerns that many Canadians have about political news coverage in today’s fragmented media landscape,” says Michael MacMillan, Samara’s Co-founder and Chair (MacMillan is also a board member of CIVIX, our parent charity). “Though this report would indicate that our public affairs journalism is a doing a lot right, there’s still room for improvement. Since public affairs journalism is a fundamental link between government and citizens, we need to identify and break down barriers to its success.”
Samara works to improve political and civic engagement in Canada. In December, they took part in our Ontario Post-Election Teacher Consultation. Co-founder Alison Loat discussed Samara’s report “The Real Outsiders: Politically Disengaged Views on Politics and Democracy” and led teachers through an exercise to determine what words come to mind when they hear the words “Democracy” and “Politics.” Later, we ran the same exercise with a grade five class:
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Non-partisan organization engaging young Canadians in the democratic process.
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