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Voting: the meaning of being a citizen in a troubled era

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These lessons and activities about covering elections can help journalism students plan a path to understanding issues, providing for civic engagement and developing leadership

Election Day this year is of monumental importance whether it might be a person’s twentieth time to vote or another’s first.

Given the pandemic that allows medical and health issues to impact political, social and economic phases of society, Nov. 3, 2020 will be a harbinger of things to come.

As journalists, we have a societal responsibility to help our audiences earn more about what faces society, the importance of voting and how to discern truth from information designed to mislead.

We thought you might be interested in these lessons and activities to assist others as they prepare to be thinking and caring informed citizens:

Mary Beth Tinker captures events of the ’60s at Kent State University’s May 4 Museum.

Outlining an ethical guide for journalistic responsibility and civic engagement by reporting issues, candidates and making endorsements
It’s election season again and people are especially drawn to the major issues separating the nation and the clear-cut national divisions between key candidates. There is little compromise, and some have said democracy’s future is at stake.This lesson on election coverage moves students through critical-thinking and decision-making processes and prompts students to cover stories that meet their communities’ needs

Students, faculty and staff circle in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High,March. 14. Photo by Theo Yode, Harrisonburg High.

What is the role of media during election campaigns?
Journalists and citizens have independently raised concern this election year, seemingly more so than other years, about the verification process for what candidates say in campaigns, what “facts” are raised with issues and who is the most honest. Similar concerns exist about information passed on by state and local candidates, including those running for school board and community offices.

Analyzing how ‘facts’ are used by politicians during the election cycle
Sometimes politicians misconstrue facts during debates and political ads. This lesson examines the “truthiness” of the ads running currently. Students will analyze one from the Democratic and one from the Republican party. Students could look at a TV ad, online ad or print ad.

Time for informed civic engagement
Student journalists must learn to face key questions this fall, not only in terms of scholastic media but also in terms of informed civic engagement:
For example, which information inundating them deserves their belief and active support and which deserves their active skepticism:
• Which version of the truth about collusion in the issues surrounding election meddling?

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