Friday, September 26, 2008

Reinventing the News

As our upcoming presidential election becomes more of a reality show than a major political matter, it only makes sense that the entertainment machine would follow. Spoofing the controversial July 2008 "Fist Bump" New Yorker cover, Entertainment Weekly has Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert making fun of an already outrageous presidential season. I think the original New Yorker cover is brilliant even though it came under intense heat for being insensitive about possibly misleading uneducated voters who were on the fence about Obama (though would they be reading the New Yorker in the first place?)

This spilling of politics onto an entertainment magazine is an indicator, however, of the shrinking number of news magazines. According to Folio, the number of news magazines in America and Canada has dropped 39 percent from 75 to 45 publications in the last five years. Do people not care about politics, or are they simply finding other means to get the news?

In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in database journalism, or the gathering of facts from databases in a cohesive or interesting way and distributing it to the public. One of these such sites is, which is full of articles debunking each candidate's jabs at each other. The site seems impartial, using straight number to check both candidates equally. It is very to the point, but mainly seems to focus on ads or speeches instead of the overall positions of the candidates., another example of database journalism, at first seems more convoluted to go through, but is actually more entertaining. With animated graphics, the candidates are judged on their truthfulness and how often they flip on issues. You can also click on tags of certain issues and see the validity of each candidate's claims and how often they've flipped on issues. This site is more interactive but still information is being told to you rather than you manipulating it.

FactCheck and Politifact are great tools for people looking to educate themselves on the candidates in an engaging manner, but check out Project Vote Smart and the Washington Post's Vote Database for the ultimate resource in candidate information. These are databases in the truest sense of the word: they are dry and all-encompassing. While not engaging, Project Vote Smart is the best, focusing on presidential candidates and local leaders from every state.

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