As we have previously indicated in our post on Structuring Engagement, the news media has a critical role to play in educating and engaging citizens about local political processes. Last year, the National League of Cities released this research brief indicating that only 12% of municipal officials think that local media contribute constructively to the discussion of public policy issues. A much larger number, 30%, reported that the media serves as an obstacle to greater public engagement. In order to make good decisions, the public needs good information. However, there are several widespread media practices that interfere with public understanding of available information. These include the practice of reporting on political processes as if they were sports events, picking “winners” and “losers”, failure to report on relevant context, and reporting “opinions” or “feelings” offered by various commentators on an equal level with factual information. Knowing that these are common practices, you need a plan for engaging with the media from the outset of your engagement process. How to go about this will be the subject of our next few posts.
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