Shemariah Butts: Beyond talking heads – a look at the news cycle
I am sick and tired of hearing about the debt ceiling,” this sentiment is coming from a certified news junkie - media connoisseur. I am absolutely positive that I am not the only person that feels this way. I love politics, so I can only imagine how the average person’s tolerance for the subject has been stretched to the brink. I fully understand this is a critical crisis. The idea of America the “superpower nation” going broke is news cycle paradise. Well here’s another cherry to add to the sundae: this is only one of the many critical problems America and truly the world must resolve. But when every TV broadcast and radio report is nothing but doom and gloom, it’s a little hard to focus on anything else.
The way we get our news has changed because of the internet, cable news and social media. The political process is more tangible and leaders have a Smorgasbord of options to spread their message. Now information is not only easy to find, often the news comes to us effortlessly – thanks to mediums like Facebook and Twitter. (Prime example POTUS Obama’s debt ceiling Twitter spam) Yes, the ease of access and the change in the way we are informed has many benefits, but I have come to notice a big deficiency. Mass media has the tendency to cover one thing extensively and usually it is a national story. Sometimes we, the general public, neglect key issues growing in our own backyards. (Pardon the cliché) Even local news puts on the blinders and latches on to the hot ticket story of the month. The Atlanta Public School cheating scandal is a prime example of the news cycle on repeat. You probably can close your eyes and re-play far too many news stories, but can you do the same, for example, with the issue of redistricting? At this moment, political parties, advocacy groups and special interests are pouring over the maps and strategizing a new political climate in the state of Georgia.
So here’s my point: Don’t rely solely on the news to educate yourself! There have been and will be many more forums on redistricting and other issues. Far too often these public information sessions are sparsely attended, which translates to elected officials that think they have free reign because no one is watching. Become an active part of the conversation. Don’t wait to get the story re-purposed and re-packaged by media. Now, I know first-hand that time is precious commodity. (Says the girl in the beginning stage of career life i.e. I am chained to a desk from 9 to 5)
Grassroots organizations, like Georgia WAND, and others out there that advocate for almost every issue imaginable, are another resource to keep you well informed. Their job is to stay updated on a very specific set of issues, like Georgia WAND's coverage of the Public Service Commission hearings this month. They can be your eyes and ears, not only to keep you informed about what's going on, but also to let you know what you can do about it.
Shemariah Butts is a marketing communications professional born, raised and educated in Georgia. During her time at UGA, Shemariah served as the campus Vice President of the NAACP and following graduation, she worked closely with local and statewide legislators with the League of Women Voters of Georgia (LWVGA). Shemariah was also privileged to serve as the LWVGA legislative monitor, during the 2010 Georgia General Assembly session. Her other organizational affiliations include the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, The WhiteHouse Project, New Leaders Council of America, LWVDK and Junior League of Atlanta.