Informed Citizen Akron

American elections – especially in swing states – are bitter, uninformative experiences. Many Americans, even those of us who vote consistently, feel alienated and marginalized by campaigns and the media coverage around them.

It’s no surprise that campaigns tend to produce more heat than light – choosing to drive people apart instead of focusing on our shared goals – it seems to work for them. But it’s not working for our democracy. In most elections, the vast majority of the electorate doesn’t show up to vote, including in the recent presidential primaries. The numbers will look better in November, but even then, likely a third of eligible voters will sit it out. Americans, clearly, are frustrated.

It’s time for a more substantive, engaging conversation about politics, elections, and the issues that affect us all. That’s why we’re working the Jefferson Center and a consortium of Ohio media organizations, led by the Akron Beacon Journal, to launch Informed Citizen Akron.

Informed Citizen Akron will shift the traditional model of media coverage dictated by campaigns and national stories, instead focusing on civil, substantive discussion of critical issues. With our media and community partners, we’ll create opportunities for Ohio voters to break through the divisive campaign rhetoric and drive more informative, more inspiring coverage of the 2016 presidential election.

Our aim is to create a narrative for the election that focuses on the issues that matter most to Akron and Ohio residents. To do that, we have to put voters first. That means listening to people and engaging Ohioans directly to tell media what they need to know.

From now until Election Day, we’ll focus on three things:

  1. What are the issues that really matter to voters?
  2. What are the candidate’s substantive stances on those issues?
  3. How can local and state media help drive a more productive public conversation about the election that informs and encourages voters?

To do that, our team at the Bliss Institute will conduct three in-depth polls statewide to assess Ohioans attitudes toward the campaigns and media coverage of the election. At the Jefferson Center, we will engage citizens to learn about how media covers elections, to learn and talk about the issues, the candidates, and ways Ohio media can better cover the election so that voters can make more informed decisions at the polls. Media outlets throughout Ohio will use the feedback generated through polling and public conversations to shift their coverage beyond the horse race and provide information that resonates with voters and improves the public discourse about the election.

Ultimately, Informed Citizen Akron will:

  • lead to more informed and engaged citizens,
  • increase the level of trust between local media and residents, and
  • provide a model for constructive collaboration between citizens and media to promote a more informative, more meaningful electoral process.

For more information, visit the Jefferson Center website