• Transparency is often proposed as a cure for much of what ails government, states Centre for Responsive Politics researcher Andrew Mayersohn in a column for the Boston Review. But data released to the public won’t cure anything unless there are individuals and interest groups who use it. Moreover, according to Mayersohn, transparency advocates often don’t explain how that data will lead to good results. The reason: because many of those advocates are nonpartisan, “discussing theories of change is uncomfortable terrain; it means talking explicitly about politics and power.”
• The Nation’s John Nichols blames the United States’s “exceptionally low level of voter participation” on how difficult it is to cast a ballot in that country. But only a few of the difficulties cited by Nichols exist on this side of the border. So what’s Canada’s excuse for our voter participation? After all, according to the Conference Board of Canada, our country’s turnout during elections is better than the United States but worse than 13 other peer countries?
• Northwestern University communications professor Pablo Boczkowski predicts economically strapped news organizations “will pay more attention to the public in the year ahead.” That could mean those organizations will be “stuffing our news diet with sports, weather and crime stories” that “give us engaging topics of conversation.” But that could also mean a decrease in the public affairs reportage that fuels public deliberation and political participation.
• At the same time, senior advertising executive Rob Norman argues online advertising dollars should be spent placing ads adjacent to hard news rather than soft features. In a column for Advertising Age, Norman writes, “advertisers have no obligation to support the public service of news, but doing so would not only be good for the world but good for business.” His rationale: the “authority, timeliness and relationships” news organizations have with their readers “are worth a premium over some other digital-inventory types.”
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