Voter Apathy in Recent Election Raises Concern

With local elections recently concluded and presidential primaries and the general election in the near future, voter turnout continues to be a concern for many citizens. Only 18 percent of Knoxville’s population voted in the recent city elections, according to the Knoxville Election Commission.

“There is great interest in politics today but less involvement,” said U.S. Representative John Duncan Jr. “People need to isolate themselves from in front of the [TV] screen.”

Many experts attribute this problem to polarization within the political parties.

“I think the democrats are being held hostage too much by the far left and the republicans by the far right,” said Cliff Rodgers, Administrator of Elections for Knox County. “When you let the extremist of both parties have too much power they drive everyone against each other for no reason and it seems to preclude everyone from getting involved.”

Fears have also risen among voters as to the effectiveness of elected officials once in office. Instead of being focused on issues, some voters are concerned that politicians aren’t necessarily worried with fixing issues, but instead they are focused on getting re-elected.

“American politics have become too polarized because most politicians have become more concerned with the next election and scoring political points than they are about addressing the problems they were sent to Washington to solve,” said Bobby Patton, University of Tennessee student and of the College Democrats.

These concerns may not address the problem with low voter turnout to local elections, however. Concerns for apathy in local elections may arise from concerns in the responsibilities and processes of local government functions.

“People just don’t seem to care much about local politics. My own theory is that they think local politics is boring,” said Anthony Nownes, University of Tennessee Political Science Professor. “Local governments deal with things that are kind of dull, like garbage collection, and sewers, and zoning. These kinds of things just do not get people fired up about politics, whereas things like gay rights, guns, and abortion do.”

Voter apathy seems to be particularly prevalent in the 18-25 age group where turnout is at its lowest.

“Many people in our age group are much more concerned about going to the next party or catching up on their favorite reality show that they rarely pay any attention to politics,” claimed Patton. “It also does not help that politicians rarely cater to the interests of this age group.”

A lack of efficiency in the system may also serve as a turn off for many young voters.

It may be difficult for people attending universities away from their towns to gain access to the polls.

“Many of them do not really live here per se, so they cannot or will not make the effort to vote in local elections because it is just too much work for so what they perceive to be so little return,” said Nownes.

Various solutions may exist in order to help encourage voting from this age group, however.

Increasing accessibility to the polls may be a popular option not only for students, but also for other citizens.

“If they could somehow could create some kind of secure, viable, easy online voting system I know I would be more likely to vote,” said Cody Crockett, University of Tennessee junior. “Right now voting just seems to be too much of an out of the way hassle, but we all spend a lot of time online anyway so make it easy for us all on something we use anyway and we would probably would be more likely to hop on and vote.”

Crockett would also favor a complete overhaul to the American voting system.

“It seems like democrats in traditional red states, and republicans in blue states for that matter, may be deterred from voting in their states’ elections,” said Crockett. “They claim that every vote matters, but the Electoral College doesn’t seem to reflect that. If they want to make votes matter and encourage people to vote they should switch to a direct election system.”

Education on the part of the media may be another option to help solve the problem. Nownes thinks that the solution is to have media focus more on the issues rather than the horse race of who is ahead and who is behind.

Generally, voter turnout for national elections is higher than that of local elections. Tennessee will hold its presidential primary elections on March 6, 2012. Directions to the nearest voter registration office from the University of Tennessee are located below.

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CBS Does Not Fear Aggregation

Though some news organizations still fear the idea of news aggregation, CBS News seems to have fully accepted the idea. Not only are they open to the idea, but the seem to be integrating it into their website quite well. If you go to the bottom of their homepage they have access to various ways to follow them outside of their main webpage. One of these ways to follow them is via RSS feeds.

Once a viewers clicks on the RSS feed option, its takes them to a very informative page about various RSS feeds that consumers can subscribe to through CBS News. It also provides links to inform consumers on RSS feeds, how they work, and how to view them.

CBS News’ RSS feeds allow consumers not only to subscribe to their online print content, but it also allows them access to their broadcast shows such as 48 Hours and The Early Show.

Though no information was provided for how many people actually use CBS’ RSS feeds, I think they can be quite beneficial to people who want to subscribe to, and keep up to date with, a very specific section on multiple websites. For example, people who enjoy politics can subscribe to every major RSS feed on the matter and be constantly updated on that specific piece of information.

Since I prefer to view news in a more broad scope and then become more specific from there, I would probably not want to use RSS feeds. This does not mean, however, that they cannot be useful to other consumers and a viable option for news outlets.

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Designing A Multi-Million Dollar News Website

Generally there seem to be two schools of thought for news website design. The division from these two schools stems from the idea of simplicity versus the idea of more a complex structure. Some people, like author Jason F., think that simplicity is the best option for news organizations. People of that opinion would not be fans of CBS News internet outlets.

CBS News’ website has a ton of navigable sections. These sections are usually distinct from each other, and have their own interactive areas. Varying from video to pictures or to just print, CBS News’ tends to incorporate many aspects of consumable media to reach out to as many audiences as they possible can.

Even from their homepage, CBS tries to allow consumers access to as many different outlets as possible. If consumers do not navigate through the top bars, scrolling through the homepage still has distinct sections with links to various stories.

As far as their mobile content is concerned, CBS seems to be going after in any all outlets they possibly can. They don’t just stop at their news content though, they also attempt to incorporate their feature shows like 60 Minutes, as well. All of their mobile content can be found here.

For the second week in a row, CBS has done some things to impress. I do like how navigable and diverse their webpage can be. It is visually appealing and interest-keeping, while at the same time still being easy to navigate. Combine that with their mobile content, and CBS News seems to be spending their money well.

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Storytelling with Video

Finally, I have found something that CBS News is good at. I feel like for the last few blogs posts all I have been is critical of CBS and their poor or lack of integration of various media formats into their news stories. When it comes to video, however, CBS News does a good job with integration. Being a broadcast outlet first, I kind of expected this, though. Between CBS Evening News, The Early Show, 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, Sunday Morning, Face the Nation, and Up to the Minute, CBS really has a ton of pre-made content that can transition easily to their website. For example, this story contains analysis of an interview with a former lobbyist, video from that same interview, and integration of the transcript into a print story.

They even have an entire section of their website dedicated to video (as seen above). This section even integrates consumer involvement well allowing commenting, Tweeting, and Facebook recommending.

CBS is proof that you can transition your TV content to the web and still gain viewership by adding unique, compelling characteristics that aren’t available to TV consumers.

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The LIfe of Cody Crockett

Listen to Cody talk about one of his favorite parts of the University of Tennessee.

Cody Crockett, 20, grew up in the small town of Huntingdon, Tenn. His heart, however, has always been in Rocky Top with the Volunteers.

“If I could have my blood literally turned orange, I probably would,” said Crockett.

Pursuing a degree in Journalism, Crockett decided to leave his hometown and head east towards the Great Smoky Mountains.

“I originally was accepted on a full scholarship to play the drums at UT-Martin,” said Crockett. “After some thought I realized that I didn’t want a degree in music, and I definitely didn’t want to stay in Martin.”

Crockett currently spends most of his time playing the drums, video games, and attending UT sporting events. He also works at the Olive Garden on Kingston Pike.

“I don’t really like bussing tables at all,” said Crocket. “You have got to work hard to play hard, and I like to play a lot so I sell my soul to Olive Garden.”

After graduation Crockett hopes to leave find a job working for a magazine as either a sports commentator or a music critique

“Between sports and music I pretty much have everything I need in my life,” said Crockett. “As long as I can have my Volunteers and some tunes, I’m happy for the rest of my life.”

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Why CBS News, Why?

So this assignment has given me another reason to think that CBS News‘ may have the largest budget ever to under-utilize all of the tools that they access to. Being a international news organization, CBS News has journalist in many areas around the world giving them access to many stories that could be enhanced by the use of graphics. Combine their global reach with their large budget, and it would seem to make sense for CBS News to hire a graphic designer or two to increase their stories’ effectiveness. Since CBS also has their broadcasting outlets, and the graphic designers that go with that medium, it would make sense to extend that tool to their print sections. Surprisingly, however, CBS News is not utilizing this tool at all. Take, for example, this article on the national occupy movements. Talking about all of the locations this movement is happening in would make a great graphic, but CBS News doesn’t have one. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll be reading this blog, seeing my comments, and will hire me to help them out.

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CBS News: For Viewers not contributors

The internet does a fantastic job allowing individuals from everywhere connect. Whether it be online marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay, or networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the internet allows individuals miles apart to meet in accessible mediums. Understanding this fact, as well as the profitability of this idea, news agencies have begun allowing news viewers to become news contributors through this same idea.

MSNBC has FirstPerson, CNN has iReport, and CBS News has…. well nothing. In fact, CBS News doesn’t really seem to solicit any amount of CrowdSourcing at all from its viewership. They don’t even seem that interested in hearing comments from their viewers. The comment bar is a click-through button at the bottom of each page.

There is the bar, and in size. Nothing eye-grabbing, interesting, or inviting. This specific bar comes from their feature article of the day on running the war in Afghanistan ten years after its inception. Number of comments? 18. 18 comments on one of, if not the biggest, longest running stories of the decade.

They do have some other options here as well. Like emailing the story, or Facebooking it, Tweeting it, etc. But these links are equally as small as the comment option.

Granted, CBS News is generally associated with an older readership, making their online site a formality of keeping up with times. It is certainly surprising, however, that they aren’t even making an attempt to keep with other news providers, like CNN or MSNBC, and attempting to integrate the useful tools the internet offers.

Yes, the internet allows for a great business model like iReport to be used. But just because it is a good model, doesn’t mean that everyone will follow it. Remembering how competition works in economics, though, proves that CBS is going to have to evolve or fail.

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