Does media alienate young voters?

Inspire Alumni,  Samuel Dubke describes why young people may tune out politics in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal

Samuel was an Inspired Leader and Inspired Fellow while attending St. Stephen's & St. Agnes High School. He received an Inspire Award in 2016 by going above and beyond registering his peers to vote.

Why Young People Tune Politics Out
by Samuel Dubke

This summer, I’ve been working as an intern at a small online news organization. For eight hours a day, five days a week, I sit at a desk editing spreadsheets, sending emails and transcribing interviews, underneath a large flat-screen television tuned to MSNBC at full volume. There is nothing I would rather do than press the mute button and never have to listen to any of it again.

I have been dumbfounded by how obfuscating the media has been toward any news that contradicts their neatly packed punditry, Samuel-Dubke-Blog.jpgand how they have ignored much of the public’s desire for unbiased and unsensational content. Every day we hear reports on another bombshell allegation about the Trump administration. Every day more Americans simply turn their televisions off.

I voted for Donald Trump in November, albeit reluctantly, as did much of my extended family in Kentucky and Western New York. Many of them used to be registered Democrats, and some are or were members of labor unions. Like much of my family since the election, I have been drawn toward nontraditional news sources from Fox News to Breitbart. They may peddle biased and occasionally incorrect information, but at least conservative news outlets welcome me with open arms. 

As a high-school graduate about to enter college, I am well versed in the vocabulary of the modern social justice movement. It seems to me right-leaning voters are increasingly abandoning traditional news media in favor of “safe spaces” of their own. I feel marginalized when I watch NBC or CNN, or when I read the New York Times and the Washington Post. That unpleasant feeling pushes conservatives like me away from the mainstream media, and toward Mr. Trump.

The story of Russian meddling in the 2016 election has consumed the media for weeks, even months. It is an issue of national importance and possibly a threat to the Trump presidency, but the media should be embarrassed by how totally subsumed they are in this endless feeding frenzy. They hardly take time to breathe between their allegations. When they do take a break, it’s to pivot to another perceived failure of Mr. Trump—and, by extension, of his voters. The mainstream media may not be the “enemy of the people,” but they don’t feel like a friend to me.

For much of the 46% of the electorate that voted for Donald Trump, the Russia story is more embarrassing than sinister. These are just the fumes that the swamp lets out from time to time—foul, but quick to disperse. When the mainstream media drops everything to bash the President every few weeks, it has a tendency to ignore issues that are also of major national interest.

Many in the media were apoplectic when the members of a girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan were denied U.S. visas. Much less attention was paid by those same reporters when Mr. Trump personally interceded and got them the visas. And the media virtually ignored that a Democratic National Committee consultant met with Ukrainian officials during the presidential election in an attempt to sabotage the Trump campaign.

My conservative friends and I understand that Donald Trump was a flawed candidate and is a flawed president. But if I could repeat to journalists what I have been told in school: Show, don’t tell. Show us Mr. Trump’s actions, both good and bad, and let us make the judgment calls. It does not benefit the mainstream media to alienate a good chunk of viewers and readers with heavily editorialized content.

While I may be too young to remember an earlier time, it seems to me that average people are zoning out at an alarming rate. I know, among my friends in high school, “I don’t pay attention to politics,” or “I don’t want to get into an argument,” pre-empted a lot of discourse this past year. The reasons for staying informed are gradually being outweighed by the desire to be accepted or at least left alone with our worldview. The gulf between liberals and conservatives only widens.

Mr. Dubke will be a freshman this fall at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Dubke, Samuel. "Why the Young Tune Politics Out." The Wall Street Journal 3 Aug. 2017. 4 Aug. 2017.