An antidote to polarization and partisanship

COLab and its partners are disarming disinformation this election, including setting up a text hotline for people to share their election experiences (303-871-1491).
COLab and its partners are disarming disinformation this election, including setting up a text hotline for people to share their election experiences (303-871-1491). (Photo Credit: nion by Getty Images via Canva)

Dear fellow Coloradan,

On this morning of the 2020 election, I’m moved to write you a letter about a conversation I had last night with my teenage son.

Yesterday, Susan Greene sent you a note about the feeling of acedia during this season of pandemic, protest and election. The word describes a feeling of melancholy, born in this case of isolation and polarization. That resonated with many of you who immediately wrote back to Susan. At least two of you sent her poetry in response. The level of depth and thoughtfulness among our readers always amazes me. So I know you care deeply about the state of our democracy, our relationships with one another and the future of our country. Which brings me to the conversation with my son.

I am worried, I told him, about how people will treat each other during and after the election. I’m worried people will get bad information and with it, make bad decisions. I’m worried that information — whether deliberate disinformation or perhaps well-intentioned misinformation — will lead to violence. I’ve covered elections for more than 25 years and never seen anything like this, I said.

My son, too young to vote yet, was confused. Isn’t it always like this, he asked. His question made me catch my breath. His memories of the 2016 presidential election are vague but shaped by the vitriol of the time. Somehow, what seems so unusual and un-American to me, he assumed was how adults behave every four years.

Those of you who’ve followed closely the birth of the Colorado News Collaborative know we now have more than 90 news outlets statewide working together to tell important stories none could do alone. We created a statewide voter guide. We produced a weekly Q&A about the election — and tens of thousands of you turned to it. And we set up a text hotline for people to share their election experiences (303-871-1491). Yesterday, one of the hotline tips was this: Two men, one wearing a gun on his hip, were videotaping voters dropping off their ballots in Arapahoe County. Several COLab partners reported on the incident. Authorities are now investigating. It can be a fine line between the exercise of First Amendment Rights and voter intimidation. Watchdogging democracy is our work.

Yesterday also was the launch of a national campaign called “NewsMatch.” Some of the largest supporters of a free press in America have put together a pool of matching funds to help local nonprofit news outlets raise money for more and better journalism.

Sue Cross, who leads the 250-member Institute for Nonprofit News, which is managing the NewsMatch program, says supporting “real news is kind of like voting.”

“It’s one of the best ways each of us can support our own individual rights and pull our country and communities together. Where there is news, research has found the politics are less polarized, government finances stay out of debt, more people run for office, more of us vote. Our right to free speech is upheld, our governments are held accountable.”

I currently chair INN’s board and am a founding member. I am as proud of the public’s support for the growing sector of nonprofit news nationally as I am of COLab.

On this day, I hope you will consider — when you might have thought there was nothing more you could do for democracy — making a gift to COLab to support this work. Your gift will be doubled by the NewsMatch program.

Our democracy needs a free press, or it wouldn’t have been protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. And our children need it. Trustworthy, factual reporting is not only the antidote to polarization and partisanship, it also disarms fear and violence. Fear and violence may be all too common in America today. But we can change that. I don’t want my son — or anyone else’s child — growing up to believe that fear and violence are the American way.

This post was sent as a letter to our email subscribers on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Join our email list to learn more about COLab and the work we are doing. 

Laura pioneered collaborative journalism in Colorado as the founder of I-News, the nonprofit investigative news organization that merged with Rocky Mountain Public Media in 2013, the first such merger in the nation. She led the journalism team there for seven years, and now leads 95+ newsrooms in collaborative reporting through the Colorado News Collaborative. She is a Denver native who spent 20 years reporting for newspapers, radio and public television around the country, specializing in investigative reporting and data analysis. She was a founding member of the Institute for Nonprofit News and now serves as its board chair. Her work has won awards in both broadcast and print, and led to changes in laws and lives.

1 COMMENT

  1. hmm….My frustration has been the fact that the MSM, the news papers, etc. have not listened to any of us consumers of the news. Once the “news” was monetized, it was game over for truth and integrity of many of the “news rooms”…Are they deaf? or are they willingly doing the bidding of the corrupt? Sitting back and looking at the Big Picture, one can see the trends…we need to have laws, or regulations on the msm, because, it seems, they cannot, will not, self police….they have failed this country, more so, than the republicans who supported trump…

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