As the Canadian school year kicks off, raucous campaigns for our federal election in October are in full swing. Research and Findings was impressed by a college-aged niece, who asked where she could find unbiased information to guide her vote, inspiring this month’s curated collection of election-focused partisan and non-partisan websites. Her interest tracks growing interest among youth in the democratic process; 2015 showed a marked increase in young voter turnout, and it is expected to grow further this time around. Here, then, some helpful sources to guide you and your students through the blizzard of political claims, promises, and distractions.
- The Official Party Platforms – Let’s consider the official political party websites to be ground zero and start from there. Below, a list of the major party websites, where you can find answers to the key questions: Who are the leaders? What do they stand for? What are they promising? However, you will not find a list of their admitted failings and shortcomings.
- Youth Engaging Youth – First, a site for youth to answer the question: Why get involved? “…a choreographer, a filmmaker, and a fashion photographer met at a party…” It sounds like a set-up for a joke. It is anything but. The above three formed Apathy is Boring in 2004, with a goal of involving more youth in the political process. They are, in their words, “a non-partisan organization. Our goal is to educate all Canadian youth about democracy… Apathy is Boring doesn’t support or oppose any given party, candidate, political campaign, or policy so when discussing partisan topics, we stick to the facts.” This could be the first stop for students with questions about politics, bias and the need to be involved.
- Exposing bias in world news – Philosophers tend to agree that no information is completely free of bias. However, there are widely varying degrees of bias, and knowing this can help us sort out which information to reject or to accept, and with how many grains of salt. Allsides applies a formula based on factuality, accuracy of reporting and the use of emotional or “hot button” words or language, among other criteria, to determine whether information is biased toward the left, the centre or the right of the political spectrum. Although it covers world news, you can search for stories on Canadian politics and it will rank their relative bias.
- Bias-Checking, Made Easy – According to their website, “Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC), founded in 2015, is an independent online media outlet. MBFC is dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.” Plug in the media of your choice—television or newspaper, for example—and these folks will give you a reasoned opinion as to the source’s relative bias. For example, CBC is rated somewhat left of centre, The Sun Newspapers, far-right, and CTV, centre (the least biased). Links for those:
- Canada Fact Check – Canada Fact Check claims to be the answer to the question raised in the introduction, above. In their words, “Canada Fact Check is an independent news platform dedicated to transparency, democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility.” Choose from a menu including Canadian and US politics, and Fact Check presents articles it deems to be factually defensible.
- “Independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism” – The Conversation appears to be the most robust of the attempts at defensible journalism, and certainly its foundational principle is laudatory: “Access to independent, high-quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy.”
They aim for nothing less than rebuilding “trust in journalism.” Their contributors must adhere to an Editorial Charter, and all “contributors must abide by our Community Standards policy. We only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise, which they must disclose alongside their article. Authors’ funding and potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed. Failure to do so carries a risk of being banned from contributing to the site.”
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