Sunday, January 1, 2012

For Jan. 5 discussion: In search of political civility

The finger-pointing started almost immediately after the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Republic reporter Shaun Mckinnon reminds us in this USA Today piece.
We were told that shooter Jared Lee Loughner was motivated by caustic campaign rhetoric, that he was told (in his own mind at least) that Giffords should be a literal target for violence.

After Loughner's rampage, we said we wanted more civility in political discourse. But reporter Mckinnon tells us that civility is still quite elusive:
In the days after the shooting, the words from the memorial still fresh, lawmakers pledged to foster a new civility in tribute to Giffords and the others who were injured or killed. Yet one year later, Americans and their elected leaders still struggle to show each other respect when opinions differ. Partisan brinksmanship plays out in Washington. Back home, voters treat lawmakers with scorn and berate one another for differing opinions. Surveys suggest that Americans recognize the lack of civility and want their leaders to behave better, but experts say that until people exercise civility themselves and demand it from their representatives, little will change.
My questions about this story are twofold. First, tell me what you think about the writing itself. This piece is a little longer than standard USA Today fare (relatively few of its stories exceed 20 paragraphs). Was it interesting from beginning to end, or did you start to lose interest at some point? If your answer is the former, what kept you engaged in the story? If it was the latter (and this is, by the way, an entirely acceptable answer) at what point did you start to lose interest? Can you pinpoint the aspects of the story that bored you? How could it have been made better?

Also, if you want, feel free to talk about the media's role in fostering civility in public discourse. Should the media be interested in pursuing this? How could that be done? One could argue that visceral


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  2. The article in itself is well written. As I began to read, I wasn’t exactly sure as to where the writer was going with this topic. In my opinion, the beginning of the article didn’t seem to coincide with the following statements. The Gifford’s shooting occurred a year ago; this violent act was indeed a tragedy but it wasn’t an event that I could immediately remember. Until I read that Sarah Palin was blamed for the shooting, I was a bit confused. With this being said, I feel that the journalist should have put a more recent example along with something that had to do with the subject of the article. I also think his transitions were a bit overdone. There are four paragraphs going on about the same thing to finally reach the main topic: the issue of incivility in politics.

    After finishing the Gifford story he makes several strong and well thought out points. The writer provides strong examples and it is easy for the reader to follow. The constant use of the word “civil” was a bit distracting but other than that I enjoyed the rest of his piece. He states numerous thought provoking statements that engages the reader. For example, he incorporated the quote about not only speaking but also listening is a major factor in civility and we need to hear others opinions. The quotes the writer uses are there with a purpose, not just placed to add more length.

    Answering your second question, I believe that the media has a major role in public discourse. The media has shaped us into who we are now. If you watch any of the GOP debates or previous presidential debates, you see these people talking over one another and not listening to what the other has to say. People in our society look up to and support these people and so they begin to mirror their personalities. Media is playing a major role.

  3. As i began reading this article, I was impressed by the voice of the piece because it sounds like an intelligent writer. However, it droned on from the very beginning, in my opinion, since the points being made bounced around without much detail. Gifford's shooting was mentioned and explained briefly but not really enough for my focus to stay intact. I couldn't understand where the author was going with his argument until statistics about numerous American surveys were mentioned sparking my interest a bit. Besides the length, I think the author could have made this article better if what he was trying to portray to readers was more apparent instead of tying together all at the end. The mention of civility helped explain what the author was focusing on but up until the very end I felt as if i were led astray.

    Civility was brought up countless times and i'm guessing it's because the media wants to focus more on having civil public audiences.

    "Civility is as much about listening as it is about speaking. It's acknowledging differences. Having civil dialogues is so important to expose ourselves to real, live people who have differing opinions and find out why they have differing opinions."

    The media should definitely be interested in pursuing this because the data from the American people's survey about civility brings awareness to the root of the issue. We can't be a nation that practices equality if differing opinions cannot seem to interact with each other. Somehow our political party, no matter what state it may be in, needs to understand that. The media can definitely help to shed light on the issue since it is a gateway of communication to the people firsthand, but only if listening and rationally discussing topics can intertwine peacefully.

  4. I think that this article is somewhat newsworthy.

    What makes it newsworthy is the fact that it is the anniversary of the shooting in Arizona, but what made the article unappealing to me was the length.

    The author provides some useful statistics, but other than that does not really offer up any new information that the reader might not have gotten ahold of about this story.

    I think that this can answer your question about whether or not the media plays a role in public discourse and if the reader gets bored or not. I believe that this story is recycled and much of the discourse has been settled with this situation so that might be a reason a reader could be bored by this story.

    This story will become more newsworthy when Loughner goes on trial. This is also when we will see the media shaping public discourse in a major way.

  5. I had a hard time sticking with this story. The topic itself interested me since I didn't follow it as closely as I wanted to when it initially happened. The confusing, advanced terminology left me clueless as to what the author was trying to say. It also seems as if the author is assuming that its public is already educated about the initial shooting incident.

  6. I understand the reporter’s choice to peg the one-year anniversary of Rep. Giffords’ attack with the issue of civility in public discourse and use the opportunity to go into detail on the subject. I still found, however, the article a bit confusing. My attention began to wain about fourteen paragraphs in when I began to wonder if any of this information was new.

    While the story is sprinkled with interesting quotes, statistics and phrasing, I am still unsure what story the article is telling. What I did gather, however, was that the alleged ties between Loughner’s motives in the Arizona shooting and his exposure to “over-the-top political rhetoric” have introduced the public to the potential dangers of media rhetoric.

    I feel Andrew is right to say this topic will be more relevant once Loughner’s trial begins. Perhaps then we will have concrete evidence which will prove he was influenced by the media or if instead he was simply a delusional man armed with both a gun and vague idea of an agenda.

  7. I am glad to see the one year anniversary of this shooting being recognized and analyzed by the media, however, I did not find this particular article very interesting. I lost interest in about the 6th or 7th paragraph because I could not tell what the main point of the article was.

    I was also not entirely familiar with what civility is and how it is tied to the shooting, and the author made no effort to explain why this is an issue, but instead jumped right in on how to fix the issue. I wish there would've been more background information and explanation before jumping in to his argument.