Friday, November 05, 2010

Explaining and exploring gerrymandering

During the next year, and especially after Tuesdays' elections, we will have to deal with the intricacies of explaining redistricting/reapportionment to readers and viewers.

It simply won't do to throw our hands up in disgust or bewilderment. When, for instance, voters in one S.C. county have not had a general election choice for state Senate for 14 years, when double-digit percentages of districts go without any competitive races in an election, and when it's likely to get worse - but certainly not better - after the election, it has become, to my mind, a very real and present danger to democracy itself.

If journalism is to exist in the service of democracy, then it seems to me we owe it to readers to at least try to make it real and explain it for them, not to mention keeping an eye on the pols as they start moving things around on the map like so many commodities.

I hope we'll see a lot of effective use of multimedia to do this, especially the kind that allows people to draw their own districts so they get the experience of dealing with the issue.

To get your juices flowing on this, check out something Peter Pappas has put together - a paper-and-pencil exercise on redrawing your districts. If nothing else, you could do something like this and even hold a contest for best solution.

I hope we'll see more of this online. Maybe someone will create a "redistricting shenanigans" database.

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At 11/5/10, 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,
Glad you liked the lesson - sometimes paper and pencil works.
I took a look at you blog - glad someone is promoting common sense!

At 11/6/10, 3:34 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I agree, paper and pencil sometimes are the best. I still edit some long stories that way - I like to see the "visual grammar" of the printout, which alerts me to dense sections that might need attention.

Thanks for the kind words.

At 11/8/10, 1:57 PM, Anonymous Magento Themes said...

Paper and pen were good when there was not option which is now better, in everyway if wana know how to use technology,

- John Devis
Magento Themes

At 11/8/10, 2:36 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

I'm a huge user of technology, but paper and pen have their place.

Sometimes when teaching, it is good to slow things down. My experience is that paper (or pencil) and pen are ideal for those situations.

At 11/13/10, 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Doug! Thought you might find my blog post on the Alaska voters' spelling bee of interest...


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