CSLC hosting Democracy 101 sessions focused on information in the media


GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Jacob DeWeerd, Staff Reporter

Grand Valley State University’s Community Service Learning Center is hosting the second of its Democracy 101 sessions for the fall semester, titled “How to Stay on Top of Information in the Media,” on Sept. 23. The interactive panel, which is being held on Zoom, will cover information on election candidates, navigating a crazy media landscape, and various other media-related topics.

In the months before one of the strangest general elections ever, political and media awareness is going to be a valuable skill for new young voters. However, with news spreading faster than ever before, it can be difficult to follow everything related to the election. “How to Stay on Top of Information in the Media” hopes to help students develop efficient ways of navigating media and learning about election candidates.

Topics like media consumption, credibility and attention will be covered during the panel. Carson McCready, Civic Engagement Associate for Democratic Learning and Engagement, said the topic choice was inspired by media becoming more prevalent than ever during presidential elections and by an increase in the news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are experiencing so much more information coming to us from so many different sources, it can be difficult not to believe everything you read,” McCready said. “It’s also difficult not to only read news you agree with, even though it is important to diversify what you read.”

“How to Stay on Top of Information in the Media” is one of many weekly Democracy 101 panels scheduled for the fall semester. Panels are typically held in-person with various speakers and interactive elements for attending students, but, like many other student-lead events at GVSU, every panel has been shifted online this year due to the pandemic. Despite moving Democracy 101 sessions online, the CSLC aims to recreate the same experience students would get at in-person events.

“We are trying to keep a very similar format to the in-person sessions, so the structure of the sessions are basically the same in that we have our host giving an introduction, we allow our speaker(s) to present and there is a Q&A period towards the end moderated by the host,” McCready said. “This semester of Democracy 101 is going to be just as fun, just as informative (if not more so), and just as interactive as our previous in-person sessions.”

Grace McMahon, the Lead Civic Engagement Associate for the CSLC, said that students can expect engaging and thought-provoking conversations at every Democracy 101 panel, which might be missing from their daily lives because of COVID-19.

“We wanted to ensure that these critical conversations were being done so safely, but our goal is to still have them be as interactive as possible and allow people to learn from and make connections with one another,” McMahon said. “We try to partner with as many different students, organizations, faculty and departments as possible to get a wide scope of views.”

There are Democracy 101 panels scheduled nearly every week for the entirety of the Fall semester, with a wide range of topics being covered. Some examples include “Mental Health and Politics,” “Civil Dialogue,” and “Election Security: Does My Vote Really Count?” McCready is most looking forward to the latter.

“Many individuals feel discouraged by today’s politics and may feel that their efforts do not make a difference, this is absolutely false though,” McCready said. “As a result of these attitudes, we all suffer the consequences of a lack of political action. So, I am very much looking forward to promoting ways individuals can make a difference in their communities and empowering them to see that difference.”

Panels run from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday nights; links to the Zoom meetings can be found on the CSLC’s website. Every Democracy 101 panel is INT 100/201 approved for students looking to fulfill requirements for those courses. Students interested in presenting at any panel can contact Carson McCready for more information.