Paul Berton: Newspapers can help you make an informed decision

newspapers-specvotesMore than 150 years ago, when daily newspapers were popping up across North America, many were born not necessarily to make money, but to influence politics.

They were started by rich politicians or wealthy members of the business community who wanted to swing voters toward a particular party or candidate.

Today, some newspapers still try to do that, but most simply want to ensure readers, and voters at large, are well informed about their community.

Voters who know their community make good political choices, and good political choices make for healthy, prosperous, progressive communities.

That is the true raison d’être of newspapers such as The Spectator. It is the most important thing we do. We want people, whatever their political stripes, to understand the issues and from as many sides as possible.

We don’t really care how you vote. We want you simply to make an informed decision and vote any way you like. (It’s true, as a newspaper and as individuals, we have opinions on how we should vote, but our goal is simply to have you vote in an informed manner.)

That’s why we are so committed to election coverage, and municipal election coverage in particular. Today’s stories on the urban-suburban divide in politics are just the beginning of a campaign to educate, enlighten and propel voters to ask questions before the municipal election this fall.

There will be hundreds of stories: about the community, about the issues, about the candidates, about the political process, about getting involved.

We will do this in print throughout the year, and online through our SpecVotes blog and at thespec.com. The blog, which launched Friday, will be a work in progress.

There is an interactive map that will show you not just where your ward is, but who’s running in it. It will be updated regularly with candidates as they register.

It will carry commentary from groups such as the Hamilton Civic League on why the election is important and why everyone should get involved.

It will include features exclusive to SpecVotes, including a piece Saturday by Jeff Mahoney.

Why do you need to visit? It’s your portal to election information right through to the Oct. 27 vote.

But we also need your voice, your pictures, your videos, your opinions. Some of this will be submitted by the candidates themselves. Some will be submitted by ordinary voters. Much of it will be written by Spectator staff.

We want SpecVotes to be a meeting place, a town square for election debate.

We want it to be a place to educate voters and encourage Hamiltonians and Burlington residents and others to get involved.

It’s a cliché, but democracy is a wonderful gift we take for granted. Voter turnout numbers, especially for municipal elections, prove the point. In 2010, it was around 40 per cent.

The irony is that voters have more influence in local politics than anywhere else. And municipal politicians are more responsive and can have more influence on our lives than any of their counterparts.

It’s simply not true that you can’t fight city hall.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com.

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