Information and Politics


How Do You Know 

What You Know?

By James Grandone

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - 11/9/2020 - How do you get your information about politics, COVID-19 and local events? If you get most of it from friends and family, where do they get it?

Jim Grandone

Most likely the answer is from the media, either print or broadcast news or online news sources. I get mine from news aggregators online. They scour all the major news outlets and publish the most important stories every day from primary news sources, such as major daily newspapers, network news and cable news networks.

We cannot keep up with all the news because we can’t be everywhere news happens. That is the function of reporters.

Often news drives policy in Washington, D.C., state capitols and city halls. Politicians and our reactions to the news influence the formulation of public policy.

Most of the time, news outlets just report what is being debated in deliberative bodies like Congress and state legislatures. But what if the news outlets made policy directly by telling politicians what to support and what to oppose?

That is how Fox News Channel operates, according to a new book by CNN Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, “HOAX: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.”

In a review of the book in The New Republic, Stelter says it was the late Roger Ailes who convinced Trump to do a weekly call in to Fox & Friends program. Rather than ask Trump what his position was on the day’s topics, Ailes told Trump what to say on the program.

These positions became Trump’s positions and contributed to his positions on issues and his fixation on news ratings in determining his actions as president. By the way, Fox does not have many reporters and gets most of its “news” from online news publications, including the right-wing conservative Breitbart and The Drudge Report. Makes sense. This affects the national divide in the United States over policy issues like gun control, Black Lives Matter and other controversial subjects. Fox has a very loyal following, and so does Trump. In most polling, it would seem that Trump has a solid 30 percent support, which comprises his “base.” Where does his base get their news? From Fox News Channel programming. Research has shown that a full 34 percent of voters get their news from Fox News Channel. Where does Trump get his position on issues? Fox News Channel and, in particular, his buddy Sean Hannity. See the circle?

The rest of us get our news from what is commonly called “mainstream news outlets.” They are staffed by journalists and reporters who adhere to standards of objectivity and fairness as best they can. Journalists who write news, rather than commentary, strive to present a story looking at all sides of an issue, rather than supporting an ideological point of view, like Fox News Channel. Local newspapers, such as The Intelligencer, often serve as the sole source of local news. The “I” recognizes that people have many options for national and world news and have chosen to be the best source for local news. It is a niche for other community newspapers to consider filling. So, it’s important to really think about what you know and how you know it. If you don’t watch television news or read newspapers and get most of your information from family and friends, from where do they get their information?

I think we should try to formulate our opinions based on all the information available. Then we can make a rational decision about voting for the best-qualified candidate.


Jim Grandone is a long-time resident of Edwardsville, Ill. He was the architect of the 'East County...If You Only Knew' marketing campaign promoting the Metro East to businesses in St. Louis in the 1990s. Grandone holds a BA in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield and was a Coro Fellow and serves on a variety of boards. He lives in Leclaire with his wife, Mary.

Reprinted with permission. This article originally ran in the Edwardsville Intelligencer