Website takes voters beyond the political frenzy

August 23, 2012

In a polit­ical arena dogged by sound bites and cat­fights, a con­ver­sa­tion rooted in depth and detail can make all the difference.

That's the idea behind U.S. Polit­ical Con­ven­tions and Cam­paigns, a free, non­par­tisan web­site devel­oped by North­eastern fac­ulty and launched ear­lier this week. The web­site, which will be updated throughout the cam­paign season, serves as an online resource for both edu­ca­tors and indi­vid­uals seeking more information.

"We want there to be some­thing for everyone," said site cre­ator Daniel Urman, director of the Law and Policy doc­torate pro­gram in the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies. "It's for the high-​​school stu­dent get­ting ready to vote for the first time, someone fol­lowing the cam­paigns on TV who wants to learn more and the sea­soned polit­ical professional."

The site serves as a pow­erful edu­ca­tional resource, pro­viding col­lege fac­ulty and high-​​school teachers with tools and quizzes designed to align with national edu­ca­tional stan­dards in areas including civics, Amer­ican his­tory and government.

The site's con­tent includes in-​​depth video inter­views with more than 20 polit­ical insiders from across the polit­ical spec­trum, including former Mass­a­chu­setts state Senate minority leader Richard Tisei, a 1980 Reagan youth del­e­gate and cur­rent Repub­lican can­di­date for Con­gress in Mass­a­chu­setts; Thalia Schlesinger, a 2008 Obama del­e­gate; Richard Counts, a 2012 Romney del­e­gate; and former Mass­a­chu­setts gov­ernor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Demo­c­ratic nom­inee for pres­i­dent and a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at Northeastern.

"One of the rea­sons I teach these days is because I want to encourage young people to go into public ser­vice," Dukakis said in one of the site's videos, "Why Pol­i­tics Mat­ters." "There is nothing more impor­tant or more per­son­ally ful­filling and sat­is­fying than being in a posi­tion where you can make a dif­fer­ence in the lives of your fellow cit­i­zens. That's really what pol­i­tics and public ser­vice are all about."

Mul­ti­media ele­ments include infor­ma­tion on topics such as Amer­ican polit­ical his­tory, cam­paign finance, public policy, party plat­forms and the evolving role of media and tech­nology in gov­ern­ment and campaigns.

"We are non­par­tisan and we're offering depth, which sets us apart," Urman said. "We're pro­viding details that are impor­tant to people's lives. Gov­ern­ment touches every aspect of someone's life, whether they like it or not, so it is impor­tant to have an informed citizenry."

The polit­ical insiders who gave inter­views for the web­site, Urman noted, were enthu­si­astic to par­tic­i­pate in a project that approached gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics as serious topics mer­iting close examination.

"They enjoyed the ability to speak for more than five sec­onds at a time," Urman said. "Many of our inter­views were sched­uled for 20 min­utes but went well over an hour. Of course, that frus­trated our edi­tors, but it showed how these experts appre­ci­ated the oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss these impor­tant topics in greater depth."

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