Do you know who your elected representatives are?
Can we trust the president to tell us the truth? Can we trust the media to report it without an agenda? Can we trust the fact-checkers? Can we trust the people who are fact-checking the fact-checkers?
Although fake news is nothing new, this is an unnerving time.
As the editor of a local newspaper, I feel an increasing responsibility to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. The Palm Coast Observer is not perfect, but we are doing our best to be a newspaper you can trust.
As a parent, what is to be done? How can I help my children to be skeptical without becoming cynical?
My wife, Hailey, and I decided to combat the fake news problem by helping our children become better citizens. We sat with them on the couch on Monday night and learned about the branches of government. We talked about laws and how they’re made. (Jackson, 12, got to show off what he learned recently in his civics class. “It’s not useless, after all!” he said.)
And then we put that knowledge to use: We learned about a particular law that is being threatened today, and we decided to contact our representatives in Congress to let them know how we felt about it as a family.
The first call was made by Grant, who is 10 years old. Hailey typed up a script for him, and he practiced reading it, trying not to sound nervous. Then he called the office of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. The office was closed, as was to be expected at 7:30 p.m., but he left a message.
It was a proud moment for me as a dad to hear him say aloud the beginning phrases: “Hello, Congressman DeSantis. This is Grant McMillan, and I’m 10 years old. I’m calling because … ”
Then Jackson called the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. And Ellie, 7, called the office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. (Mr. Rubio, if you’re reading this, your voicemail box is full, so we had to send you an email instead. You might want to look into that.)
Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of fake news. But hopefully it will inspire them to not only learn about the world around them but to take an active role in making it a better place.
In the meantime, we need to send the message to our media and politicians — both national and local — that we expect them, just like we expect our own children, to be trustworthy.
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