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The informed voter: newsletters

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Today I opened my email for a daily check-up to find 21 new messages. “Wow! 21 messages in less than 24 hours! Gabe must be crazy popular,” you say. Crazy, yes. Popular, no. In fact, my 21 messages might signify that I am quite the opposite.

These messages were not from friends, family or secret admirers. Instead, they were from social campaigns, political candidates and environmental organizations. You see, I have a confession to make: my name is Gabe Gunnink and I am an obsessive newsletter subscriber.

These subscriptions began innocently enough when I identified a couple organizations that were especially important to me and that I wanted to stay updated on. Things were manageable. Unfortunately, newsletters somehow have a way of hooking you on other newsletters. Somehow my subscription to the culinary newsletter “Forks Over Knives” led me to subscribe also to that of the organization called Food Democracy Now! which in turn had me send a letter to my senator about the bill to label GMOs which of course resulted in my subscription to senator Debbie Stabenow’s weekly newsletter. It’s a vicious cycle.

It is through this self-feeding process that I have now come to be a subscriber of newsletters such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which mayors wouldn’t be?), Forecast the Facts, and one for Ohio political candidate Sherrod Brown, who I am unable to vote for and whose name is confusing to me. What does Sherrod even mean?

However, while the constant flurry of long-winded letters testing the data capabilities of my Gmail account may prove that I am indeed crazy, it also proves something else: I am crazy informed. For example, did you know that a recent decision was made to prevent Shell from drilling for oil in the Polar Bear Seas or that Pennsylvania courts are currently making a monumental decision that will greatly affect the voter eligibility of thousands of Pennsylvanians? I did.

The fact is that my inbox may be inundated with emails, and I may need to dedicate 15 to 20 minutes a day to bail it out. But those 15 to 20 minutes are well spent. I may now have some useless facts about sequoia trees or Debbie Stabenow’s weekly schedule, but I can honestly say that I know so much more about current events than I did before, and I appreciate that.
The truth is that newsletters are a very effective and easy way to stay informed, especially as a voter and especially in this election season.

They create a direct connection between you and the desired campaign or organization, cutting out the distortion of the media entirely and letting you truly hear the voice of the campaign. This, of course, does not mean that the given campaign will not implement distortion of its own, but at least you are able to avoid some prolonged game of political telephone. And, if you really want to have a fuller idea of the debates on various issues, try subscribing to the newsletters of opposing campaigns and see what each tells you. The point is not to accept everything sent to you as truth, but rather to realize what the important issues are and what important people or organizations are saying about them.

So, you may not want to become like me, a future star of the TV series “Cyber Hoarders” which TLC is destined to create. But I hope that you do think seriously about a few organizations or campaigns that are close to your heart, visit their websites, and sign up for weekly updates from them. If you truly care about a candidate or an issue, it is important to stay informed. It is this realization that has landed me in the midst of a severe newsletter addiction, but it is also this realization that has made me able to say, “My name is Gabe Gunnink, and I am an informed voter.”

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