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Pop culture, politics intersect online

June 24, 2005

Photo of Farai Chideya, founder and editor of PopandPolitics.comPopular culture and politics have long been intertwined in America, since parents began naming their children after George Washington in the early years of the country. Recall actor Ronald Reagan, who transformed himself into "The Great Communicator," became governor of California and, eventually, president of the United States. In last year’s presidential election, celebrities like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs implored youngsters to "vote or die," and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling threw his best fastball to sway voters to re-elect George W. Bush., an online news journal and Web log sponsored by SFSU’s Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism (CIIJ) since last summer, has chronicled these links for 10 years with a hip, witty mix of commentary and news written in a more casual style than what is found in the mainstream press.

The site will soon relaunch, thanks to a grant from the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation. Previously, won a Marketing Opportunities in Business and Entertainment IT Innovator award and was listed in’s worldwide survey of "25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics."

"Young people are savvier than those who turn on the news at 6 o'clock every night," said the site’s Managing Editor Jean Chen, noting that generations X and Y tend to rely more on the Web for news than newspapers, television and radio.

The site strives to provide fresh perspectives on the latest controversies in hip-hop, feminism and other issues that affect young voters -- everything from the ban on the death penalty for juveniles and the separation of church and state to the roles of African Americans in McDonald’s commercials.

Content is generated via college newspapers, other Web sites and original articles written by freelancers from across the country. Three SFSU students who work for CIIJ contribute to the site.

"It is very current and topical, shedding light on paradox and platitudes in a creative, thoughtful and thought-provoking manner," said Vicki Cormack, one of the CIIJ writers.

Founded and edited by Farai Chideya, co-host and correspondent of "News and Notes with Ed Gordon" on National Public Radio and author of "Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters," also holds workshops for SFSU journalism students on political reporting and writing for the Web. Chideya believes mainstream media have failed young voters with a lack of commitment and diversity in their political reporting. She says it will take more than celebrities to get young people to the voting booth.

"Will (celebrities) make people vote more than once? Unlikely," she said. "Peer-to-peer voter counseling is the best way to change things."

-- Matt Itelson
Photo: Charles Haynes


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Last modified June 24, 2005 by University Communications