Ballots for the presidential primary will be arriving in Oregon mailboxes in a few weeks.

Every day and evening, by print, online, radio and television, we are bombarded with information about the candidates. But is any of it really useful?

How do we determine what is truth and what is fiction?

How do we determine which sources of news are accurate?

How do we determine if our current process of elections and their media coverage even support democracy?

The important role of the media in the political process has long been recognized.

As Thomas Jefferson said, 'The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.'

Broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite once made a similar point, claiming that 'freedom of the press is not important to democracy, it is democracy.'

And finally, BBC news anchor, foreign correspondent and journalist Michael Buerk has said, 'A flawed media… leads to a flawed democracy. Ill-informed citizens cannot make proper judgments about their leaders' actions, about the actions that take place in their names, about the laws that govern them. The media matters.'

Using such quotes for inspiration, the senior class at Forest Grove High School has been exploring these issues through essays and art.

Examples of students' best work will be presented next Tuesday evening as part of a contest titled: 'Election '08: From Fox News to Facebook,' a forum on how to become a well-informed voter in the 24/7 news era.

As part of the evening there will be a panel discussion which will include questions from the audience.

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 22

Where: Forest Grove Community Auditorium, 1915 Main St.

Details: Call the Forest Grove Library, 503-992-3247

The panelists:

The Oregonian political reporter Michelle Cole

Portland blogger Ben DuPree

Pacific University politics professor Jim Moore

News-Times editor John Schrag

This is the fourth in the Friends of the Forest Grove Library's Great American Speech series and they hope the evening will lead to a good community conversation about elections, the media and democracy.

Alana Graham is a member of the Friends of the Forest Grove Library.

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