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American political news should empower us, not just trigger us

Brian Clancy is co-founder of Citizen Connect and chief civic engagement officer of the Bridge Alliance. Citizen Connect is an initiative of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, which also operates The Fulcrum.

The news media can and should do a better job facilitating constructive citizen engagement — the kind of civic action that helps Americans right, left and center forge common ground and heal divides. This can be accomplished without compromising any journalistic principles. It isn't about telling anyone what to think or do. It's about putting a full range of options at every citizen's fingertips and letting them decide their best path forward.

Bridging the gap between information and action is exactly why The Fulcrum and Citizen Connect are embarking on an exciting new initiative. Bringing together a nationally recognized leader in cross-partisan journalism and an online platform that shares civic engagement opportunities from over 400 nonpartisan organizations is unprecedented. By joining forces, we will be able to seamlessly link political news stories to inspiring events and volunteer opportunities by the fall of this year. The organizations hosting these programs reflect the diversity of this great nation and were founded by Republicans, Democrats and independents. What they all have in common is a commitment to making America stronger by ramping up mutual respect, deep listening and pragmatic collaboration.

Right now, the media organizations most skillful at linking information and action aren't focused on collaboration and collective problem solving. They have very profitable business models based on triggering anger and fear. It's literally how they build, hold and engage their audience. Unfortunately, we are all suffering from what systematically fueling these negative emotions does to a democratic political system.

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Thankfully, these are not the only emotions that can be fostered by the media. We've all read news stories that open our hearts and minds to bigger possibilities for America — ideas that nourish a sense of hope, a recognition of common purpose and a yearning to play a personal role in supporting the nation we love. Landmark initiatives like America Talks, the National Week of Conversation and America in One Room prove that this isn't just wishful thinking. Initiatives like these have shown us that Americans from across the political spectrum can indeed come together, forge deeper relationships and identify actionable common ground.

However, to achieve meaningful change at scale we need to make it much easier for citizens to find these bridging and reform activities. How many times have we all read something that moved us only to have our busy lives sweep us away before we could follow up? That's why any realistic path forward needs to place relevant civic engagement opportunities "one click away" from whatever we're reading, listening to or viewing. Citizen Connect was created to make this vision a reality. With Citizen Connect, it's simple to find compelling events concerning issues you are passionate about, events that get you actively engaged rather than just sitting on the sidelines. And getting involved doesn't require a big investment in time — we have events that can fit into even the craziest of personal calendars.

Citizen Connect, together with our outstanding media partners The Fulcrum and AllSides, welcomes Americans with open arms regardless of political affiliation. Anger and fear are powerful motivators, but they exact a huge price personally and for the nation. Your media choices really matter to America's future — so consider cutting down on "us versus them" content and exploring and acting on alternatives that recognize we're ultimately all in this together. This shift in your "media diet" is not only important for healing America, but it is also much more interesting and rewarding.

To media companies and journalists, we invite you to join our pioneering partners — AllSides and The Fulcrum — in putting your readers in the driver's seat where they belong. You work very hard to share important ideas, stories and voices — it's time to make it dramatically easier for Americans to act on them by tapping into an amazing community of over 400 nonpartisan organizations.

We invite everyone to give Citizen Connect a test drive right now. You'll be amazed and inspired to see how many organizations and events want you to join in and help heal America!

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