Truth in advertising

By Melissa B. Merkler

Is there truth in advertising? Not your run of the mill big box store advertisements. We’re talking about political advertising, folks. The business cycle is upon us again with the Florida governor’s election just days away.

Seminole State College of Florida hosted its second in a series of three civic dialogue events at its Sanford/Lake Mary Campus today.

Just as the first civic dialogue began, students were once again asked to participate in a live poll to answer a topic-related question: Do you think politicians should have ethical commitment to provide truth in advertising? (click to watch the video)

The majority of the room answered, “Yes.”

After a quick introduction of the panel’s guest speakers and the audience watched a few current campaign ads, a seemingly unrelated question was raised: “What is the most important rule in the game of Clue?” Mr. Hugh Moore, Associate Dean, Center for Business, Management & Entrepreneurship asked.

“Take a look at what people aren’t saying,” Moore said, answering his question.

He suggested that one might apply the same principle to deciphering political campaign ads. From “Too Shady for the Sunshine State” ads portraying Florida Governor Rick Scott as trying to hide something to a Charlie Crist ad labeling him a “slick politician, lousy governor” voters ultimately must take it into his or her own hands to chose a candidate.

Mudslinging, defined by Merriam-Webster, as “the use of personal attacks or insults in order to undermine an opponent” is nothing new. In fact, “it goes back to our Founding Fathers,” Ann Hellmuth, one of today’s panelists and a board member of League of Women Voters of Florida, said.

Another panelist, Michael Ertel, Supervisor of Elections in Seminole County Florida, asked the audience a question that brought the campaign ad evaluation closer to home for students.

“Who went to SSC because someone told you how bad Valencia is?” he said.

…Crickets chirping…

“So why do you let people tell you that about political choices?” Ertel asked.

Now, that might just be a valid point that makes sense to college students who are planning to vote this election.

The journalist on the panel, Jennifer Sheppard, Professor of English at Seminole State and a veteran news reporter, said she tries to “see both sides of this issue” referring to the ethical obligation to tell the whole truth. Presenting both sides of the argument is what a journalist is supposed to do, she said.

So, before you blinding bubble in the little oval next to a candidate’s name, do your own research; figure out who he or she really is and his or her platform means to you.

For more information, visit Florida Campus Compact, a website dedicated to college and university diversity and civic responsibility.

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