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April, 2014

Pro and Con

by Larry

With our body politic seemingly about as divided down partisan lines as shortly before the Civil War, folks on the left calling those on the right fascists, Nazis, and thugs, while those on the right call the left communists, socialists, and traitors, providing a reasonably neutral forum for diverse opinion on controversial issues would appear to be a completely thankless endeavor, right? Yet, according to Great Non-Profits, which assesses hundreds of charitable and not-for-profit organizations throughout the U.S., the website has done this so well they have had scores of positive reviews, possess an overall 5-star rating, and won a Great Non-Profits Award for 2013.

What the heck, then, is and what makes them so good? According to the site's mission statement, the entity is involved in: "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format." disseminates objective info on both sides of major controversies, does so without a lot of drama, provides an airing of divergent outlooks, and offers factual background data that may help people take a deep breath and step back from in-your-face, unproductive kinds of confrontation.

There are bound to be those on all sides of a highly charged issue who feel this is not being done well enough, who suspect the sweetness and illumination are smokescreens for the opposition stating its position better than one's own can be presented. How can there be neutrality when it is, on some issues, like alien species of soldier ants suddenly coming into contact and commencing a fight to the finish for one type of creature or the other? Yet, just as moderate Republicans, Tea Party folks, Libertarians, environmentalists, Green Partiers, and Democrats can come together around a venue and moderator for general election debates, so too the majority of readers can find in an acceptable place for getting unbiased information, one with more light and less heat.

Take, for example, the great battle of legislation, judicial action, and rhetoric over the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obama Care. The site asks if this act is good for America, and provides eloquent debate on both sides as well as a "Did you know?" section. The latter offers a number of paragraphs detailing at times misunderstood aspects of the act, some of which probably do not sit well with either side in this great national debate, others that likely would find favor with liberals, while still others may be appreciated by conservatives.

According to the site, 36% of people who gained information from changed their views on some issues. Over two-thirds felt they had a positive experience from reviewing the site's analyses of different topics and that it was fair in its presentation. Based on the reviews, that would appear to be borne out by consumers. As of the end of 2013, their site results included: "We surpassed 60 million unique visitors and launched 50 pro-con websites since we started in 2004. To celebrate, we announced this milestone achievement in a national press release and a Times Square billboard. We also had 138.5 million pageviews and 2.7 billion hits since 2004." Maybe they are on the right track.

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