1. Are you stepping up the depth of your political reporting?
We’re seeing a new level of political awareness, attention and score keeping, according to POLITICO editor in chief Blake Hounshell, who broke down the midterm election picture earlier this fall at Excellence in Journalism 2018. News audiences more than ever need deep reporting beyond the horserace. Today is a day for subject matter experts to shine, particularly those with in-depth local knowledge and connections.
2. Are you enabling community dialogue?
Anthony Salvanto, CBS News Director of Elections and Surveys, said at the same EIJ18 session that more Americans are finding it harder to have political conversations, and are increasingly likely to surround themselves with people with similar beliefs. Is your station giving audiences the tools or even the platforms to engage in civic conversation, particularly with those in the community who hold different views?
3. Are you prepared for anything?
Salvanto also reminded journalists that it’s a mistake to think if we can successfully predict the future with tools like polling, we understand the world. But data is just one piece of the puzzle, and with many close races, outcomes are uncertain. In many cases, results may be known for days or even weeks. Any mistake is ammunition for attacks on journalism, so verification matters more than ever. Being first may be tempting, particularly on Election Day, but being right still comes first.
4. Are you answering this election’s key questions?
Beyond when and where to vote, News Director Scott Diener reminds newsrooms to let people know where to find more information. For one, follow the money. Who is paying for political ads? Who is supporting certain candidates? Help your audience break down the publically available data and show what it means.
5. Are you connecting the dots?
Triston Sanders of Magid reminded news directors planning election coverage in another session at Excellence in Journalism that election reporting can’t be just a data dump. With so much information and misinformation at our fingertips, providing context beyond the horserace is critical for helping your news audience make informed decisions. NBC10 reporter Lauren Mayk added that knowing how your local races fit in a national picture is key particularly this year.
6. Are you focused on issues?
Candidates, parties, polls and data are just the start. Have you been talking to real people in your community? What do voters in your area actually care about? Are the issues they are basing their votes on the same as or different from those dominating the national conversation? Are you helping your audience understand how different issues impact them?
7. Are you keeping your whole newsroom fed?
Election Day pizzas ordered? Don’t forget about those field crews and the overnight team, too! It’s bound to be a very long day and the right fuel keeps a newsroom running!