Wick Communications

Reflecting on election coverage

In Elections on 8 Nov 2012 at 2:18 pm

Tuesday was another historic election day, and if you are like me they just seem to get closer together all the time. Barack Obama’s election in 2008 feels as if it happened only yesterday.

I confess to not giving enough thought to elections beforehand. We tend to do things pretty much as we always have each time the balloting begins. Perhaps one reason that is so is that we almost never think about our coverage on the Wednesday after elections.

Let’s change that. Now that the dust has settled, go get your print edition and let’s take a look.

  • Were you accurate? Did you resist the urge to run with those early numbers and if not, were you burned in the end? If you did get something wrong — vote percentages, name spellings, whatever — what can you do to assure it doesn’t happen next time?
  • Did you localize? If you ran a standard AP story on the presidential or gubernatorial race, did you get local comment – from the local party chairwoman, the high school civics teacher, the guy at the bar?
  • Did you get good art? I bet you didn’t unless you leaned on AP. There are two tried and true ways to get election photos: from the polling places early in the day and from the party after the votes are counted. I recommend you do both, but also plan some centerpiece element. Maybe it’s a well-made box listing winners or a story and photo of poll workers getting ready.
  • Did you get the local candidates on record? You probably know to find cell numbers for all the candidates beforehand. Did you use them when the numbers rolled in and deadline loomed?
  • What would you have done differently? Would you have led with different contests? Might you have run a front-page editorial? Did you tease inside content adequately?

Now think about things you did – or did not do – online. …

  • Did you write regular updates throughout the evening? Not just one on Wednesday morning when the counting was done, I mean hourly.
  • Did you post links on Twitter and Facebook? You simply must. Otherwise, most readers will never see your updates. You have to push your work.
  • Did you send email blasts? You probably have them set up for breaking news. Well, a new mayor or sales tax is breaking news.

I was telling one of our editors today that elections are a perfect opportunity to do what we do uniquely well. We are best positioned to bring home big, local news to our neighbors in real time. Don’t let an opportunity like that pass by without your very best effort.

Clay

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