The SNO Report: Covering the midterm elections

You can’t escape it. The political ads pouring into your poor mailbox and out of your television screen (here’s our favorite). The context applied to all news, or discussions of news, coming out of Washington, D.C. recently. The midterm elections are right around the corner.

On our podcast with The New York Times’ design team, they told us they were already thinking about the way their midterm coverage is going to look online.

Are you thinking about yours? How will you cover the midterms? How will you present the coverage?

On Best of SNO, we’ve already seen a ton of political coverage localized by student journalists. Three such articles covered the experiences of students working for political campaigns, which you can read here and here and also here.

On the editorial side of it, we’ve republished a column about “Developing Your Political Ideology” and another calling on students to “Vote early and local.”

Covering your local elections is especially important and it’s something you ought to be doing, since a subset of your readers are probably voting for the very first time.

That means covering it, first, at a bare-bones level:

  • How can your of-age readers vote? Or where can they register to vote?
  • What does a ballot look like? Or what else can you tell them about the Election Day process?
  • Who are the candidates?
  • What do the different political offices being pursued in the election actually do?
  • Where do candidates stand on the issues, especially those issues that matter to the age group of your readers?
  • What’s a Democrat? What’s a Republican? What’s it matter?
  • Why does voting matter?
  • Or for readers who aren’t of age, how can they still get involved?

How many of these questions have you answered for your readers? (Hint: The more the better.)

A lot of those answers can be found by researching the information. They’re mostly information-based reports, rather than relying on interviews. But what about interview opportunities? What about sending reporters to cover the events?

Here are a few stories about student journalists who went out and did it:

Start by covering school board and city council meetings. Go as a class and make it an assignment.

That’ll help you get even more prepared to cover politics leading up to, during and after these midterms. Think of it like covering your Homecoming Court election — you identify the candidates, share information about them with readers, you cover the big announcement, etc.

Maybe you have a potential Homecoming candidate with a great story to tell. You’ll only find out by going and talking to them — that includes politicians, too.

Here’s an excellent example of how a student publication covered the 2016 election: “2016 Election one-stop shop,” from West Side Story.

Here’s a great example of students covering the results of a local school board election: “Blue wave in North Penn School Board election,” by The Knight Crier.

Now, get out there and do your thing. Good luck!