Midterm coverage ideas worth borrowing for 2020

This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter following the digital transformation of local news. Want to be part of the conversation? You can sign up here.

It’s over. Now life gets back to normal. Just kidding, who has time to be normal? So here are some ideas from local and national newsrooms that you might need for 2020.

Help people understand the issues: In Boston, public radio station WGBH’s digital team took the election trivia they collected and made it into a “Wheel of Fortune”-style quiz.

“We chose to make the quiz challenging, with some questions that were difficult, and some questions that had timely information about the topics of ballot questions voters would be facing,” audience engagement editor Lisa Williams told me via email. “Since people who took the quiz saw the right answer immediately after making their choice, we felt the quiz was informative in addition to being fun.”

Bonus: “So far it's been very successful for us,” Williams said. “We're on track to gain quite a few newsletter subscribers, since the final step of the quiz allows people to join for a chance to win some WGBH swag.”

(Illustration by Emily Judem/WGBH News) 

Help people remember the basics: A lot of local front pages on Tuesday reminded people to vote, what they’d need to do, what they shouldn’t do (selfies), and where to get results. It was simple, but a great service.

Help people get information: In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, public television station PBS39 used more than 50 billboards to broadcast election updates and share questions and comments.

“I hope for people who may not be paying as much attention as they could, that by seeing this, they decide to go home and watch, read, click in, turn on, and find themselves more engaged with election night and politics as a whole,” said Yoni Greenbaum, chief content officer.

A sample billboard, via PBS39

Help people share what they’re feeling: The New York Times’ needle was one to watch in 2016. And it came back last night. But this year, the Times gave its audience a way to more actively engage in election day with its “How the midterms are making us feel” live map. Just click an emoji and the map adds your feelings based on your IP address. (The verdict, by the way, was "Afraid, then upset.")

Hearken also has a great roundup of audience-centric election coverage here.

In non-election related news…

  • This street reporting project started as a way to help journalism students get past the surface when covering homelessness. Now, Our Town Reno is a critical voice for people who often aren’t included in the conversation about them.

  • LION and the Committee to Protect Journalists are conducting a survey on news media safety.

  • Ken Doctor has a longread on Nieman Lab on local news funding.

  • And there’s still time to sign up for this $25 day-long workshop on uncovering untold stories in Chicago.

See you next week!

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