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Help 50 Papers Set Election Coverage Agenda

Want to have a real say in how 50 newspapers around the country set their election coverage agenda? Here is your chance, act now.

I received the following email from Ken Sands, Managing Editor of Online and New Media at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. It was suppose to be to a few journalists and academics, but I asked if I could share his questions with my blogging audience. His answer, “The more the merrier… go ahead.”

You can place your comments below, but make sure you send them to Sands at

This from Sands:

The project I’m working on is part of the APME National Credibility
. We’ve trained roughly 50 newsrooms on how to set up email
databases of their readers. And we now have a mechanism in place to ask
the same questions at all locations around the country and collect all
of the results on a Web page. It’s quite cool. Here’s the story about
its most recent use.

Anyway, we’re getting ready to launch our next national “Readers Speak”
survey, and we need your ideas.

We’ve heard that a large percentage of likely voters (70+ percent)
already have made up their minds about who to vote for in November. With
that in mind, we’re thinking of asking readers what they want and need
from us, to give us a sense of how we might tailor our coverage of the
presidential election. We need your help defining a good line of

Some thoughts:

There are undecided voters, decided voters and non-voters. What does
each group want/expect from us?

–Do undecided readers pay any attention to editorial page endorsements?
Should we continue that tradition? Do they want coverage that focuses on
issues more than personalities? How do they use us/not use us to make up
their minds? How can we do a better job?

–What, really, do decided voters expect from us? Do they cheer when
their political perspective is seen in a positive light? Similarly, do
they jeer when the opposite occurs? In this era of polarized politics,
what do they need to know? Since this is the largest group, we have to
write to them, but how?

–Since the largest group already has made up its mind, should we focus
more on encouraging non-voters to participate, by giving nuts-and-bolts
instruction? Should we provide lots of “why you should care” stories to
encourage participation? Should we mimic MTV and engage in “Rock the
Vote” types of activities to encourage younger people to vote?

In the next few days, please take a few minutes to reflect on these
thoughts and tell me what line of questioning makes sense to you. We’re
looking for essay-type questions, not a yes-no tally. The discussion is
more valuable than a tally.

Looking forward to your help.


Ken Sands

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