Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election coverage: It's all about the planning

I just read a wonderful piece by the Poynter Institute's Mallary Jean Tenore describing how the Tampa Bay Times planned and executed its election coverage Tuesday. The results were stunning (read the piece to see photos of how the front page evolved as each edition went to press), but what was most impressive to me was the amount of thought and effort that went into the planning.

The Orion, of course, had to go to bed way too early Tuesday evening to have even a basic election story in Wednesday's paper, but the staff did turn in a solid effort on Twitter that instantly posted. Still, there clearly wasn't enough planning done in the Plumas basement to put on a truly stellar election-night effort.

In hindsight (always 20-20, of course), so much more could have been done to serve readers.

Here are some examples of extraordinary newspaper website coverage noted by Regina McCombs, also of The Poynter Institute:

• Video of voters leaving the polls, local celebrations as the outcome became clear and interviews with expert political observers.
• Regular updates and even streaming feeds from news sets in newsrooms, much like a TV broadcast.
• Interviews with "smart young people in party clothes expressing their opinions on the returns, often quoting breaking news from other outlets."

Some of the sites McCombs cites also had slideshows of news photos taken during election day and night.

Some of the storytelling efforts I saw during election night that might have been part of The Orion's coverage:

• throwing out the home page template and replacing it with an all-election page (Washington Post)
• interactive graphics that explained why the vote was going the way it did (New York Times, WNYC-TV in New York)
• a low-tech running timeline of results (a basic blog) updated on the half hour (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
• A basic online spreadsheet updated as new results came in all night (

By not planning better for Tuesday, The Orion missed a real opportunity to make its own extraordinary effort.

What Wednesday's papers looked like on other campuses. These papers are dailies, and they put together some of the best front pages in the country.

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