Covering the campaigns: “We don’t have a good way of getting at the big changes happening in the country.”

From a “Covering the Campaigns” feature by Zach Montellaro on

Edward-Issac Dovere of The Atlantic:

Now you can’t get the spontaneous voter voice, the person who wasn’t expecting to be quoted. That’s hard, because I think part of the lesson that a lot of campaign reporters took from the 2016 election was that we needed to make sure that we were talking to people other than the ones that we would normally talk to to see what was going on politically in this country.

Now much bigger changes are happening in the country, societal changes, economic changes. We don’t have a good way of getting our own measurement of it. Polls have their value, but a lot of polls have proven to be off when it comes to the sample groups and end up not being representative. Polls are not the perfect way to do this.

Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register:

Within the Des Moines Register we have a dedicated politics team. Now two-thirds of those reporters are spending their full amount of time covering the coronavirus and its effects throughout the state.

We found that there is a ton of appetite for coronavirus updates. The other stories that people are reading are escapist news or things that can take their minds off of all of the terrible things that are happening. And that’s not necessarily politics. We’ve found a slow ramp-up for politics coverage. So we’ve spent a lot more time thinking about what our mission is. Obviously, it’s to inform our readers about who they’re voting for. How do we make sure we’re serving that mission without spinning our wheels writing campaign features that nobody is reading right now?

Allan Devlin of WYFF News 4 in South Carolina:

We’re staying away from the on-camera, sit-down interview, which is our bread and butter. You go somewhere, meet someone, talk to them, put a camera on a tripod, put a microphone on, and go. That’s your bite. That’s your quote. We’re not doing that nearly as much. A lot of people just aren’t willing—they’re not comfortable doing a face-to-face interview.

Interviews are now on FaceTime and Skype. I had to learn how to work Zoom for the first time. On air, it’s always been that you go to the campaign rally, you show everybody: This is what we’re looking at. Look at these guys hyped up with the campaign signs. Here’s the long election line, here’s this person’s speech, here’s this town hall. We don’t just tell, we show the election—but we can no longer show because there’s nothing to show.

Speak Your Mind