Why political journalism matters

Jan 19 2016

Communities just aren’t getting the journalism they used to.

Between 2005 and 2013, political coverage fell from 7 to 3 percent of local news broadcasts. Other types of media are also struggling. One paper, the Denver Post, noted that its political coverage had decreased because it had lost 50 percent of its reporters over five years.

So there just aren’t enough resources, and not enough journalists. Media groups can’t send someone to every event to thoroughly cover every candidate.

But that means the community suffers. Voters don’t have the knowledge they need to make an informed vote. Instead of seeing news about the issues that affect them, they get information from ads by the candidates. Communities become more information starved, elections become less competitive, and voters become less engaged.

And that means many voters simply don’t vote. They don’t think it’s important, because they don’t know how each candidate would affect them, and they don’t see the difference between different candidates—or even different parties.

Those lost votes matter.  They mean that voters are less diverse, and they have strong policy ramifications.

We need to mobilize the voter base and help our communities understand who the candidates are, how they are different, and why their vote matters. We need to make sure that voters have the full story.

Campaign Hound helps journalists provide the full story. By partnering with news organizations across the state, we’re creating an archive of candidates’ speeches during 2016. We also have an alert system that tracks which words candidates are using in their speeches.

Campaign Hound is a new project of the Reese News Lab funded by a Knight News Challenge grant. It will launch in late January.

Using Campaign Hound, journalists can keep track of the topics that are important to their communities. They’ll know what candidates are saying, even if they’re across the state. So journalists in Wilmington can tell their community what a candidate thinks about “tourism” in North Carolina, even if that candidate is speaking in Asheville. They can look at what that candidate said in Asheville compared to a speech from earlier in the year.

Journalists get better information with Campaign Hound because they’re alerted to the topics they care about, and they can get the full context for it from each politician.

That means journalists can educate their communities better. And voters can understand which candidates that are actually best for them.


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