Over the past month, AP provided reporting tips on four different election topics: covering misinformation, election conspiracies, school boards and election office turnover. Covering elections and preparing for them is important and we want to learn what other topics or training would be most helpful to you in the year ahead. Please remember to complete the survey to share your thoughts.

Elections present an opportunity to build new relationships and audiences around something concrete that affects the community’s future.

But how do you keep that going? If you’re taking the time to lay a comprehensive plan for the lead-up and coverage of results, one that prioritizes engagement and reaching new parts of your community, what follows all your hard work? Do you have an off-ramp for all the attention headed your way, and the investment of your time? Where will you point this civically engaged audience?

One answer to that may deal with product strategy. For example, will you move new newsletter subscribers around your election coverage to something related — or naturally evolve that product to continue to serve them?

Other answers may deal with the shape — or container — for your election journalism. Do you treat elections as a standalone project, or does it clearly flow into some other pillar of your coverage?

Here are a few examples and thoughts:

  • URL Media received a grant from our Election Coverage and Community Listening Fund. “What really leapt out at me was that the information [our audiences] wanted was so tactical,” said Editorial Director Andaiye Taylor. That insight extends beyond the election year and can help them empower people to engage with their government in meaningful ways. URL Media currently categorizes these types of stories as “Politics + Participation.
  • The Tennessean and USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida each have First Amendment beats. The frame could allow reporting around the right to petition during the year and relevant ballot issues around local elections, in addition to speech issues that might flare near elections but exist year-round. 
  • CivicLex (Lexington, KY) covers election news, including explaining what offices do, as part of its wider work to encourage understanding and participation and to “strengthen civic health.”
  • At the American Press Institute, we discuss election coverage as part of our focus on “Civic Discourse and Democracy.” We aim to help media ensure all people have the information they need to make decisions and thrive. And elections aren’t the only pivotal place where people make decisions. Right now we are supporting 17 local and community-based news organizations in our Civic Discourse and Community Voices cohort. Each is experimenting with how to convene and facilitate conversations generally — a skill that can be developed, then expected year-round by the community, including but not limited to when elections return.

We recently compiled questions to bring to your 2023 election coverage retrospectivedownload them here. When you do, we hope you create space to talk about both the lead-up to and what follows after the results are final. We’ll continue this conversation right alongside you in 2024, and would welcome staying in touch.

We want to hear from you

API and The Associated Press want to gather insights on local news organizations’ reporting needs and challenges. The survey results will inform programming and resources from both organizations in 2024. If you are a journalist or media leader who wants to share your needs, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Insights from The Associated Press: Covering turnover at election offices

Election offices have been understaffed for years. But 2020 was a tipping point, with all the pandemic-related challenges before the presidential vote and the hostility afterward amid false claims of a stolen election. A wave of retirements and resignations has followed, creating a vacuum of institutional knowledge across the country. Check for opportunities to provide a local perspective on this story.

— Ask your local election office if they can provide a staffing breakdown by year starting in 2018, so you can gauge staffing levels before and after the 2020 election.

— Ask for resignation letters and other personnel records to determine reasons behind any staff departures.

— Ask for resumes of job applicants to determine how many had prior election experience.

— Ask for interviews with current leadership to talk about office challenges, ranging from staffing and training to harassment and threats.

The Associated Press helps local news organizations contextualize the election coverage through localization guides — insights from AP reporters to help situate local stories in the national context. Read AP’s full localization guide on election offices here [password is Democracy2024].

Share with your network

You also might be interested in: