Covering elections: Minnesota is not Iowa


The horse race is getting covered 24/7 in exhaustive and ridiculous detail, with earnest anchors analyzing who’s ahead in the Iowa polls, who’s ahead among registered Republicans in Iowa, who’s ahead among Iowa registered Republicans with more than three children and a car at least seven years old. On January 4, they’ll move on to the post-mortem: Was it a mistake for Newt Gingrich to call Mitt Romney a liar? Would it help to run more negative ads earlier in New Hampshire or fewer negative ads later in South Carolina? If Michele Bachmann had spelled her first name with a double “l,” would she have won more votes?

I like horses, I really do, but I don’t like horse race political coverage, especially when it focuses on the wrong end of the horse.

That’s why I’m excited about the election coverage that we are planning at the Daily Planet. We are committed to covering issues and especially issues that you, our readers, say are of the highest concern to you. We will cover local races first, because we are a local news organization. We will feature local voices and thoughtful analysis, as well as links to articles and discussions in national publications. 

We’re not alone in planning a different kind of election reporting. Jay Rosen is a journalism prof at New York University, who blogs at PressThink and is a veteran of 2008’s OffTheBus reporting project, which is continuing this year. For this election, he is collaborating with The Guardian, in what they describe as a “citizen’s agenda” approach:

[W]e think it will be a loss for the public, and the press, if no revision is made in the master narrative for election coverage, which treats politics as a strategic game in order to ask – endlessly – what it’s going to take to win in 2012. …

The alternative to “who’s going to win in the game of getting elected?” is, we think, a “citizens agenda” approach to campaign coverage. It starts with a question: what do voters want the candidates to be discussing as they compete with each other in 2012? If we can get enough people to answer to that question, we’ll have an alternative to election coverage as usual.

We need your input and your participation in election reporting. Here are the first steps:

1) Tell us what you think are the key issues that we should be covering, at local, state and national levels. Comment on this article (below) or send me an email at As an example, here’s the first response we received:

Please do Voter (Photo) ID. Our right to vote is being attacked all over the nation. “Voter fraud” is virtually non-existent, but is used as a scare tactic to promote the Voter ID. If you cast your ballot & it doesn’t count, then we have lost our democracy.

2) Join the reporting team. We’ll start talking about reporting on the elections at a meeting next Monday, January 9 at 4 p.m. at Cahoots Coffee Bar (1562 Selby Avenue, just east of Snelling Avenue in St. Paul). Look for us in the (non-smoke-filled) back room.

3) Tell us who you’d like to read. Are there any local bloggers or thinkers or writers whose analysis you want to see in the Daily Planet?

Minnesota’s precinct caucuses are scheduled for February 7. Let’s get ready together!