Most election reporting focuses on the candidates and the “horse race.” With the 2018 election cycle underway, Oklahoma’s public service radio journalism organizations brought their newsrooms together to flip the script, with the launch Oklahoma Engaged: Project Public Office. Journalists from participating stations KOSU at Oklahoma State University, KGOU at the University of Oklahoma, KWGS at the University of Tulsa and KCCU at Cameron University, partnered with the stations’ StateImpact Oklahoma journalists to create a singular editorial focus in coverage of the 2018 election cycle: election coverage that focuses on people, not politicians.
It all begins with data – research to determine the top issues in the election based on polling of voters, not listening to candidates and addressing the issues they want to emphasize to get elected. So, Oklahoma Engaged brought its partners together to increase reporting capacity by forming one of the largest news gathering operations in Oklahoma devoted to contextual coverage of the 2018 election.
This citizen-centric, multi-platform election coverage at the heart of Oklahoma Engaged: Project Public Office featured multiple data gathering processes, including public opinion polling and focus groups, to identify the issues of greatest importance to Oklahomans. From there, the project pursued original reporting for broadcast and online audiences to raise awareness of those issues and culminated with an unprecedented general election simulcast.
Oklahoma Engaged: Project Public Office gave the people voice by comparing the candidates’ narratives about the important issues with what the people of Oklahoma were saying and provided scientifically-derived data to validate editorial decision-making. This approach was designed to truly serve the public and increase trust in our reporting.
The project featured the following:
- A statewide study of Oklahoma residents as well as five focus groups with Oklahoma residents in geographically-targeted cities to learn voter opinions.
- 58 Oklahoma Engaged-branded stories produced by 12 reporters for broadcast, digital and social media distribution:
- Church Leaders On Guard As Faith Follows Politics In Oklahoma
- Public Safety Concerns In Two-Prison Town Draw Candidates’ Attention In Northeastern Oklahoma
- Older Voters Criticize State Spending, But Candidates Face A Dilemma In Addressing The Issue
- Voters In Three Southeastern Oklahoma Counties Consider Crime And Experience As They Select First DA In 30 Years
- Video explainers for four state questions:
- 56 “postcards” with Oklahomans regarding their top campaign issues:
- A non-partisan election night watch party paired with a live four-hour radio simulcast. The broadcast included election returns, panel discussions, and field reporting.
- Eleven public events to discuss the election and the project, including media literacy events, panels, and election forums.
In total, reporting was done in 33 cities across Oklahoma. 2,587 people responded to public opinion polling and questions, 1,315 people were reached in citizen involvement events, and 298,689 social media users viewed our content.