Oklahoma NPR Stations Collaborate on Election Journalism Focused on People, Not Politicians

Eric Haynes of Ada, Okla., says poorly maintained roads and sidewalks are among the biggest issues his community faces. (Caroline Halter/KGOU)

Oklahoma voters will pick their primary candidates on June 26 and weigh in on a state question about legalizing medical marijuana. The political heat will build through the summer with high-profile endorsements, big-money ad blitzes and campaign promises.

And while a lot of political journalism starts with politicians, reporters at NPR member stations in Oklahoma are working together to change the conversation.

The goal of the Oklahoma Engaged project: Build our 2018 election coverage by focusing on people.

Over the six-month period connecting the primary and the Nov. 6 election, journalists at KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU will collaborate on stories about people, communities and political issues that matter to everyday Oklahomans.

The stations commissioned a comprehensive political survey to generate data and details on issues affecting people’s lives and livelihoods. Oklahoma Engaged is using a new text messaging system to help the public guide the project’s election-year journalism.

Beginning in Spring 2018, reporters fanned out across the state and started conversations with everyday Oklahomans who have questions, issues and problems they want candidates to fix.

Journalists are identifying people with diverse experiences, jobs and political backgrounds —  from an auto shop owner in Seminole worried about felons and the Second Amendment, a state employee in Claremore who wants lawmakers to focus on education, to a Native American dancer and entrepreneur from Ada, who says racism and the environment are his top political concerns.

The stations collaborating for Oklahoma Engaged are making these conversations — and others — the cornerstone of their reporting for the 2018 election.

If you have an issue you think is important — even if it’s not one you think politicians are paying attention to — contact your local station or reach out to a project reporter here.