Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives in Downing Street 25/10/2022. Picture by Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street

Credit: Number 10 on Flickr sourced via Creative Commons 4.0 licence

Newsrooms have rolled out a range of innovative election reporting strategies in the run-up to the UK's General Election on 4 July 2024.

The Economist's expertise in data visualisation and graphics has seen them publish a daily election forecast and 'build a voter' interactive graphic. US news organisations are thinking about how to cover the UK elections from an international outlook, so the New York Times has a handy 'what to know' guide and explainer. JOE Media's political podcast special is full of the wit and humour that gets young audiences on board.

Simplifying the elections

YouTube channel TLDR News is doubling down on explainer videos breaking the elections down into bite-sized, piece-to-camera reports. The campaign has also generated a new election-focused podcast, Bite The Ballot, to unpick the week's political news in one place. This complements its international show, The Daily Briefing

Head writer, Ben Blissett, says: "Knowing the audience you are trying to speak to is key. We monitor the like-to-dislike ratio on our podcasts to learn what that audience wants, and we always keep ourselves accountable to that audience."

The team is on a tight, daily output schedule in the run-up to election day, hoping to keep its main audience base of 25-34-year-olds clued up and well-informed. This is a sore point for many young voters, who felt confused and ill-informed at the time of the EU Referendum vote in 2016. For that reason, it wants its viewers and fans to let them know what they want to hear about.

A community agenda

The Great Central Gazette has also launched a community-centric approach by opening the floor to the people of Leicester. The Citizens Agenda was first proposed by US newsrooms and allows the people to be the ones who ask the questions rather than the journalists, and now their ‘community agenda’ will follow a similar model. 

The Gazette is asking local residents to submit questions to political leaders ahead of interviews so that coverage can tackle the issues which are truly important to the people. Questions from the community are put to candidates in the running, which will in turn be produced into explainer pieces.

Community lead Rhys Everquill says: "Newsrooms looking to implement a similar strategy should engage with the community as early as possible to understand their priorities and concerns."

The Gazette published their callout a week after the election was announced, meaning it could map out its coverage. The website has published lots of useful, general content, searchable by postcode, including key dates, FAQs and previous election results.

Despite the short run-time to election day, Everquill says it is never too late to engage with your community and close the gap between the public and journalists (who are among the least trusted professions). 

It is also launching a crowdfunding campaign next week (3 June 2024) in a bid to raise £2000 to support its election coverage.

The "Holding No Bars" approach

Though The Sun has a section on its homepage dedicated entirely to election coverage, the key place to turn is its social media output. Never Mind the Ballots, hosted by politics editor Harry Cole, drops 'vidcast' episodes daily on X, TikTok and YouTube. The programmes include interviews with voters and politicians, including Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

Featuring candid and often challenging debates, Cole and his team have been keen to make the podcast-turned-video an honest and unbiased platform where politicians can be scrutinised but also have the opportunity to promote their campaigns. 

The show has so far wracked up seven million views and has stepped up broadcast output to five days a week. Sun readers can submit their thoughts to the panel, creating an audience-first approach with an emphasis on being "jargon free" and in "plain English".

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