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The French presidential election is coming up with voters heading to the polls in April and May 2017, and Le Monde has been planning its coverage many months in advance.

Changes have been made to the politics department, with new roles integrated focused on live reporting on the website and on social media, and new fact-checking initiatives have taken shape within the newsroom.

One of the key projects Le Monde has taken on to revamp its political coverage ahead of the election is Françaises, Français, for which reporters have been travelling to around 80 cities in France to talk to people who are not involved with the election campaigns.

"We have very traditional political coverage," Nabil Wakim, director of editorial innovation at Le Monde, told "We have beat reporters covering political parties, but a lot of people just don’t care about this. They don’t trust politics anymore, they don’t trust the media, they just don’t care.

"Some of them are going to vote for far right parties, some of them are not going to vote, some of them will vote for traditional parties but they are still very angry, so the idea was to go and talk to these people and see what they care about."

The question reporters ask people as part of the series is "what do you care about?" rather than poll-like questions asking how they are planning to vote or why they support a certain candidate.

Answers so far have become stories on the struggles of shop and small business owners, the struggle to find permanent employment, and fuel poverty.

To cover the presidential elections in 2012, Le Monde sent eight reporters to eight different cities, but they were not based there for the entire duration of the campaign. The initiative still resulted in stories Le Monde would not have covered otherwise, as Wakim explained the newsroom and the political coverage tends to be Paris-centric, so the team decided to try the project on a larger scale for this year’s elections.

"Immersion" is at the core of Françaises, Français, which enables reporters to spend a longer period of time getting to know a community and people who could then recommend other people to talk to who may not be open to speak to media under different circumstances.

Having observed media coverage of the referendum on EU membership in the UK as well as coverage of the US election campaign ahead of the vote in November, Wakim is confident this was the right path to take.

The aim of Françaises, Français is for the newsroom to cover stories that are not usually on Le Monde's radar, and interview people who are not the usual names that appear in the title's political coverage.

"It's a project we really like because it's not in competition with the political coverage that we traditionally have and that is still very good, but it goes together in order to at least try to understand how people feel about this election at a time when there is not a lot of faith in political leaders and political organisations. It is also a way for us to try to understand what motivates people."

The initiative also raises a number of questions of Le Monde journalists, such as how to approach people who are not their traditional readers and how to establish trust.

"I don't have the answer to this question," said Wakim, "but part of what we do on Snapchat, what we do on Facebook Live, what we do by answering questions from people in live coverage, all of this, these are tools to reach an audience that's not usually our audience."

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