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WCPO explains election coverage plans, philosophies heading into November

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Posted at 8:54 AM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 08:54:49-04

CINCINNATI — This has been one crazy, monumental year so far.

And as we head into the final quarter of 2020, one of the year's biggest stories will take on even more prominence -- the 2020 election.

Our team has spent months covering election-related issues and preparing for the lead-up to Election Day, the election itself and its aftermath.

I wanted to take a few moments to share some of our policies, plans and philosophies when it comes to the 2020 election.

First, here are our core values when it comes to covering the election:

  • We believe in and will focus on transparency, both in our reporting and explaining the election process.
  • We will be overt when sharing key information about when/how to vote in this election. As such, we have created this page that has a wealth of information on registering to vote, deadlines, processes and more. Our goal here is not to be partisan but simply to make sure people have the information they need to vote.
  • We will use our resources for local and state elections and use news partners for national coverage.

Starting Oct. 1, Senior Reporter Larry Seward will focus entirely on election-related stories. I wrote last week about how Larry is our lead reporter on election security and voting issues. He has received training as part of the ProPublica Electionland project.

In addition, other reporters frequently will report on key local races and more.

Stories will focus on:

  • Tackling misinformation and disinformation
  • Fact-checking local ads
  • Election security and voting processes
  • Issue stories on the biggest races

It still isn’t clear what the next two months will look like. In previous presidential election years, candidates frequently visited our area. Ohio is, after all, one of the key swing states.

Will that happen with a global pandemic? Tough to say.

Already, President Donald Trump will be in Vandalia today.

When and if candidates visit, here is our plan. You might note that it is different from our plan during the primary phase. I wrote 13 months ago about our plan to only cover campaign events in our area and stream them online and on our streaming services -- but not to take them live on TV.

At that time, I noted that once we were down to one candidate from the Republicans and one from the Democrats, we would revisit that policy, and we have.

First, we will only send our journalists to candidate visits in our region. A big reason for this is the risk of COVID-19. Also, we can get live video and footage from these visits from other sources without sending our journalists. That allows our journalists to focus on truly local issues.

If President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Kamala Harris are in our area, we will cover those visits. We will air them live on TV, on our website and on our streaming services such as Roku or Amazon Fire.

If those four candidates are outside of our area but somewhere else in Ohio, we will air their speeches live on our streaming services and online. We will not carry those speeches live on TV. They are available in many places.

So, for example, we will air today’s speech by President Trump live on air because it is taking place in our area.

A second big race with national implications is the Kentucky Senate race.

If challenger Amy McGrath or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come to our area, we will cover the visit as a news event.

When we do, we always will try to get the other candidate using video from somewhere else the opponent is speaking or by requesting comment. We will focus these stories on specific issues, not just that the candidate was in Northern Kentucky.

All of our election-related stories are available here.

We will have reporters ready and in place to cover whatever happens on election night. We also will have reporters ready to cover the days after the election -- because we know with many people voting by mail or with provisional ballots, the results of the election might not be clear on election night.

I hope this helps explain how we plan to approach the election. As always, please feel free to reach out with questions or feedback.

Mike Canan is the Senior Director of Local Media Content at WCPO. Contact him at mike.canan@wcpo.com. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @Mike_Canan.