Oklahoma’s Crowdsourced Election Coverage
Last week, we raved about your election coverage. Hope we didn’t embarrass you. We couldn’t help
Logan Layden and Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma.
ourselves. You played to your niches, focused on down-ballot state election questions and provided your audiences with information they were hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Your content was shared more widely on social media networks than anything else we’ve seen since StateImpact was born. It was awesome.
This week, Oklahoma closed the loop and incorporated some of that social media buzz into their reporting.
“We put question out there on Twitter and Facebook, asking how people voted,” reporter Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma, explained. They got many responses, including one particularly lengthy comment that that they thought illustrated an important point about a particular ballot measure. They used it as the basis for a blog post exploring why that ballot question ultimately failed.
Wertz’ reporting partner, Logan Layden, doesn’t usually play the Twitter game, but even he was inspired.
“It is great to see people respond to the work that you do,” he told us. “It makes you feel like it is worthwhile. And maybe by using this woman’s comment in a post, it will encourage more comments.”
“I’m gonna be playing the Twitter game a lot more often from now on,” he said.
Music to our ears.
Last Week’s Reader Faves
Most visited stories last week, in raw numbers:
- Idaho: Propositions 1 2 3
- Indiana: What Glenda Ritz’s Victory Over Tony Bennett Means For Indiana Schools Continue reading
StateImpact Election Coverage Shoots And Scores
We saw our web traffic grow by more than 50 percent over the past month. That’s right: 50 percent. And a lot of that was because readers liked it and shared it with their friends. A whopping 64 percent more traffic came through social media in October than September–or just about any other month since our founding.
This can be attributed in part to interest in the election, yes. But it is also due in no small part to our reporters’ ability to keep their coverage tightly focused on state election questions.
Our strategy going into the election was to let NPR and others focus on the presidential race while we played to our niches. We set out to own selected down-ballot races. Oklahoma, Florida, Idaho and New Hampshire covered several key ballot measures; Ohio tackled state school board races and school levies; and Indiana focused on their state school superintendent race.
We followed the races closely tied to our beats and analyzed their implications. We set up explanatory topic pages related to each race or ballot measure. And we took care to make those pages SEO-friendly. Last week, as voters got Googling for information on their state-level races, it was these side-door topic pages where they found what they were looking for. (See below for the week’s top traffic draws.)
The headline for this week is that we have largely succeeded in our goal to be the clearest source of information for state voters on these low-profile but important policy questions. For those who still haven’t made up their minds on the marquee races, there’s no shortage of places for them to go to educate themselves. But when it comes to SQ 766 in Oklahoma or Ohio’s District 5 State Board of Education race, we are it. We talk a lot about StateImpact “filing the void” that vanishing local outlets are leaving behind. That’s exactly what we are doing–and doing extremely well–with our election coverage. Nice job, folks! Continue reading
A Go-To Source For State Election Explainers
We were thrilled to see a 30 percent spike in search traffic this week, compared to the week prior, thanks in large part to your clear, explanatory coverage of state-level elections and ballot measures. You have the appreciation of voters looking for a quick guide to the issues so that they can make intelligent decisions. To your team in DC, you are a source of pride and infinite joy.
As we inch closer to the elections (almost!), this type of coverage will only increase in value. So, be sure to keep your election explainers and accompanying coverage searchable by:
- Putting key search terms into topic pages and titles — not just in your tags.
- Edit the url before you publish to make sure that the key terms — including the name or number of the measure — in your url.
- Be sure to include an excerpt that lets searchers know why they should click on your link.
#NPRedchat a Multi-Million User Success
Last week’s Twitter Education Forum, hosted last week in collaboration with Tell Me More was a huge success. Not only did it provide a platform for a dynamic and diverse conversation about education reform in the US (and one that we plan to continue), but it also reached a whopping 17 million people–and counting. (That’s right. They’re stilll Tweeting. They just can’t stop!)
Tell Me More
Sarah Gonzalez of StateImpact Florida, Michel Martin of Tell Me More and John O'Connor, also of StateImpact Florida, at the October 10 Twitter Education Forum at WLRN studios.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the experience provided a big learning opportunity for everyone involved. Through both the subject matter and the partnership with Tell Me More, we were able to engage diverse communities that we hadn’t before reached. We test drove Scribble, our new and improved live-blogging and social media curation tool that we hope to use again and again. And we learned just how powerful Twitter can be when used for story and source development–instead of simple content distribution.
Sarah Gonzalez of StateImpact Florida tells us that the event allowed her to develop sources both near and far–particularly among teachers, parents and other sometimes hard-to-reach communities.
“They really wanted to engage in conversation,” she said. “We tapped into a Twitter audience that wanted to be part of the conversation instead of just following people who we know are influential.” Continue reading
Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana
Bessie the Cow
In the Spotlight: Farmer Kyle
StateImpact Indiana reporter Kyle Stokes‘ video explainer on school funding made a splash with audiences across the country last week.
He was perfect: he mastered his subject, presented it clearly and even introduced the newly crowned StateImpact mascot, Bessie the Cow to the world. Thanks, Kyle, for your willingness to explore new storytelling frontiers. We are all better off for it.
Lessons Learned From Ohio’s Data-Palooza
Test score posts get lots of traffic. All of the time. In all of our education states.
And in almost every other StateImpact state, there is some version of test score data (e.g., gas well data, unemployment figures) that keeps them coming back.
So, we decided that it was time to iron out some rules of the road that might help us all improve the experience of sifting through these massive data dumps. We imagined who might be interested in the data, what they might want to know and how we might be able provide them with it, given the tools we have. What we developed was a series of posts, sortable tables, links and pathways that we think will help users quickly find what they are looking for and interpret what it means–and give reporters some solid resources for future stories.
With the help of data maven and StateImpact Ohio reporter Molly Bloom, here are a few maxims that we landed on:
- Keep things as simple as possible. If you are dealing with an annual data release, put the name of the year (or years) up front in the title so that readers can easily find what they are looking for.
- Present only the most crucial information in your sortable table(s). Link out to that bigger data set for further information or, better yet, create other, secondary tables with subsets of the info. Similarly, if the dataset is too large to fit into a filterable table, break it up into smaller chunks (e.g., traditional public vs. charter school)
- Put short, simple, plain-English definitions for your fields (and any institutional jargon) up top, in bullet points, and make the terms bold. Continue reading
We are very pleased to announce that StateImpact Florida is now the official winner of the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism in the small newsroom category. The award went to both WUSF and WLRN-Miami Herald News Public Radio for “No Choice: Florida Charter Schools Failing to Serve Students with Disabilities.”
Becky Lettenberger / NPR StateImpact
The series has all of the hallmarks of a great StateImpact story:
- It illustrated the effect of state policy on people’s lives–in this case, some of the most underserved and underrepresented in our communities: children with disabilities. John O’Connor and Sarah Gonzalez‘s multi-platform story brought the people they met into their audience’s lives and made the issues they face real and immediate.
- It was data- and document-driven. The team gathered and analyzed data from 14 school districts representing more than three-quarters of Florida’s total charter school enrollment in order to identify trends and oversights.
- It used the unique strengths of multiple platforms intelligently, keeping stats and figures online, in easy-to-access formats and putting some of the best, most human and interesting components in the broadcast piece.
- It was an example of the type of watchdog, public service journalism that we strive to produce every day. It questioned the efficacy of popular state policies and investigated whether scarce public resources were being wisely used.
- It was a successful, network-building collaboration—in this case, with the Miami Herald, one of the country’s most widely-circulated and well-respected newspapers.
StateImpact is joining forces with Tell Me More and WLRN Public Media to foster a national conversation about education reform in America.
The conversation, which has already begun on Twitter (#npredchat) and will culminate in a live show at WLRN in Miami on October 10, fed by audience questions and accessible through a live, online digital and audio feed.
Michele Martin/PHOTO BY STEPHEN VOSS
The October 10 live show will be hosted by Tell Me More’s Michele Martin and will combine her ability to tackle difficult, divisive issues with StateImpact Florida‘s mission to “put education reform to the test.” StateImpact will also lend its expertise to provide a dynamic, multimedia platform for the show and discussion. WLRN, which will host the live event, is a StateImpact partner station.
In the Spotlight: Collaboration Increases Reach
We have high hopes for StateImpact Florida's new partnership with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Their work has already been featured in outlets across the state.
This week’s top story is part of a hard-hitting series on the country’s largest online education company and was born of a new collaboration between StateImpact Florida and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit, digital bilingual investigative outlet. We’re excited about the work the two teams have already done together and potential the collaboration holds for future endeavors.
FCIR reporter Trevor Aaronson says that the collaboration is part of a growing shift away from a purely competitive to a more collaborative media environment–one that is happening on both the national and the local stage. Larger outlets like ProPublica and NPR have made the shift visible. But the trend is just as salient among smaller, local start-ups like StateImpact and FCIR, which are nimble enough to delve into tips or breaking news with an investigative eye, thereby expanding the breadth and reach of both organizations’ work.
“Between John and me and Scott Finn, we’re able to get the story on WUSF in Tampa, WLRN in Miami and nearly every major newspaper in the state,” he said. “Five years ago that was inconceivable.”
StateImpact Florida’s John O’Connor elaborates:
John O'Connor/ StateImpact Florida
The partnership has two goals: We help bring education expertise to Trevor’s investigative work; and we can get FCIR/StateImpact Florida stories on air across the state in addition to getting stories published by the Miami Herald, the Associated Press, the Lakeland Ledger and the Ocala Star-Banner.
One of the lessons is the value of two small, agile and independent partners. We’ve found newspapers have some institutional inertia against working with us on other stories. They like to have control over the reporting and editing of the story.