THE CITIZENS ELECTION PROJECT
CASE STUDIESEDITED BY JAN SCHAFFER AND RESEARCH ASSISTANT STANLEY CLOUD KATHLEEN FITZGERALD
PROJECTS & PARTNERS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Citizens Election Project was an experiment in bringing citizens' concerns into the newsroom and making those concerns central to the political dialogue.
Citizen Election Project partners shared a common assumption: That something was radically wrong with political journalism in America. It was a major success in gauging the views of the voters and helping them set the agenda for the campaign. But those very elements scared away the front-runners.
"VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, IOWA"
In Iowa, a media alliance learned an exciting yet nerve-wracking lesson in what happens when journalists aspire to rewrite the rules of the campaign game in hopes of giving citizens an election-year voice that is at least as loud as the voices of the political insiders. In newsrooms throughout the state it won many converts.
IOWA: "STUDENTS AND THE CAUCUSES"
The Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television used the state's new fiber-optic network to link high school students with the candidates.
DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE "THE PEOPLE'S VOICE"
Long before Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary, voters in that state told these media partners that economic insecurity was a major concern. Yet the front-runners refused to meet to hear their message - even when offered the triple whammy of newspaper, radio and TV coverage.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: "VOTERS' VOICE"
A unique partnership that included the Associated Press used citizen-candidate forums, focus groups and a civic exercise in balancing the federal budget to put the focus on voters. The project not only changed the nature and character of how the media partners covered the campaign, it also prompted other dailies in the state to adopt similar techniques.
SAN FRANCISCO: "VOICE OF THE VOTER"
In a mayor's race with a colorful cast of candidates it would have been easy for stories on the horse race to overwhelm news coverage. This media alliance helped keep the focus on voters' issues by tapping residents' concerns in nine city neighborhoods.
THE SAN FRANCISCO ONLINE VOTER GUIDE
Historically, campaign finance information is not available until after an election. This unprecedented experiment showed how electronic filing of political disclosure records could dramatically improve public access to campaign contributions - and expenditures - before the election. It is one of the most sophisticated uses of database technology on the Internet to date.
"VOICES OF FLORIDA"
This statewide print and broadcast alliance found citizens all too willing to talk about their issues and the front-runners extremely reluctant to talk about things the voters cared about.
POLLING FOR THE PEOPLE
Polling and the media are more closely linked in the public's mind than ever before and the public has come to view both the press and polls as part of the problem. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press studies how polls can be used to reconnect news organizations to readers and viewers and, in the Citizens Election Project, it undertook a Poll Watch experiment, analyzing existing polls to help citizens and journalists.
Call the Pew Center at (202) 331-3200 for project contact information.
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