Lessons from primaries past: Five election design tips

After voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, the race for the GOP nomination shifts to South Carolina. SND asked The Washington Post, New Hampshire’s Union Leader, the Des Moines Register and South Carolina’s The State to share some of their historical primary pages from previous election cycles. What is included are pages from 1980, 1988, 2000 and this year. Look for more on the election in SND’s Year-Long Conversation this week.

Some things to remember when covering the vote for the GOP nomination:

  • 1. Provide context for your readers. Historical data of past contests
    and the eventual presidential nominee can show what kind of candidate
    a state prefers.
  • 2. Explain the process. I know several newspapers, mine included, that
    created pages in 2008 that explained the nominee process as well as
    the general election system. When The Chronicle published its poster,
    we received many calls from teachers asking for reprints for their
    classrooms.
  • 3. Once all the voting is done, do some data analysis. After the Iowa
    caucus, the Des Moines Register and the Washington Post followed their
    caucus coverage with a look at who won what portion of the vote and
    where. They were able to show their readers that Mitt Romney had won
    the urban areas of the state while Rick Santorum won more rural areas.
  • 4. Plan. All of this is much easier if you plan ahead for it. Gather
    the historical data ahead of time. Develop your county-by-county maps
    if you don’t already have them in your elections archive. Talk with
    your political editors and reporters so they know what you would like
    to do and are able to provide the needed analysis. Don’t forget to set
    aside the space needed to tell the story in the right way. The
    Washington Post has a daily campaign page they use for their coverage.
    The Des Moines Register allocated extra pages inside for theirs.
  • 5. Reward readers. Add that little bit of something that makes your coverage special
    for your readership. What would they want to see?

What advice and pointers to do you have for this election season? And what would you like to see SND cover and help with? Let us know in the comment field.