On September 15, dozens newsrooms across the country took part in Democracy Day, an initiative of news industry leaders at Hearken, the Center for Cooperative Media, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and the News Revenue Hub, to report on threats against U.S. democratic norms — and accompanying threats to the free press.
To commemorate Democracy Day, Nieman Reports hosted a Twitter Spaces conversation based on Celeste Katz Marston’s piece on how newsrooms are carving out dedicated democracy beats and reporting on threats to democracy. Moderated by Katz Marston and introduced by Nieman’s digital and audience engagement editor Adriana Lacy, the conversation also included Tony Marcano, managing editor at KPCC and LAist, and Jessica Huseman, editorial director at Votebeat.
Read the full transcript below:
Adriana Lacy: Thank you all so much for being here. We can go ahead and get started now. Hello everyone and welcome to our Twitter Spaces conversation on how newsrooms can cover threats to democracy. My name is Adriana Lacy. I’m the digital and audience engagement editor here at the Nieman Foundation.
Today, our Spaces conversation takes place on Democracy Day, which is an initiative of news industry leaders at Hearken, the Center for Cooperative Media, the Institute for Nonprofit News, and the News Revenue Hub.
The goal was to bring national and local outlets together to report on threats against U.S. democratic norms and threats to the free press. Throughout this conversation, we’ll pin some coverage from Nieman Reports on how newsrooms are responding to threats against U.S. democracy, as well as essays by journalists around the world who are doing vital independent journalism under authoritarian regimes.
Be sure to check those out and also to subscribe to our Nieman Reports newsletter for further coverage. With that, I’ll kick the conversation over to Celeste Katz Marston, who will moderate our Space today. Celeste, how are you?
Celeste Katz Marston: Doing well, and happy to be here. Very happy to be involved with the great work that Nieman Reports and the Nieman Foundation is doing. Just for a very quick thumbnail on my background.
I’ve been writing for Nieman Reports for about two years. I’m an independent reporter, and I’m also a host for WBAI FM radio in New York. I’ve been in the business about 25 years. I’ve been on staff at the New York Daily News, Newsweek, and some other places. I’m very happy to have two excellent journalists with us today. Jessica and Tony, if you want to introduce yourselves, that would be great.
Jessica Huseman: Tony, I’ll let you go first.
Tony Marcano: I’m Tony Marcano. I am the managing editor at Southern California public radio that is NPR member station KPCC in Los Angeles, and our website LAist.com.
Huseman: I’m Jessica. I am the editorial director of Votebeat. We are a non-profit newsroom covering voting and elections. We have newsrooms in four states. It’s Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. We will soon be in Wisconsin. We’re growing, so stay tuned.
Katz Marston: Perfect. Thanks so much for those introductions. Very happy to have you here. You have both helped me a lot in my coverage for Nieman Reports.
I want to begin with a very broad question here. Maybe we can go in that same order here, Tony and then Jessica. What does it mean to you to cover democracy or threats to democracy? What does that include?
Marcano: In our case, coincidentally, in recognition, in part, of International Democracy Day, this morning our website, LAist.com, we published our election mission statement, which is a statement of what our readers and listeners can expect from our coverage. It lays out what we’re going to do and what we won’t do.
It’s important to note that we will not do things like amplify overheated rhetoric. We won’t amplify false equivalencies. We won’t amplify what about-isms. We will examine how those sorts of things erode democracy, but we’re not interested in the political sniping and the latest Twitter hot take or the typical coverage that surrounds campaigns.
We are not going to be a politician-centered beat. We want to make our coverage voter-centric. In that way, I think we contribute to both civic knowledge and to raising the alarm, if you will, about some of the threats to our democracy that are growing.
Katz Marston: Great. Jessica, do you want to jump in here?
Huseman: Yeah. I think that the movement of a lot of newsrooms to cover democracy is interesting. I think that you’re right, that newsrooms define this in very different ways. Democracy is an idea. It’s not necessarily a beat.
The way that we interpret that is that we want to talk about the voting system. We think that a lot of the reason that people stormed the Capitol on January 6th is because they fundamentally didn’t understand how the system works and had really deep-seated misinterpretations of law.
A lot of the reason that people think voter fraud exists is because they fundamentally don’t understand how the voting system works or is protected. We think that if we can speak to those clearly and in an engaging way, it will increase confidence in the democratic process.
Katz Marston: Perfect. If you’re just joining us, welcome to this Twitter Space from Nieman Reports and the Nieman Foundation. We’re talking about covering democracy and threats to democracy.
Tony, when you and I spoke for a piece that we did about creating democracy beats or democracy desks for Nieman Reports, you said that covering democracy was like covering a slow leak. What did you mean by that? How does that inform what you’re doing?
Marcano: What I meant by that was a slow leak in your house could certainly do a lot of damage and you can’t see it. If there’s water leaking from your roof or within your walls and it gets down to the foundation and it begins to erode it, you might notice things like cracks in the walls or some visible problems, but really beneath the surface, there’s a lot of hidden potential problems.
Maybe a better analogy is that it’s more like a slow burn. It’s smoldering. You may or may not sense it or you may only sense it when he gets bad, when you actually can smell burning, but you really have to examine the underpinnings in the foundations of democracy to see where these potential cracks could eventually just undermine the entire foundation of our political system.
I was really pointing to the hidden and perhaps insidious parts of our problems and our divisiveness with democracy where we tend to notice the big splashy things like somebody’s screaming at each other on Twitter, or like I said, latest hot takes, but we’re not really getting at the root of what the problem is.
I agree very much with what Jessica said about making sure that people are informed on how these things work. One of the things that we did in our coverage of the primary was to explain … We have a voter game plan.
If you go to LAist.com/vgp for voter game plan, you will see that we put an emphasis on explaining to people what each individual office does, what they’re responsible for, where the budget comes from, all sorts of basic information that can help people inform their decisions about who to vote for.
That part of the method of plugging that slow leak is to make sure that people are equipped with the information they need to make smart decisions.
Katz Marston: Thanks, Tony. Jessica, when I spoke to you for a separate story about covering voter suppression and election administration, which is obviously very closely tied to this, one of the things that struck me about what you said was newsrooms wouldn’t only cover criminal justice when somebody is on trial for murder.
Can you talk a little bit about how that should relate to how we think about covering voting in terms of defending democracy?
Huseman: I’ve long been dissatisfied with the fact that voting is a bit of a cyclical beat. The election happens, the federal election anyway, happens every two years. In the months leading up to that federal election, people are like, “Oh, dang, we’re about to have an election.”
That’s really the only time that newsrooms focus in on voting, even though elections happen every single day in this country. It’s unlike any other beat. We don’t wait until someone, again, is on trial for murder to explain to people how the criminal justice system works.
There are reporters dedicated to that year-round because it is a year-round issue. Voting as well is a year-round issue. If newsrooms are waiting until the months before the election to do things like report about voting machines, it’s too late, because voting machines are purchased in off years.
Poll workers are trained on those machines in off years. They are selected in off years. The funding happens in off years. The decisions about how the elections will go are obviously made well in advance of the election.
If you’re waiting until a month before the election to question the type of voting technology your county is using, that’s not very helpful because the county can’t, at that point, do anything about it.
It would be more helpful and allow for more transparency if journalists were to cover the elections department of their county in the same way that they cover the Department of Housing, Law Enforcement, or the City Council, because it is just as impactful. It has that impact on folks year-round.
Katz Marston: Thanks very much. I’m really glad that you brought that up. You both made good points there.
One of the things I really like about Nieman Reports and the approach that Nieman Reports takes is that it really focuses on not just these big ideas, but on concrete things that outlets can think about and do in their coverage, even if it’s not specifically a formal democracy desk, a democracy reporter, threats to democracy team, or something like that.
Maybe, Tony, I know that KPCC and LAist have done a lot of this. Can you talk about some of the specific things that you’re doing, even in this midterm cycle, to really engage people in thinking about this and having access to their government and how to be involved in that?
Marcano: We’re doing quite a bit. Like I said, during the primary, we launched the Voter Game Plan, and we will be essentially re-upping that. We will be updating it to reflect the results of the primaries and to make sure that people have the information that they need in front of them when they cast their ballot.
We’re doing a lot of different things. We have a Meet Your Mayor quiz, where you can match up your points of view with the views of the candidates. One of the things we want to do is explain California’s extraordinary proposition and recall systems. They operate in the guise of being democracy but really, in a lot of instances, they’re money grabs.
They’re funded by special interests and maybe put out there as a way for people to participate directly in their democracy, but they often don’t have the knowledge of how propositions and ballot measures are formed and get on the ballot to begin with. There’s a lot of different things we want to explain.
We placed a great deal of emphasis on explaining how systems work. We’ve gotten really great response on things like judges, for example. The judicial races are a mystery to most people. We were able to lay out for the voters who the candidates are, who’s endorsing them, whether they’re rated, qualified or not by the ABA.
We want to arm people with the information that will empower them to make smart decisions. That goes not just for our civics and democracy beat, but we try to center our coverage in the viewpoint of the voters. Not really what politicians are trying to tell them or repeating their narrative, but telling voters what they need to know to be active and empowered participants in democracy.
Katz Marston: If you’re just joining us, this is a Twitter Space to talk about covering democracy and threats to democracy presented by Nieman Reports. I’m the moderator, Celeste Katz Marston. I’m speaking with Tony Marcano of KPCC LAist, and Jessica Huseman of Votebeat.
Jessica, can you talk a little bit about concrete things that you’re doing, maybe some takeaways that people can do even if they don’t have an entire newsroom focused on voting or on threats to democracy, things that people can incorporate into the fullness of their coverage?
Huseman: Yes. This was my favorite thing to say, which is please, please go to poll worker training. You don’t have to be a poll worker, but if you are covering voting in any capacity in your county, your state, or what have you, being at poll worker training and understanding how the systems work will benefit you greatly.
This advanced knowledge is what’s going to give you the tools to report effectively and truthfully on Election Day. It is substantially true that county election officials are pretty busy on Election Day.
If you wait until something blows up on an Election Day to figure out how the system works and why it broke up, then you are too late. You will not get those answers and you will not be able to give them to your public.
If you instead engage with your system now, figure out exactly how it works so that you can independently determine what went wrong and explain it to readers because you already have that knowledge, you’re going to be way ahead of the curve.
Bonus, the county clerk is far more likely to answer your phone call because they know that you know how the system works and you’re not going to ask dumb questions, because nobody’s got time for dumb questions on Election Day.
Katz Marston: There’s the pull quote right there. Absolutely. I was wondering if I could ask the two of you, Tony and then Jessica, again, looking for concrete examples. I know you’ve mentioned some of them.
Anything that you’ve done recently that might be a good template or something that people can spin off to customize for their own readership, for their own community, or their own listenership, things that you’ve worked on that have gotten a good response that you feel filled in a hole in people’s knowledge or people’s awareness of what’s going on in their democracy?
Marcano: I’ll keep going back to our Voter Game Plan, which has been enormously successful. We really are providing people with information that they couldn’t get otherwise, and we’re making a point to try and answer as many questions as we can from the public about voting.
One of the things that was most interesting during the primary was because of the ubiquitous number of ads for the LA Mayoral race that we’re all over the airwaves in LA, we were getting questions from people saying, “I got my ballot in the mail today and the mayor is not on it. The LA Mayor’s race isn’t on it. Why can’t I vote in that race?”
Our initial question would be, “Well, where do you live?” People will say, “Well, I live in LA County.” The question would be, “Well, yes, but do you live in the City of LA? If you live in one of the other 87 cities in the county, you don’t live in the City of Los Angeles and that’s why the mayor wouldn’t be on your ballot.”
It seems evident to a lot of people that this should be basic information. That we should know these things. I think that people engage with the voting system in sporadic ways. Sometimes they need to be reminded of the way things work as a refresher, getting some information about the so-called, the lesser known offices, the city controller, the auditor offices, like that.
That’s our key access point, but we also have been doing quite a bit of stories that highlight on other beats things that are potentially a threat to democracy. We’ve been doing stories. We just actually yesterday had a big story in LA where the county sheriff rated the home of one of the county board of supervisors looking for information about public corruption.
There’s an entire background to that on the Sheriff’s contentious relationship with the board of supervisors that we’ve been trying to center our coverage in. There’s another instance in Mission Viejo in Orange County, where a judge ruled that the three of the five council members were essentially in office illegally.
They had illegally extended their terms on their own and they had their first meeting since that ruling the other day. They’re pretty defiant about what they’re doing. We need to frame those sorts of stories in a way.
Not just about, “Here’s the latest scandal for you to read about,” but why it should matter to you and why it’s important to understand this in the framework of threats to democracy.
Katz Marston: Tony, before Jessica jumps in here. I just wanted to stay on that for one more second, which is something that you and I talked about when we were discussing this, was the idea of having an engagement editor.
Making sure not only that you’re providing clear and useful information, but that it’s getting out to the people who might need it, even if they’re not necessarily part of your usual listenership or readership. Can you just give people some thoughts on how you’re making that work?
Marcano: We have a very robust engagement team at KPCC not just surrounding civics and democracy, but all of our beats. It is an important component of how we plan how to engage with communities. We are very intent on making our coverage voter centric, community centric.
We want our questions for candidates to be community sourced. There’s various methods of outreach that the engagement team does. They are largely responsible for putting together the voter game plan, but also making sure that questions that come in regarding political races are answered.
That we’re doing outreach in different ways of making sure that we are connecting with people who, like you say, wouldn’t ordinarily be public radio listeners or consumers of our news. We do hope that they’ll build enough trust in us that they’ll become members and we’re a member-supported station.
We hope that that kind of community engagement will drive trust, and will bring people to us as a reliable source of information. This is all very deliberate. I think that, in this election cycle, we’re really making a point of now that there are many fewer candidates after the primaries, that we’re really giving people an opportunity to drill down deeper into how these races and issues affect them personally in their day to day lives.
Katz Marston: Thanks so much. Jessica, do you want to talk about some examples of pieces that you’ve been proud of or do you think that had a real impact on this area of coverage?
Huseman: I’ll talk about two. One early in our existence as Votebeat as a permanent newsroom was some coverage that I did in Texas about the strange way in which the new requirements to list ID or Social Security Numbers on ballots was likely to lead to a very high number of rejected mailed-in ballots. That ultimately came to pass.
Because we reported that out and because we understood the implications of the law as it was written, we were able to convince legislators that they had to do something about this. There was a cure process introduced that I don’t think otherwise would have been.
I also want to highlight a piece that our Texas reporter, Natalia Contreras, did just a couple of weeks ago. This made national news. The entire elections office, which was three people, in Gillespie County, Texas resigned.
The initial media coverage suggested, and it wasn’t incorrect, that threats after 2020 were a huge part of why they all decided that they were just simply not being paid well enough to continue being threatened on a daily basis.
What Natalia was able to find by going there, being there, filing records requests, and digging deep in this community was that the problems there actually started in 2019 with a group of fluoride activists who lost a public health measure to remove fluoride from the water system and decided that it was fraudulent.
Those people have now become the Republican activists in this town, even though they started out as left-wing fluoride activists. They’ve switched allegiances, and here they are.
What that story did a really good job of highlighting is that Donald Trump didn’t create all of this. It started well before 2020. Donald Trump didn’t come up with the idea of voter fraud or lack of confidence in democracy on his own. He ran with an existing problem.
Coverage that takes a deep dive into the origin of conspiracy is really helpful and helped this community understand what was happening within it when the folks that Natalia talked to didn’t even, really. We were able to bring a lot of clarity to that situation. I’m proud of that story.
Katz Marston: Thanks, Jessica. I want to stay on that for one more second because that that is a really good segue into something that we’ve talked about a lot and seen a lot of discussion of, which is this issue of calling out these conspiracy theories or very one-sided theories.
Some news outlets have traditionally taken this, “Well, some people claim that there is fraud in elections,” and the authorities say or the people who don’t believe it say that there isn’t and so on.
Can you talk a little bit about, when you’re writing these pieces that are inherently defending or supporting democracy, how do you avoid or how do you call out what could devolve into a both sides-ism of some people think this is voter suppression and some people think this is election security? How do you handle that?
Jessica: Votebeat takes a pretty clear stance on this, which is that we think voting is good and people should do it. I don’t think that that is an inherently problematic position to take. Journalism is enshrined in the Constitution. The reason that the founders did that is so that the American public would be informed about the choices made on the ballot.
If that is our express purpose and the reason that we exist as a protectorate field, then we should do that. It is not contrary to our duties as journalists to inform the public about their right to vote and expect them to be able to vote.
I hear all the time when I go and do trainings, I will encourage local newspapers to do things like print voter registration forms in the newspaper that people can cut out and mail in if they want to.
Their response is often, “Well, isn’t that biased?” Like, “Won’t people think that I’m biased if I do that? Can I really do that and remain neutral?” I would argue, “Yes.” Obviously, we shouldn’t tell people who to vote for.
It is entirely within reason to tell people how to vote and for us to expect that in a representative democracy, people are able to do that and are able to do it on an equitable basis. That’s the way that we look at it.
Katz Marston: I’m really glad that the both of you have committed this time, not just to talking about this here, but actually doing it in real life. I’m wondering if some people who might be listening to this Twitter Space today may have had this experience of wanting to cover some of these things and doing a real drill down.
You look at something like the Capitol insurrection, January 6th. That is something that is essentially, as we pointed out in Nieman Reports, that’s a made-for-TV threat to democracy, but the slow burn or the slow leak-type threats, which Tony spoke about earlier, are not necessarily as eye-catching. They don’t lend themselves to this dramatic narrative.
I’m wondering, I know KPCC certainly has done some interesting things. I think it was Make Al Care. Tony, first, can you talk a little bit about how you make this not process-y and relatable to people who are going to be benefiting from this information?
Marcano: Key is to not use the wonky political terms. If you do read our voter guides, you’ll see that they’re written in a very conversational style. We break them down into, in some cases, bullet points. We break them down into the basics.
Essentially, starting from scratch, “This is what this office is for, this is what the head of this office, the candidate running for that office does,” just the way you would describe your own job. We’re trying not to cite, say, specific statutes or sections of the law that govern these things. We’re telling you this is how things work.
With voting, I very much agree with Jessica that it is our mission to be pro-democracy, and being pro-democracy means that everyone has equal access to vote. Everybody who’s eligible, that is, should have equal access. If they don’t, it’s not against our mission to tell people why that is and hopefully empower them to push back against it.
One of the things that we have to guard against as media is being, “We can expose this information,” but if people don’t act on it, it doesn’t really help anything. The other thing that’s overlooked, and is really concerning to me, is how the erosion of local news media is leading to greater erosion of democracy.
People may shrug when they see their local newspaper has closed or might be upset because some local information is going to be in it. There’s been a study after study that showed that there is a direct relationship between loss of local media and the rise in corruption.
These are all of the things we should be pointing out. Not particularly sexy, but just explaining it in plain language why this is a problem will at least get us to be able to start a conversation about it.
Katz Marston: Jessica, when you and I spoke, you had some great advice for how to make these stories more accessible, particularly in the case of Votebeat when you are sometimes describing highly technical or highly bureaucratic situations. You talked about getting real people into the stories and how writing about voting is a unique opportunity to do that.
Huseman: This is a thing that everyone, by virtue of being a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, can do and often do. How many other beats are like that? You can’t say that every single person will somehow be affected by the criminal justice system directly, but you can say that about voting.
Given how available it is, it makes very little sense to me that so little coverage is focused on the process of it. Tony is right, this is not a sexy area of coverage. I know that. I run a whole newsroom that is focused on voting machine policy, essentially, and trying to figure out how to explain that to folks. We’ve had to be really creative with it.
A couple of days ago, we released a story about the onslaught of public records requests that election officers are receiving across the country for something called a cast vote record. Offices are getting pelted with these because Mike Lindell, the MyPillow man, has told his followers to request them.
The upshot is that the cast vote record doesn’t tell you anything. Your ballot is anonymous. These folks are under the impression that if they ask for the cast vote record, they’ll be able to see how their ballot was counted and make sure it is processed. That’s impossible to do. That’s not how secret ballots work.
We did a story that contained a moving graphic that explain what a cast vote record was and what you would get back if you requested it. That information is not exciting. It is not inherently exciting to write a story about a cast vote record, and not that many people are going to read a story about a cast vote record. I know that.
We made this really engaging graphic that did a lot to help people understand exactly what they were asking for and helped the counties understand the origin of the requests.
Marcano: Celeste, I’m just going to add one thing to that. I just want to give a shout out to one of our partners in the California newsroom, which is a collaboration of the public radio stations and nonprofit newsrooms in the state. CalMatters is one of them. They’re based in Sacramento.
One of the things that they do that’s very impressive is their one-minute proposition video — you can find them on YouTube, you can also find them on the CalMatters website — that, in a minute, explains these for people elsewhere in the country who aren’t familiar with the proposition system in California that the ballot measures that people read out, they’re dense, they’re confusing, they obfuscate, it’s really difficult to cut through them.
That treatment, their one-minute videos, is proof that you can do this in an explanatory but entertaining way. They’re tight. They’re breezy. You get right through them. They cut to the heart of the matter. For those who want more, there’s certainly plenty of coverage out there, we’re doing it, they’re doing it, if you want the deeper details.
For those who have less time, or just really want to get a basic grounding on it, there’s ways we can do this without doing the 5,000-word deep dive.
Katz Marston: Perfect. I just want to take a moment to remind everybody that if you do have any questions for either of our great guests here, Tony Marcano or Jessica Huseman, you can certainly tweet @NiemanReports, and we will try to get to your questions.
Maybe this would be a good moment to ask if you guys have any advice or tips or suggestions for stuff that people can do right now as we are right in this walkup, the final stretch to the midterms here.
Is there stuff that people can be doing in their newsrooms right now, even if they don’t have a democracy team, a democracy desk? Tony, you have any ideas, and then Jessica, of things people can do starting today?
Marcano: I would say the easiest thing to do really is either if you’ve got a website or some method of communicating with the public, just make sure that you’re directly answer, asking them what they want to know, what they need to know, what they’re confused about. Not everybody is interested in the scandals and the backbiting and all that. Some people just need basic information.
Sometimes, one of the things that I’ve said in other sessions is that there’s a quote that I lifted from Eric Liu, who’s the founder of Citizen University in Seattle. It’s a civic education organization. He says, “We have to demystify the they.”
By that, he means that when people say, “I don’t understand why they don’t do something. I don’t understand why they impose this tax,” who’s they? Explaining those things really simply is not particularly heavy lift. Any political reporter can do it.
You can do it in a way that’s quick. You can do outreach through, we use forms like Typeform and Hearken, which are communications tools to gather public input. My advice would be just to start simple, start with one thing at a time, and really make sure you are answering questions rather than assuming that this is what people need to know.
Katz Marston: Any advice for reporters who are listening, editors who are listening, as we come into this pre-midterms homestretch, Jessica?
Huseman: Yeah. If you have not met your county clerk in person, I would encourage you to do that as quickly as possible. I’ve encouraged you to go to poll worker training, I hope you do. Minimally, I hope that you will reach out to your county clerk today because they know what problems are going to happen on election day.
They’ve planned for them, they are figuring it out right now, they’re hearing from voters already. They can tell you what kind of issues they’re expecting. They can tell you if they’re expecting aggressive poll watchers who might disrupt voting. They can tell you if their voting machines are new, and the poll workers were just trained on them.
Having these conversations will help you figure out how to prepare for election day, and you cannot do that unless you’re talking to the person who administers elections in your county. You can also ask this person a bunch of other things.
You can ask to be taken on a tour of the warehouse where they store the machines so that you can understand what the chain of custody procedures and the security procedures around the machines are. You can ask to sit in as ballots are counted and as ballots are verified. You can ask to be part of this process, and the county clerk will open those doors to you.
You have to ask and show a good faith, effort to really be interested in the very new nuanced policy here. They will be your best source on elections that you’ll ever have.
Katz Marston: Not to be cliché and try to end on a positive note, but we have talked about in Nieman Reports and I’ve encountered in some of my reporting on these different beats, including the democracy beat.
Maybe Tony and then Jessica, one of the things that I’ve heard from some people who are better students of this than I am is that sometimes people get extremely bogged down or exhausted at hearing negative stuff, scary stuff, our life in this broken world.
I’m just curious, do you guys ever take out a chunk of time or space to talk about things that are going well that encourage people to be involved as opposed to saying this is a total disaster and there’s no point in me even getting involved at all?
Marcano: If you read the election statement that we put up this morning, and that’s the point, is that our goal here is to re-engage people, to re-empower people, and make them feel involved and excited about these things.
If we were starting with the attitude that this is terrible, things are awful, you’re going to have for fight voter suppression, and all sorts of other problems, of course, people are going to be discouraged. What we can do is by informing people that they do have power and authority and a voice. That’s a positive. It’s not hopeless.
One of the things that we wrote in the election statement is participatory democracy can’t work if people don’t participate. Our goal is to inform people this is how you can effectively participate. The government is so confusing. It’s vast. It’s a bureaucracy. It’s red tape.
Anybody who’s had to call their council office or maybe a local utility or something has experienced the frustration of trying to deal with what we collectively call “the government.” By telling people that there are ways to do this and here’s how you can cut through all of that red tape, they will feel empowered to re-engage with a system that, frankly, hasn’t served them all that well.
Katz Marston: Great. Jessica?
Huseman: It was Moneyball where he says, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” I can feel like that about voting. It is such a good thing to cover. At most of the time, most of the time, voting goes well. Nobody was exaggerating when they said that the 2020 elections were the most secure elections in history, but there is factual basis for that that is absolutely true.
It’s important for reporters to think about the ways in which we can re-engage people in the voting process and make it as fun and exciting as it is. Let me tell you something. Hanging out at polling locations all the time is so fun. The poll workers love their jobs. People are excited to vote. It is honestly quite fun.
We’ve got to figure out a way to energize our coverage with the same level of enthusiasm and energy that these county folks bring to the polls. While there’s obviously a ton of bitterness and a ton of really terrible animosity directed at these election offices, they are persevering.
They are doing so much work to prepare for the midterms. I’m glad to be in a newsroom in which we can highlight those positive stories instead of just investigating what went wrong.
Katz Marston: Excellent. On that note, I genuinely want to thank you, Jessica Huseman and Tony Marcano, for joining us in this Twitter Space. I’d like to thank everybody who is listening and who is Nieman Reports and everything else that Nieman is putting out on this topic and everything else. I will now throw it back to Adriana to wrap it up. Thanks again.
Lacy: Awesome. Thank you so much, Celeste, and Tony, and Jessica for tuning in. Loved listening to your conversation on how we can better cover these issues.
For those of you who are in the Twitter Space, be sure to check out some of our coverage this Democracy Day on how you can cover these issues in your own newsrooms as well as our international reporting as well. Thank you all so much, and have a great rest of your day.