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DEAR READER: It is not just another election year for the Missourian

Friday, October 26, 2012 | 7:17 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

My wife doesn’t like politics. All that finger pointing and dissembling make her angry. She doesn’t like to be angry. So she turns the channel and the page and moves on to more enjoyable things.

It’s sound logic, even if it is depressing for her spouse, a journalist who covered his first election in 1984, edited his first Voters Guide in '92 and had his first birthday serenade by a press corps covering a presidential race in '96. (Yes, I was embarrassed.)

She’ll do her civic duty, though, and won’t pick candidates just by the sounds of their names or the party animals they ride. She knows the necessity of knowledge; she just doesn’t want the information until she needs it. August? No way. September? A nice month for walking. She’ll warm up to the races in October.

Her behavior isn’t unusual.

It’s important to cover state and local campaigns throughout the election season. It’s critical to have that information available to citizens in these final days before Nov. 6.

That’s why the Missourian’s coverage is back heavy, so to speak. In recent days, the newspaper’s pages have been filled with political coverage, and much more is on the way. The coverage will culminate next weekend with the Voters Guide in the print edition, which my wife sees as a handy worksheet to help pull everything together. I do, too.

How is your newspaper doing with campaign coverage? My opinion: So far, it’s been outstanding.

Among my favorites:

  • “The Trail,” a series of photo essays covering campaigns and campaign themes this fall. The stories have been coherent and captivating, and in some cases, quite simply stunning. The portraits of third-party candidates this week were all amazing.
  •  The interactive graphic for all mid-Missouri campaign finance reports. A person could spend an hour on this thing. You can dice the information a thousand ways, generally speaking. Even database-challenged people like me can find anything from the biggest giver (John Wright, $83,200, to his own campaign for House District 47) to the number of donors from Rolla (two). The database was built with lots of expertise from Steven Rich and elbow grease from a whole bunch of reporters who punched in information from each campaign report.
  •  The profiles. Reporter Richard Webner began one this way: “Don Bormann drives a bright orange 1987 Chevy Suburban with 190,000 miles on it and decals for his surveying business on its sides.” I want to know more about this guy who is running for Northern District Boone County Commissioner. Neither numbers nor pictures could give me the same perspective as this story.
  • Project Open Vault. It’s a website with contributions from the Missourian, KBIA and KOMU, and not just recycled news from the parent sites. I particularly like the weekly advertising report by Matthew Patane, who provides a synopsis of ad buys and content in the races.

The Missourian’s senior city editor and lead political editor, Scott Swafford, also contributes to the POV site. He’s a busy man these days. Swafford is the air traffic controller for politics in the newsroom. Never far from a legal pad filled with his daily to-do list, he keeps the reporters on point, negotiates space with the print editor, edits copy, helps direct the Project Open Vault venture and fields complaints from readers and sources.

One long-time politician complained to Swafford that Missourian reporters were pestering him too much — how many profiles, after all, can you write about a guy?

Just as many as a politician chooses to stand for election.

Swafford also has to humor his executive editor. Take that Voters Guide, for instance. What normally has been one of the last things before an election has become an early September venture for the digital editions. It’s better to give you a little bit then and add as we go, because in the Web world that’s more accessible. Swafford delivered.

There's room for improvement outside Swafford’s control. The organization and design of the website and apps make it easy to find the most recent articles. When I’m making a decision, though, I want the information by district or race.

Something to work on for the next election.


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