The Secretary of State’s Office expects about a million Missourians to cast ballots this Election Day and, while some voters will be well informed, others might know very little about the down ballot or local races.
Local newspapers are very important in the effort to inform the public. Bob Watson, a political reporter with the Jefferson City News Tribune , joins colleagues in preparing for elections by interviewing candidates – including many of those running for down ballot positions – to help readers make that important informed decision. Watson can’t say whether there is any great demand for the information on some of the lesser watched contests, but he believes – as a journalist – it is his job to provide that information to readers.
The News Tribune prepares a set of questions to be asked of the candidates in a given race. Ideally, a reporter will ask the questions of each candidate and take note of the responses. Sometimes, perhaps due to time constraints, correspondence is conducted through e-mail.
"It’s probably a little easier today," says Watson, "Than it might have been ten years ago just because you have the extra advantage of e-mails. If you’re having trouble getting a hold of somebody you can e-mail them, you can send them your questions and they can give you their answers that way. It’s probably not as good as a one-on-one interview, but it if the point is to get the candidates’ thoughts out to the general public an e-mail works almost as well as an interview."
It is during these election campaigns that small city Missourians might find themselves better served by newspapers than do residents of the state’s larger cities.
"In some ways," suggests Watson, "It’s easier for us than the big city dailies simply because our territory is a little bit smaller. The big cities – if you look at St. Louis or Kansas City – they have numerous State House Representatives’ districts and several State Senate districts they’ve got to cover."
The bottom line is that many of Missouri’s smaller newspapers are doing a lot of the legwork to provide voters with the information of great interest to some readers and of little or no interest to others.