Advice for students covering the elections

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1. First, have a plan. Determine what information your readers will want to know. Is there a school board race of interest? A local race? Are you in the 5th Congressional District that has national implications. Or are you focusing on the presidential race?

2. Then determine how you want to tell the story beyond the vote tallies. You can talk to voters leaving the polls. You can talk to the local candidates. The county chairmen of the two political parties may give you some insight as to what precincts they will be watching and why.

3. Is there a political science professor who might provide some insight?

4. Don’t let your own political leanings impact your writing. Build credibility by respecting, reporting both sides of a very polarized national election. Choose adverbs, adjectives carefully to maintain fairness. Leave opinions on the editorial page or in a clearly marked column.

5. Have a plan A, B and C for reporting results — you don’t know yet what is going to happen. Be prepared for A wins, B wins & we don’t know yet who won. Report what you know. Report what you don’t know.

6. This is a team effort. Make sure everyone on the team knows her/his role and your expectations for who’s doing what.

7. Lastly, have fun. This is a historic election by most accounts and you’ll be helping write the first draft of that history.

— Steve Key, Hoosier State Press Association

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