By John Baptist Wasswa
Reporting about elections is a process; a long process with phases. When covering the process, journalists need to do stories that remind the audience about the phases of the election. The current phase is campaigns.
Campaigns happen at these levels:
- Campaigns by presidential candidates
- Campaigns for parliamentary elections
- Campaigns for Local Government Elections: Districts, Cities, Municipalities, Divisions (LC III)
Local is lovely
With the exception of the presidential campaigns, journalists should endeavor to focus on local politics. Local here refers to home and neighbouring places. Local is lovely. Local is golden because it speaks to your audience. We shall return to this.
Story ideas about campaigns by presidential candidates
N.B. Journalists should in their stories make reference to the relevant laws, in this case, the Presidential Elections Act (2005) and the Electoral Commission Act (2005). This gives the audience perspective and also gives the story some authority.
Personality stories ( Human Interest stories)- Voters and non-voters alike want to know the candidates.
- Candidates’ profiles
- History (Gyenvudde), educational background, and lifestyle
- Career: What is their work history? Who have they worked with? Quotes from those close to the candidates?
- Family life (Very important to the audience. It causes debate. Is the candidate married? To who? Single… Why? (Remember Olara Otunnu)? Is the spouse known? How many children? Faith issues may also come in.
- These are valid issues for the voters because candidates are seeking a public office
Candidates campaign platform (The values, principles they profess to stand on and their ideology )
Manifestos ( What they say they will do… how they analyse the country’s problems; how they intend to solve them.)
- Look up the manifesto for each candidate. Summarise the key points.
- Look for those things that resonate with your area or region, if any.
- Do a comparative story… where each candidate stands on key national issues: Economy (industry, agriculture, IT, education, health, environment, job creation, EA Community, Foreign Affairs, Oil and Gas, Defence, etc.
- What new ideas are being floated by presidential candidates?
- Local wishes: Sound out locals, ask what they want candidates to address?
- Cross-cutting controversial issues: Age Limit, term limits, nepotism, police brutality, etc.
Interview stories: Do lots of interviews with key people in the candidates’ teams. For most newcomers to the race, a one on one with the candidate is a must. Interviews will give journalists a chance to get exclusive information which competitor won’t have.
Follow the money, you get great stories
- Campaigns provide a chance for money to trickle down to the masses. But these are different times.
- How much is the candidate spending? On what? (Hard cash, publicity: billboards, media adverts, branding material, T-shirts and caps, flags, bicycles, sewing machines, music, and entertainment, etc.
- Who is benefitting? Who is losing out?
- Business stories: What is the effect of campaigns on businesses in your area? Some are booming, others not.
- How is each candidate doing the campaign? Campaigning during the pandemic and its restrictions.
- How are they reaching different voter segments?
- How level is the playing field? What do the laws say? Are some candidates facing obstacles?
Colour stories (Rich in description capturing rare scenes)
- The excitement, the feeling of being a presidential candidate, key moments of the campaign, the music and fun, the fashion; the spouses, children, and supportive roles.
- When all is said and done, electoral campaigns provide a national fanfare. (Journalists should capture these moments into some great stories.)
Crime stories about presidential campaigns
- What electoral offences are being committed and by who? What does the law say? Are offenders being held accountable? Are some enjoying impunity?
- Other crimes. Check with police for updates on crime rate during presidential campaigns.
- Check out for traffic offences too. Many such offences are committed during campaign periods.
Some stories are good at provoking debate. Like the story of colours (NB not the colour story). Ask experts at a paint company or art teachers to explain the following:
- Which yellow is the NRM yellow? Which other yellow are there?
- Which red is NUP red? UPC red? Military Police red? Which other reds are there (examples).
- Which Blue is FDC blue? Police blue? Stanbic blue; which other blues are out there…examples.
- Which purple is ANT’s purple? Bishops’ purple?
- Which green is DP’s green? Military green? How many greens does the army use?
Original image unknown photographer from Pixabay
About the Author
John Baptist Wasswa is a journalism trainer and media consultant. He is a former managing editor of Daily Monitor and news editor of The New Vision.