Tips and story ideas for journalists covering parliamentary elections

By John Baptist Wasswa

NB: The responsibility of an MP is to represent constituents in Parliament where laws are made; where the national cake is shared through budget allocations; where MPs are supposed to hold the Executive accountable through scrutiny.

However, MPs often campaign using promises of development projects even when they do not have the budget to do so. This is the work of the central or local governments.

Parliamentary elections are guided by the Parliamentary Elections Act (2005) and the Electoral Commission Act (2005).

Story Ideas

Profile Stories of candidates for Parliamentary seats; 

  • Directly elected MPs for constituencies
  • District Woman MPs
  • Special Interest Groups: Youth, PWD, Workers, Elderly. These represent regions: Central, East, North, and West.  They campaign differently and they are selected by colleges.  Who are they? Profile them.

Journalists should appreciate this procedure and craft appropriate stories. Stories about issues concerning each of those groups in your locality.  (S)election of these takes place much earlier so consult the road map. The elderly are a new addition. There are many stories about the elderly that can be written: Housing, care, pension, abandonment.

Promises

  •  What do they promise to do? 
  • For incumbents seeking re-election, what did they promise in 2016 and what did they achieve? Good story on holding them to account.

Money

  • Check their campaign spending: What are they spending the money on? How are they spending it? Who benefits, who doesn’t?
  • How do you tell the story of money?? 

Tell stories of how the campaigns are felt in the community, talk to people… check it out.

Interviews

Do interviews with candidates. It helps voters know if they are up to the challenge.

Data bank

Develop a data bank of important facts that will generate you stories about your locality. You will look a pro. Consider the following:

  • Constituent trends since 1996. How have people been voting in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016? Which candidates; which parties?
  • How has the constituency changed over the years? In size, numbers?
  • Population, registered voters disaggregated by gender.
  • Key issues in the constituency: Is it roads, markets, schools, water, jobs?? Check it out.
  • Development indices: Major schools and institutions; health facilities, industries, features of the local economy: trade, fishing, agriculture, mining etc? These influence how candidates campaign.
  • Access to safe water, tarmac roads, electricity. Consult the latest Uganda Human Development Index.
  • Infant mortality, etc. 

Campaign Strategies of candidates especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Story formats

To tell a good story, journalists should be aware of the most effective format.  Will it be a newspaper feature? Radio feature? Magazine, Special report, or a series of stories on a specific perspective.

Of course think about colour stories, those that will make the reader want to read on and on…

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Image by Davidson Ndyabahika/Flickr

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. 

One Comment on “Tips and story ideas for journalists covering parliamentary elections”

  1. Thank you for the great work our friends at ACME, you have really empowered us with skills in different bits. Personally have benefited a lot from you.

    May our good Lord bless all your areas of operations.
    Stay Safe
    Put on your mask always as a way to contain the spread of Corona

    Thank You
    Alex

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