Fox 2 Detroit Primary Candidate Project

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Community Reporting, Politics
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While working at the Fox Television station in Detroit, one of my main duties was to cover politics and the upcoming primary election. In addition to producing content for the web I researched and compiled information on candidates, parties, and issue votes in upcoming state and local elections in the station’s nine county range. Those counties were Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne. The information was conveyed to the reader through different website modules and links. Once all this information was established, we began setting up a survey to contact candidates with and connect on the web and television newscasts.

I lead a team of interns in collecting Candidate’s email and phone numbers in the nine counties. I created a master excel spreadsheet with phone numbers, email addresses, and other contact information. We emailed and called state senate, state house reps, and the other candidates to advise them of the upcoming questionnaire. If the candidate or their office did not answer we would leave a message and try again a couple days later to confirm.

In the end, we attempted to contact over 450 candidates in state senate, state representative, U.S. congress, and gubernatorial elections. Approximately 390 in total received the questionnaire and of those almost 40% responded to the five questions. The questionnaire was available to participants online via a link to a surveying website we had set up. The candidates had a week to respond and any answers that came late were added at the time.

Once the answers were in our grasp, we built pages and modules for each county. For each questionnaire returned, the candidate got their own story page with the answers. Those pages were then ranked by district on the main county page for the state house, state senate, and U.S. congress elections.  For the gubernatorial page, each candidate was listed with their picture making it easier for people to identify them. All seven gubernatorial candidates responded to the questionnaire making that portion a success.

From there, answers were broken down into individual candidate pages. A candidate’s answers were then separated through capsules indicating district number and their election. The answers to the most contentious elections used during television newscasts and analyzed for additional insight. Seeing answers on television also prompted more candidates to respond to the original questionnaire. By seeing someone from their district taking advantage on the local television station and website, they wanted the opportunity to chime in.

The questions went as followed:

Please list your full name, party affiliation, office sought, county and district. (Note: Although we knew the political affiliation on the ballot, many chose not to associate themselves with a specific party.)

Why are you running for office?

What is the biggest problem facing Michigan residents today and how would you solve it?

What’s a better solution: finding revenue or cutting costs to meet Michigan’s public education budget? How would you do it?

What’s the best way to create jobs for Michigan residents?

After you leave this earth, what will they say about you?

The answers varied amongst political candidates in both content and style. Some politicians stuck to more political answers for all questions, including the final one. Others, were more open in what they were willing to respond.

Examples and links to responses can be seen below.

Rick Snyder, Governor-Elect, State of Michigan

5. After you leave this earth, what will they say about you?

I hope that I will be remembered as a good husband, father and friend by my loved ones. I hope that I will be remembered for the positive contributions I have made to my community, state and country. Throughout my life, I have worked hard to overcome challenges with a focus on helping people and having a good time doing it. I believe we will reinvent Michigan and I hope that I will be remembered for bringing people together around this common cause and delivering results. The rest of the answers can be seen here.

Virg Bernero, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate

What is the biggest problem facing Michigan residents today and how would you solve it?

Jobs. As Governor my top priority will be to reverse the bleak jobs situation that is affecting so many families across our state. We can and will make Michigan the #1 place in the country to do business ’ because that means JOBS. Small business especially must be promoted and nurtured as this is where the bulk of new jobs will be created.

To create new jobs in Michigan, we must build upon our advanced manufacturing capabilities by investing in them, instead of abandoning them. That’s because, as a state, we cannot just consume greatly, we have to produce greatly. We have to make the products of the future for export to the world. Retaining and strengthening our state’s advanced manufacturing capabilities across diverse sectors of the new global economy while also investing in our human infrastructure can and will be the backbone of our state’s economic comeback. The rest of the answers can be seen here.

More Examples: U.S. House District 13 of Michigan candidate answers for John Hauler and Hansen Clarke.

An example of the setup used for navigating the website (After the Primary Election, links to answers were removed on the site from those candidates who did not win their respective election):

Wayne County State Senate

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