Editor's Views: Gazette Election previews return to their own special section
The spring election is just 16 days away, but you haven't seen the usual preview stories sprinkled in The Gazette.
That's because we're doing things differently this year. Actually, we're going back to how we used to cover run-ups to elections.
Instead of squeezing stories and information about races and candidates into daily editions, The Gazette is publishing a special election section in print and online Wednesday, March 26.
We've come back to the thinking that a separate section containing information on all of the contested races in our readership area is the best approach. No matter where you live in the area, you can expect to see a rundown of who is facing whom in local elections this spring. If you live in one of our core readership areas, you'll see more information on the candidates and their positions on important issues.
We published an election section on the Wednesday before every general election for many years, but we ended the practice about three years ago. Our intentions were good.
One of our goals was to save money. That's always a good reason to do something in this age of major challenges in the news business. We thought we could save the cost of the section's newsprint—think 24 pages multiplied by about 17,000 copies—by including the information on pages already committed to the daily newspaper.
That didn't work out so well. We had to increase the size of the daily a handful of times before each election to make room for the extra stories, and our press requires us to go up at least four pages at a time. So much for savings on paper.
We also reasoned that the stories would add local quantity and quality to the paper leading up to the election. While I think that's partly true, many stories are specific to single municipalities in Rock and Walworth counties and don't add value for the majority of readers who don't live in those communities.
So after much debate and a little number-crunching, we decided to revert to producing a one-time section that covers all of the races. That frees up space in the daily edition for other stories with wider appeal, and it saves us from having to boost the size of the paper in the weeks before the election.
More important, though, we think it's a service to our readers. While we hope they continue to buy and scour every page of every Gazette, readers now will know well in advance when we'll publish information on their community elections. Our staff devotes much time and energy to give area residents what they need to be informed voters on Election Day, so we want the most people possible to see the coverage.
We'll continue to cover forums and other breaking election news daily, but the general preview stories that profile candidates and outline their positions will be in the March 26 section.
Speaking of elections, The Gazette's editorial board will make endorsements in Janesville's city council and school board races, and we'll offer our thoughts on the Parkview School District referendum. We're interviewing all of the candidates in the council and school board races, and we're doing our due diligence on Parkview's issues.
Endorsements will be published Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 28-30.
Much is involved in being the go-to local news source for people who care about their communities, but providing quality coverage of elections—both before and after the votes—ranks near the top of the list.
Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.