Posted in Behind the News

Decision 2016: It’s ‘about the voters’

, by Lauren Easton

With less than a week to go until Election Day, AP’s political team will be focusing not only on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but also on the voters who are deciding which candidate will become the next U.S. president.

U.S. Political Editor David Scott reflected on the campaign thus far and shared coverage plans for Nov. 8.

It’s been such a wildly unexpected election year. What have been the key takeaways for you and the political reporters you direct?

Less a takeaway, and more of a reminder.

The day Donald Trump descended the escalator at Trump Tower and began his campaign, I don’t think many people thought he’d end up as the Republican nominee. This was a candidate unlike any we’d seen before, and he had a message that didn’t fit neatly into the traditional lanes of politics. Jeb Bush had kicked off his campaign the day before, and the two events couldn’t have been scripted to be more different.

But over the next several months, their fortunes changed. Trump was no longer the afterthought, he was the front-runner. And Bush had spent $100 million and couldn’t buy a vote.

Voters cast ballots during early voting at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City, Nov. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It was completely unexpected and a wonderful reminder that elections are about voters. Not the candidates, and certainly not the journalists who cover them. They’re about voters. We need to never stop talking to voters, never stop asking questions about what voters care about and never stop reporting in a way that challenges our assumptions about what they think and feel and believe.

If we ask, they’ll tell us. And then we can tell others. And our report will be so much richer for it.

What can member news organizations and customers expect from AP’s coverage on Nov. 8?

The one thing I always tell my team on Election Day is that while the Constitution spells out how the nation picks its leaders, it says nothing about how the nation is supposed to figure out who they’ve chosen. That’s a role AP takes on with our vote count. We all should be proud of the role we play in the democracy: AP lets voters know who they have picked to lead them.

So, first and foremost, the AP’s members and customers can count on AP to count the vote and call the races. And from there, we’ll tell the story of Election Day in many different ways, so that those who rely on us have everything they need to tell the story as they see fit.

Anything to highlight about this year’s coverage?

We’ll be using our The Latest fixture to come as close as we ever have to telling the Election Day story in real time in text. That’s something we’ve built on throughout the year, and it’s proven to be an effective tool to communicate to members and customers all that we learn. Nothing more is left in the notebook because we didn’t have space for it in a traditional story.

We’ll also be broadcasting video live from points across the country and around the world. AP customers will have live video from candidate rallies, at voting sites in each of the continental U.S. time zones, inside one of our vote count centers and our Washington bureau, and overlooking the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Finally, we’ll do what we always do, which is talk to as many voters as we can on Election Day and make sure their voices are at the center of our report. Elections aren’t about candidates. They’re about the voters. And we’ll do our best to make sure that’s the story we tell.