A JOURNALIST RESPONSIBILITY COVERING AN ELECTION
During an election, the media has a duty to inform the public about important matters relating to elections. They are also obligated to provide special information programs and to ensure that voters understand how to exercise their right to vote.
News coverage during an election should provide the candidates with a voice the people who are the voters. It should be clear that the focus of an election is not only on the act of voting but rather from the election campaign period up to the announcements of the results.
The following are simple guidelines on how a journalist can effectively cover an election:
- Take note of the day or period of nominations announced by the parties involved.
- Find out the conditions and regulations needed for someone be nominated as the candidate for an election.
- Make follow ups on the candidates’ filing in their nomination with the body responsible of elections,
- when did they do the filling, who accompanied them, and what happened at the time of filling?
- Get peoples reaction on the candidates being nominated for the upcoming election.
- Let people speak their views concerning the nominated candidates.
- Also report about those candidates whose nomination could not have been accepted and give the reasons why.
This is a period lasting between nomination and polling day.
- When covering election rallies, never just repeat the words said by someone during the speech.
- Be critical.
- Analyse the words and report your interpretation to the general public.
- Take note of any promises made by the candidate to the general public and do not just report about them but also keep the m for your record.
- Get reaction from the general public and other neutral organizations over the speech during the rally.
- Give a voice also to the other parties concerning the speech also.
- See how the speech would affect the flow of the election.
Other important factors to note during an election rally include:
- the details of where the event took place
- reaction from the people that attended the gathering
- date and time of the event and the names of prominent party officials that where there.
The following questions would help a journalist effectively cover an election day:
- Did the poll open and close as stipulated?
- If they did not open early, what were the reasons?
- Did they extend the voting period to compensate the late opening?
- What was the general mood with regards to voters attendance?
- What was the climatic condition of the place where the polls took place?
- What happened with regards to handling the results?
- When did they start the tallying the votes, was it immediately after the polls were closed?
- And were the results announced just right there and then after finishing the count and in the same venue?
- Where the members of the parties involved in the election present during the entire process from polling to the announcement of the results?
- What was the reaction from different parties present with regards to election results?
- Where the polls characterized by violence or suspected corrupt activities?
- If there was some neutral observers like the local and international NGOs and UN, try to get their official statement concerning the entire process from the act of polling up to the time when the results were announced.
Post Election Period
The concession speech made by the losing candidates and the celebration by the winning candidates calls a journalist for duty.
- A journalist needs to get a comment from the winning candidates concerning the their victory.
- Let the joyful heart speak over its glory.
- Also, it is worth it to talk to the aggrieved parties.
- Ask them how they perceive the entire electoral process.
- Let them comment on whether the elections were free and fair or not.
- If they say that the elections were not free and fair find out what their next step would be;
would they file a complaint with the relevant authorities such as the court of law or will they just let go and focus on other things?
Get a reaction from the general public.
Ask them how they feel about the election outcome. Find out what their expectations are with regards to the promises by the winning candidates.
Furthermore, after the honeymoon period is over and the winning candidates are in their offices, a journalist has the responsibility to the public to reflect on the campaign promises by the winning candidates to the voters.
Critical thinking comes into play here. The journalist’s job here is to take the people’s anxiety concerning the promise and remind the candidates of what they said during the campaigns. The thing is: “you promised the people that you were going to do this when you come to power. People have voted for you, what are you doing about it because people are waiting?”
This is making a politician accountable of their word so that they should never think of people to be their toys. Also with the passage of time, a journalist can on the other hand go back to the people and ask them concerning the progress made on the promises by the winning candidates during election campaigns.
The logic is this: “this candidate promised you this during the campaigns, have they done it; or if anything, how far have they gone in fulfilling this promise?” This would give people a voice concerning the promises made by the candidates during campaigns.