Inquirer media group launches multimedia poll coverage
The 2016 vote is shaping up to be the most closely fought election since 1992—and the Inquirer media group is preparing to cover every angle, every stake of that many-cornered fight.
On Election Day itself—May 9, 2016—the group will deploy over 80 reporters from print, online and radio, working closely with 80 correspondents in the provinces and at least 2,000 volunteers.
But the election coverage officially begins Monday, 31 weeks before an estimated 75 percent of the country’s 54 million voters will take to the polls, under a multiplatform, multimedia campaign called VotePH2016: ThINQ.Vote.
The statistics are daunting: At least three, maybe four, presidential candidates with roughly equal popular support. At least five viable candidacies for the vice presidency. A few dozen candidates for 12 Senate seats. Add thousands of candidates for 235 congressional districts, 81 provinces, 144 cities and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, vying for some 18,000 positions.
The Inquirer’s ThINQ.Vote. campaign aims to bring clarity to the situation by focusing on the voter.
The election coverage plans of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer.net, Radyo Inquirer, Inquirer Bandera, Inquirer Libre and Inquirer affiliate Cebu Daily News (CDN) will be heavy on the candidates and their constituencies, on the content of their campaign platforms and the controversies that have helped form their reputations, but the real focus will be on the power of the citizen to cast a well-informed vote.
“With our coverage of all things elections, both serious and silly, we want to empower the Filipino voters with the information, insights and opinion they can use to carefully think about their choices,” said Juliet Javellana, director of the Inquirer group’s Central Desk. “Our collective future is at stake.”
She added: “No other media organization can offer the breadth and depth of the Inquirer’s multiplatform coverage—news in real time, issues that define the national agenda, fearless reporting and commentary, and the credibility to make sense of the noise and circus that comes to town every six years.”
The ThINQ.Vote. campaign will rely on election-cycle partnerships, new and old. The Inquirer media group will link up once again with the GMA television network, both during the campaign period, which starts on Feb. 9, and for one of the three presidential debates that the Commission on Elections will host.
The corps of Inquirer Volunteers will be composed mainly of students who have trained with the Inquirer’s user-generated content app. At least seven schools have already agreed to be part of the project, with more schools in the pipeline.
Other partnerships, some of them truly pioneering in their nature, will be announced at the appropriate time. These alliances will allow the Inquirer group to produce content even faster than before.
“Mobile is the journalism of NOW and we’re planning to keep Inquirer readers updated on the device that’s always with them,” said JV Rufino, director for Inquirer Mobile. “Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Viber and Line!”
Partners will also help the Inquirer conduct its candidates’ forums. Building on the Inquirer Presidential Debate in 2010 and the three Inquirer Senate Forums in 2013, the group will seek to create a public square where the candidates can speak as freely as possible.
The Meet Inquirer Multimedia Forums will also feature the presidential candidates one at a time, beginning this month.
While much of the media oxygen is taken up by all the talk over contesting presidential candidacies, a lot of the campaign action will actually take place on the local level.
“The national elections will be the focus of most networks,” said Radyo Inquirer news director Arlyn de la Cruz. “Radyo Inquirer will be there, too, but we will also be giving space to the local elections where the intramurals are just as important. We want to know the local issues that matter in the coming elections, especially in Metro Manila.”
Under its new management, Radyo Inquirer is also forming a community of volunteers and appealing directly to its listeners with a subcampaign called “Tamang Boto, Bayan ang Panalo.”
Inquirer Bandera, one of the best-selling tabloids in the Visayas and Mindanao, is also running a subcampaign, aimed at reaching its readership.
“Bandera will launch its own campaign, ‘Wag Kang Bobotante,’ a drive that would help our readers to know their candidates better, their platforms, their issues; the Comelec; and their rights that would lead them to vote wisely and conscientiously,” said editor in chief Dona Policar.
Bandera will also adapt its popular “Slambook ng Sikat” to the elections to help feature “each candidate’s human side,” Policar said.
The focus on local may be sharpest in Cebu.
“The bid for Cebu’s 2.5 million votes will draw national candidates to the doorstep of local incumbents,” CDN publisher and editor in chief Eileen Mangubat said.
“That’s where Cebu Daily News will train its sights on—local contests for the governorship, mayoralty and congressional races that also deliver the edge for a presidential and Senate race,” she added. “Above the din of trap campaign tactics, CDN will test candidates for their vision of sustainable growth for Cebu and how to keep it from choking under the weight of urbanization.”
Next year’s election will be the first truly digital vote, with campaigns waged on the web, in the chat apps space and on social media.
Inquirer.net will focus on the advantages of online media: instant analysis, interactive polls and other such features, comprehensive articles and social media engagement.
An election newsletter will be available for free by e-mail, starting Oct. 19, the Monday after the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy.
Heart of campaign
But the heart of the Inquirer group’s election campaign is close-in candidate coverage, as conducted by the reporters of the newspaper and its correspondents, its online reporters and thousands of volunteers.
In a contest for leadership, observing the leaders at close range will help inform the voters’ choices.
In a sense, the ThINQ.Vote. campaign reflects the coming of the so-called “journalism of interruptions.”
This, said Michael Lim Ubac, chief of the Inquirer’s News Day Desk, “challenges the Inquirer to remain at the center of the public discourse. This challenge is a tough but a welcome (and a continuing) responsibility. The Inquirer must process timely, relevant and compelling election-related stories that make a difference in the lives of Filipinos.”
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