Clark: The question of Presidential placement

Nov. 13, 2012 @ 08:23 AM

Last week was a major news week for media outlets around the country.

On Tuesday, Americans went to the polls to chose their elected officials for the next two or four years.

Covering politics as I have over the last few years, I can certainly understand the levity of a presidential election.

But, come Wednesday, there were several questions regarding our placement of the presidential election on the inside of the paper, as opposed to placing it out front.

As the de facto ombudsman for The Daily Courier, I figured this would be a good opportunity to express just how and why the decisions were made the way they were.

That and I try to be as transparent as possible with our news operations and how we function.

Leading up to Tuesday, most political pundits had suggested that the presidential race was going to be close. To me, as an editor, political junkie and someone who has covered state politics for years, that led me to a few observations regarding the national election.

First, and foremost, we have a time issue to consider.

As with every newspaper, we have deadlines and those deadlines are crucial to meet to ensure that we get content in the paper and that the paper goes out to our readers in a timely fashion.

That being said, our deadline for Wednesday's paper was pushed back by an hour to allow for statewide results and the slim chance that the presidential election would be finished by the time we needed to go to press. That set our page deadline at 11:30 p.m. and our content deadline — meaning the time we had to get all of our stories finished — at 10:45 p.m.

The next factor is where we get our content, outside of Rutherford County, from. We subscribe to The Associated Press and we are reliant on them for statewide and national news that we don't attempt to localize.

Putting all of that together, when I choose what stories go where in the paper, I have all of those factors to take into consideration. Therefore, with a potentially close presidential election that would probably not be decided until after our deadline, I made the decision to try to get the results inside the paper and not on the front page.

On Tuesday night, time was starting to wind down and our content deadline was quickly approaching and there was still no definitive call on the presidential race.

By 11:30, our last page deadline, it looked as if Ohio may be called for President Barack Obama, thus pushing him over the Electoral College limit and ensuring his re-election.

My instruction to our paginators was to give us some space inside and get the quickest update from the AP for the paper.

While television networks were calling the race by 11:30, the AP had not called the race until closer to midnight. However, we were still able to get some information in Wednesday's paper and more in Thursday's paper.

Was it an issue of not seeing the significance of the race? No. Was it an issue of us not wanting to put the re-election in the paper? No.

Quite simply, it was a situation where we had a timeframe of which to work from and we have to hold to that as close as we possibly can.

Matthew Clark is the Editor of The Daily Courier. He can be reached at 828-202-2927 or emailed at mclark@thedigitalcourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @UMass_MClark