[UPDATED] Gannett editor asks: Do we stop covering elections if readers don’t care about them?

Posted Tuesday on a Fort Myers News-Press Gannett private Facebook #picassolution discussion board by the paper’s engagement editor:

From the Gannett “Picasso, baby” Tumblr:

A Romenesko reader has previously described Picasso as an initiative “in which journalism is driven solely by metrics and journalists are expected to be marketers and ‘community connectors.’” Another Gannett employee insists its more than that.

I’ve asked David Plazas if a discussion about election coverage is continuing in the newsroom.

Update – Plazas sends this email:

Thank you for your email. I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to respond to you this morning. I saw that you posted the screen grab of the discussion I started last night on covering elections, and I think it was a very healthy conversation among Gannett journalists about understanding how we serve our readers and community best, given evolving reader and viewer habits.

David Plazas

David Plazas

Since your post was leaked from a private Gannett group (not Fort Myers News-Press) where our journalists have been encouraged to have hard and intimate conversations about Picasso, I am concerned that you and your readers may be led to develop conclusions that might not have all the context. The question posed shows a level of awareness among our staff that just because we build it, doesn’t mean our readers will come. In our minds, there was never a choice of whether we should cover elections or not. While our mission and our gut tell us we must cover them, metrics help us understand how we cover elections in ways that resonate more and best with readers. This applies to all our most important work. If we are truly dedicated to serving the public good, let’s do it in a way that best fulfills our responsibilities in and to the community. Let’s do it in a way that best informs and excites our readers and viewers./CONTINUES

It’s essential that we develop quality content to engage and keep our readers and viewers, and we have: in the pre-election interviews and profiles, in day-of coverage and results, and in post-election analysis. However, we also understand that we need to do things differently. For example, nearly 80 percent of our community’s voters voted by absentee ballot or early, which means Election Day was not an event for them, but rather the day when they were to find out the results at the end of the evening. It’s a phenomenal shift, and one that our public officials should be paying attention to and taking action upon. We journalists also need to be paying attention to this, which is why “pre-coverage” is so important.

In summary, the idea of eliminating election coverage was posed as a hypothetical question to encourage discussion, and our editors have continued talking about it today, with a variety of ideas that focus on depth, breadth of content, and how, where and when we present it. [Romenesko’s boldface] I invite you to look at news-press.com, for our coverage; I am proud of what our journalists did, not only last night but throughout the campaign. We will continue to discuss these things to provide a better and richer experience for our consumers. Unlike the past, when we had no way to tell whether we were making a difference, we now know, thanks to metrics. I am grateful to say that our elections coverage was in Top 1 or 2 for our desktop and mobile readers over the last two days.

* Picasso anticipates customers’ needs more scientifically (tumblr.com)
* Update: Read comments from my Facebook friends and subscribers (facebook.com)