Five ways hyperlocals have covered the General Election 2015

By Hannah Scarbrough | 7th May 2015

In the aftermath of polling day, we take a look back at hyperlocal coverage of the General Election 2015.

This General Election may be one of the most hotly contested in recent UK history. Every vote counts and hyperlocal journalists have been at the frontline of providing information, context and debate for their communities.

In March we launched our Guide to covering the General Election for community journalists, which profiled ideas and tips from community journalists already on the campaign trail (with thanks owed too to Talk About Local‘s fantastic unconference).  Since then we have seen a proliferation in General Election coverage from hyperlocals across the UK – here are just a few stand-out examples and common themes.

1) Election hubs

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Tongwynlais.com’s election hub

Pulling together electoral information together in one place – from Twitter lists of candidates to the latest news – is an approach we have seen adopted by many community journalists, giving their audiences access to a ‘one-stop shop’ for their GE2015 needs. As early as October 2014, Jack Davies of Tongwynlais.com had created his Rebel Mouse-driven election hub which pulled together tweets and website content from local candidates in the marginal constituency.

Over at The Lincolnite’s election hub (included in Journalism.co.uk’s round-up of General Election news innovations), voters could find reports, galleries, videos and Twitter lists of local candidates.

In Roath Cardiff’s ‘Roath Votes – General Election Guide’, readers could arm themselves with recent election results and information on how to register to vote.

Even in the latter stages of the electoral campaign, local readers could find up-to-date information and advice – such as Deeside.com’s Election Day checklist, which included polling times and final candidate reminders.

2) Candidate interviews/profiles

Last year we interviewed South Leeds Life on their approach to covering the local and European elections, where they discussed offering candidates a profile space on their website where they could add their own text and images (subject to word count). This year they have repeated this formula, giving every candidate the same profile space with room for text and image (although, interestingly, some have chosen not to contribute).

Wrexham.com deserve a special mention for their fantastic candidate videos, in which each would-be MP is invited to give an opening statement before answering the same Q&A. They also provided detailed FAQs to explain the interview process.

3) Livestreaming 

From established services such as Audioboom and Google Hangouts, to new-kids-on-the-block Periscope and Meerkat, livestreaming is an important component of the community journalism toolkit – a way to broadcast information immediately and cheaply to audiences who are often time-poor.

At London SE1,they used Audioboom to broadcast interviews with candidates on their views on everything from same-sex marriage to their chances for re-election. Meanwhile, West Hampstead Life used Google Hangouts to record their hustings event, alongside a better-quality Soundcloud recording.

Although Richmond Noticeboard suffered technical difficulties in the livestreaming of their local hustings, a Storify round-up of tweets allowed their readers the opportunity to catch up with all the action.

Hampstead-Kilburn-hustings-West-Hampstead-Life-turnout_7004) Hustings and debates

West Hampstead Life have long hosted popular hustings events, and this year’s General Election is no exception. Attended by hundreds of local voters – not to mention national media, including “an off-duty Emily Maitlis” – the hustings was well-received on the night and afterwards on social media. Founder Jonathan Turton puts this down to brand recognition and a strong relationship with both candidates and audience alike.

Daniel Ionescu of The Lincolnite also explained how their three-way partnership with BBC Radio Lincolnshire and the Lincolnshire Echo produced the Lincoln Debate, which featured all local candidates in front of 250-strong audience.

5) Crowdsourcing questions

Community interaction is a unifying theme for all hyperlocal coverage of the General Election. From Twitter Q&As to polls, community journalists have been actively involving their audiences in the electoral debate and encouraging democratic participation.

A Little Bit of Stone asked for their readers’ “big issues”, and put many of these questions to candidates. Roath Cardiff also crowdsourced questions for candidates, which ranged from rubbish on streets to how small businesses would be supported.  Tongwynlais.com hosted their own ‘Twitter hustings’, where local voters could put their 140-character questions to candidates in real time. Many hyperlocals have used personalised hashtags to crowdsource burning issues, questions and challenges.

Community journalists up and down the UK have done a great job of keeping their local readers informed, using some of the most innovative tools and techniques. Well done all!

These are just a few examples of the fantastic work community journalists have been doing to cover the General Election 2015. Damian Radcliffe will also be comprehensively mapping hyperlocal coverage of the General Election 2015 – submit your ideas.

Image accompanying this article is copyright Coventry City Council.

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