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We think we might be on to something in giving our audience a good feel for candidates for public office through our podcast, Today in Ohio.
I’ve always loved the way our Editorial Board conducts endorsement interviews, bringing all of the candidates in each contest together for a question-and-answer session where we challenge them and they challenge each other. What makes them work so well is that if candidates begin reciting their campaign talking points instead of addressing questions, we can shut them down and press for answers. Not only do we generally get some substantial answers, but we get to see how the candidates handle the pressure.
We publish the audio of many of these sessions, but it’s not that easy to hear. If we do the interviews in person, the room has echoes, or the microphones don’t pick up everyone. And when we do them remotely, with everyone on their own microphone, we still have so many people involved that it can be hard to figure out who is speaking.
Last summer, we tried to bring some of that endorsement interview energy and authenticity to an experiment with the Cleveland mayor’s race. We recorded special episodes of our weekday news discussion podcast, Today in Ohio, with each of the candidates. The podcast has been a winner with our audience, growing rapidly in the two years we’ve been doing it daily, and we thought special episodes with the candidates might have appeal. The episodes were some of our most popular.
In them, chief political writer Seth Richardson and I had discussions with each candidate, courteously but firmly pressing for answers if they strayed into campaign-speak. And because the candidates knew we would politely interrupt them if needed, they generally participated in the robust discussions in good faith.
Our podcast has almost tripled in audience size since we talked to the mayoral candidates, including a sizable portion outside Northeast Ohio, so Seth and I are going to keep the experiment going with the contests for Ohio senate and governor. We’re inviting every candidate on the ballot to engage with us in a conversation, which we would publish as a special episode and summarize in stories on cleveland.com and in The Plain Dealer.
We have no expectation that they all will participate, but those who do will reach a younger, more engaged audience than we have on any of our other platforms. They might also find that voters are interested in the substance that is the target of these talks.
For fairness, we won’t publish an episode in a specific contest until we’ve talked to all of the participating candidates in that contest.That way, one candidate could not form a strategy by listening to a competitor before recording with us.
If you want to be sure to catch them, look for the stories on cleveland.com and in The Plain Dealer, or you can subscribe to the podcast anywhere you find podcasts. You can also listen at tinyurl.com/todayinohiopodcast
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