Candidate interviews: trying something new

Over the last few years we’ve tried a couple of different ways to incorporate video into our political coverage. We’ve tried posting a full one-hour debate between candidates for Congress. We tried an edited version of a debate with an introduction by the reporter. We tried shooting candidates’ endorsement interviews and publishing an edited ~10 minute version.

Our hope was to provide our audience with the information necessary to make their own decision in the voting booth, allowing the candidates to speak directly with the viewers. The newspaper’s endorsements suggest who people should vote for, this allows people to digest the facts and make up their own minds.

The biggest issue is the amount of information. Videos that work well online are short and to the point. And as journalists, we act as filters, providing context and analysis rather than just printing what people say verbatim. We are trying to provide a service to the readers, but I think we end up bombarding them with what is essentially raw data with no interesting way for users to take it in. According to our stats, not a lot of people bothered to watch these videos.

We tried a slightly different approach with candidate videos this year. When the candidates for governor of Connecticut came in to meet with the editorial board this year, we shot a brief interview at the start rather than taping the entire interview. Our editorial page editor asked each candidate the same three questions about the budget, job creation , and their top priority, and asked them to keep their responses to two minutes each. With some help from our web developer Joe Ruggeri and a JavaScript lightbox called PrettyPhoto we came up with a layout that allows more user control.

The response so far has been better, but in the end I wonder if we’re providing people a valuable service, or just spending too much time on a novelty web product. Do readers actually watch these videos and use them as a basis for casting their vote? I’m not sure.

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