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Checking In On Ohio Politics, With Four Months To Election Day

Your Voice Ohio is a project that's intended to close the gap between political journalists and mmbers of the community.
Your Voice Ohio
Your Voice Ohio is a project that's intended to close the gap between political journalists and mmbers of the community.

There’s just four months left until the 2020 presidential election, and Ohio stands to play a critical role. Like we did in 2016, WYSO News has joined a statewide collaborative called Your Voice Ohio. It’s a project that’s intended to create a two-way conversation between community members and political journalists in the run up to Election Day.

The collaborative is being headed up by Doug Oplinger, the former managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and a journalist in Ohio for over 45 years. WYSO News Director Jason Saul called him up to learn more about the project.

JASON SAUL: So, Doug, tell me a little bit about what these community conversations are intended to do.

DOUG OPLINGER: So, as we have done this project, we have created these community conversations and told journalists, you are to participate in this meeting has an equal. It's not doing, you know, a news report or writing a story. It is finding a new way to deliver information. And probably the best way to explain that is journalists who cover government and then attend these meetings begin to realize that the government people that they cover have already filtered out what the government people don't want to deal with, which means a lot of the complexity of the community. And what's happening is as they listen to people, they realize accountability needs to be shaped by what we hear from the people, not what we as journalists, as college educated people sitting in a newsroom think is accountability.

JS: I think WYSO does a better job than most. But I'm really excited for this opportunity to really get a good sense of what people out there in the community really care about.

DO: The point at the beginning was this idea that we needed to restore trust between the public and journalists, that they tended to believe that you cover what moves. And that's the job in usual. What moved was the police department and local government meetings. And in maybe some press releases from business folks. And that was the news. And the more journalists work and the more they cover government or business, the more detached they become from the public.

JS: Right.

DO: And what it left out was the voices of 11 million Ohioans who create together create this incredible fabric that were not representing in our coverage.

JS: Do you foresee any problems this coming Election Day? You know, we've seen voter roll purges in Ohio. You know, we've seen the closure of polls, the moving of elections. Do you see this being a clean and fair election, this coming Election Day?

DO: I see Ohio missing a lot of opportunities to make sure this election is not a problem. There has not been a serious attempt to figure out what needs to be done to assure that absentee ballots are out. What went wrong in the primary election? That questions about that are not being asked adequately. Voter registrations have fallen dramatically since March. So how many people have not registered? Let alone thought about how am I going to get my ballot on time so that I can vote? And will my ballot make it on time to be counted? Will it be postmarked?

JS: Yeah. If the post office doesn't put a postmark on it and delivers your ballot, it's invalid because there's no postmark. Right?

DO: Correct. Even though you did everything right and it arrived at the Board of elections on time to be counted, if there's no postmark, you don't get counted.

JS: Doug, is Ohio still a battleground state leading into the 2020 presidential election?

DO: I believe it is. I think that Ohio is a microcosm of the country and people are becoming more desperate for solutions as median household income drops. And this idea that we were no longer a swing state because we went so dramatically for Trump is an indication of how desperate the country is becoming. And you're seeing Ohio swing back to Biden has Ohioans are saying it's still not getting better. We've got to try something else.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Jason Saul is a public radio journalist and producer who moved to the Miami Valley to help build a new culture of nonprofit journalism here in Southwest Ohio.