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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Beyond the Polls: A refreshing change in election coverage

    We are living in strange times indeed.

    It was only a few days ago that former president Donald Trump was convicted on 34 charges of falsifying business records related to a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election, the first time in U.S. history a president was convicted of felony crimes.

    It didn’t seem to faze his supporters much, as Trump’s campaign announced Friday it had raised over $50 million in the hours after his conviction.

    Not since the Civil War has the country been so polarized, so unable to agree on so many things politically. Compromise and even communication seem to be lost. For a variety of reasons we are divided, and not to sound too much like an old man yelling at a cloud, but it didn’t used to be this way.

    This is how The Day’s effort to go beyond the typical election coverage with its Beyond the Polls came to be.

    Business editor Lee Howard had been mulling a way to cover the election season in a different way and decided to reach out to voters and let them decide what are the biggest issues they face.

    The Day and many other news outlets had gotten used to covering elections the way they had been for years: getting quotes from candidates, reporting on their stances on issues and who had raised the most money, etc. But isn’t the point of a democracy to find out the major concerns of the electorate itself?

    Howard set up three public voter forums in Norwich, Waterford and Groton to identify what local citizens determined to be the top five issues during this election cycle. More meetings followed in New London, Old Lyme and Stonington to discuss the issues that residents decided were the most compelling issues they face and present potential solutions: protecting democracy, foreign policy, immigration and border policy, the environment and climate change, and the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation.

    Howard moderated the events with some ground rules: Don’t address each other. It’s a discussion, not a debate. Everyone must express their views in a civil manner. Everyone will get a chance to have their say so long as the views expressed are kept peaceful.

    The turnout included state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and state Rep. Anthony Nolan, D-New London.

    The Day plans to write in-depth stories on each of the top five issues monthly leading up to the November election by weaving in forum and email comments along with commentary from experts on each topic. You can find the first one — on misinformation and disinformation — in today’s paper.

    The endeavor coincides with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s annual ‘Walk Across Connecticut,’ which this year brought the state’s junior senator to our neck of the woods, including stops in Norwich and Stonington.

    Murphy posted a video during his stop in Norwich in which he talked about how we tend to let politics define a lot of our relationships. He’s right, but we don’t have to. Compromise is key. It’s how politics works at its most basic level.

    Sometimes just getting people face to face and in the same room can help bridge a divide. Talk to people you disagree with. Try to find common ground. Chances are you can.

    Among our leaders and elected officials, there’s a lot of bickering and not a lot of actual governance. There’s my side and there’s your side, and nothing gets done.

    So while much of the political coverage recently has been a seemingly nonstop firehose of Trump’s historic trial, deservedly so, it’s refreshing to see regular folks come to the local library and tell the newspaper what’s on their mind. It evokes back to a simpler, less divided time. And it gives us hope that we just may be able to get back there again.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.