As the 2017 assembly elections in five states draw to a close, we give you a peek into all the hectic planning and work that went into putting our election package together. It was frantic, exciting, and we’ve loved every minute of it.
Planning in the HT newsroom started soon after the state elections in 2016 got over. It started well before the political parties launched their formal campaigns, long before the first posters went up. The first series to be rolled out was on the towns of Uttar Pradesh (UP), which was published in July 2016.
The first series also marked the beginning of HT’s exhaustive coverage of the latest round of elections under our signature ‘My India My Vote’ pages. We dedicated a special election page on the website, where all the content was showcased.
It was time to tap into our strength, our wide network of reporters, to broad-base our coverage. The next series was a partnership between HT’s UP and Delhi teams - the village series of UP, where the stories were co-authored.
Though elections were being held in five states - UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur the focus, however, remained on UP and Punjab
The coverage became more extensive from September, as the pace of political work in the states also picked up pace. One of the most ambitious projects from Punjab was the Dhaba Bites series. The series involves print stories, digital narratives, videos and aerial coverage using drones. Using new gadgets, such as drones, was both exciting, as well as challenging. Journalists were learning on the job. Tracking social media became important, as often that’s where stories were breaking. In UP, in November, journalists trekked along six rivers to record the lives and issues of those living on their banks, for the River Sutra series.
Back in Delhi, those from the design team such as Prijit, Malay, Kapil, Sanjay and Mukesh were brainstorming to present the news as attractively as possible. There was a lot of to-and-fro movement of manpower. Teams across centres worked in tandem on the design.
On January 4, the Election Commission announced the poll dates. Between January and March, at least 50 reporters hit the ground, logging more than 75,000 miles across five states. They went armed with multimedia kits consisting of mobile phones, sound rigs and gimbals. The digital platform gave journalists the opportunity to try out innovative storytelling techniques.
The data team pitched in, to help analyse numbers, draw up maps etc for both stand-alone graphics and data stories, as well as with statistics to support stories by other reporters. Social media push was important. Reporters engaged readers through Facebook Lives and tweets about each story. The video team published over 40 videos just in February. Ambrish Bajaj and his team worked for three months to build the website to best showcase all the election content.
Meanwhile, at the news desk there was frantic editing taking place. March 11, results say, was the culmination of all this intense work.