What is Down-home Democracy? This workshop was designed to encourage journalists from small community newspapers (circulation of 50,000 or less) in Missouri and surrounding states to embrace elections as critically important news events and to give them the practical tools and strategies they need to cover campaigns thoroughly and constructively.

Location: All sessions took place at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Mo.

Why is local election coverage important? Helping voters make informed decisions in municipal elections is one of the most important jobs a community newspaper can do when it comes to contributing to the local democracy. Elections for city and town councils, boards of aldermen, county commissions, school boards and local ballot issues typically have more influence on readers’ quality of life than elections at the state and federal levels. Yet, too often, newspapers lack the insight it takes to truly cover municipal elections well, or they fail to invest adequate resources toward reporting on local campaigns.


Randy Picht

Executive Director, Reynolds Journalism Institute

Randy Picht has worked closely with newspapers and other media outlets during his nearly 29-year Associated Press career. He is a former business editor for AP and has spent about half of his career working on the journalism side of the not-for-profit news cooperative and half of his time on the business side. He played a number of key roles at AP including helping newsrooms use AP content to innovate and generate new revenue streams. Picht was named executive director of the Reynolds Journalism Institute in 2012.

Scott Swafford

Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism; Senior City Editor, Columbia Missourian; 2013-14 Reynolds Fellow, Reynolds Journalism Institute

Scott Swafford worked as a reporter and editor at Missouri newspapers for 19 years, including 13 years at the Columbia Daily Tribune, before becoming a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2003. He is an associate professor and senior city editor at the Columbia Missourian. Swafford oversees coverage of elections at the Columbia Missourian and has been an elections reporter and editor throughout his career. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University), graduating in 1984, and his master's degree at the Missouri School of Journalism in 2012.


Laura Bryant

Former Creve Coeur (Mo.) City Councilwoman and Board Member for Missouri Sunshine Coalition

Laura Bryant was re-elected five times between 2001 and 2011 to the Creve Coeur City Council. She was responsible for enacting legislation and citywide policies to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the community. In 2006, she was named Legislator of the Year by the Creve Coeur–Olivette Chamber of Commerce for advocating on behalf of both residents and the business community during a local eminent domain controversy.

Bryant is assistant vice president of corporate communications at Enterprise Holdings in St. Louis. She has extensive corporate communications, public relations and public affairs experience in telecommunications, retail department stores and the car-rental/car-sharing and travel industries.

Trina Chiasson

2013-2014 Reynolds Fellow, Reynolds Journalism Institute

Trina Chiasson’s work in media has taken her from her home in Maine to Washington DC, Hawaii, Chicago, and now to Missouri as a Reynolds Fellow. A graduate of University of Southern Maine with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Chiasson has since formed a career in media.

She was the executive director of Media Make Change, a social change organization she launched with a colleague that produced events like Project Haiti Speaks to give a voice to earthquake survivors. These experiences left her with the goal to find a way for organizations to engage with readers, changing them from passive observers of information to active participants.

In 2012, Chiasson set up Infoactive, a company that is designing software to translate data to interactive graphics. Infoactive’s software is a web-based program allowing professionals without experience in graphic design to create impressive graphics for online storytelling.

Shawn Cockrum

Member, New Bloomfield Board of Education; Director of Migrant and English Language Learning, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Shawn Cockrum has been a member of the New Bloomfield R-III Board of Education since 2002 and prior to that was elected to the New Bloomfield Board of Aldermen for one term. He has also served as a committee chair for three successful bond and levy campaigns and was a newspaper reporter and editor for 10 years in New Mexico, Texas and Missouri. He is currently a director with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Jefferson City.

Al Cross

Executive Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Al Cross is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky, and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He reported for The Courier-Journal for 26 years, the last 15 ½ as chief political writer, and continues to write a twice-monthly political column for the newspaper. He was president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001-2002 and is in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. His awards include a share of the Pulitzer Prize won by The Courier-Journal’s staff in 1989 for coverage of the nation’s deadliest bus and drunk-driving crash. He has been a contributor to books on Kentucky and politics. He grew up in Albany, Ky., is a graduate of Western Kentucky University, and was an editor and manager at weekly newspapers in Monticello, Ky., Leitchfield, Ky., and Russellville, Ky., before establishing The Courier-Journal news bureau at Somerset, Ky., in 1978.

Chad Day

Reporter, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Chad Day is a reporter on the investigative projects desk at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He specializes in computer-assisted reporting and long-form investigations. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism and has worked for the Kansas City Star.

Day was named the Arkansas Young Journalist of the Year in 2011. In 2013, he won the Arkansas Press Association’s Freedom of Information Award. He and colleague Cathy Frye also won the I.F. Stone Award for Investigative Reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Robert S. McCord Freedom of Information Award.

Larry Henry

Fifth Ward City Councilman, Jefferson City, Mo.

Larry Henry is a Fifth Ward representative to the Jefferson City (Mo.) City Council who is seeking re-election in April 2014. He also is a former school board candidate. Originally from Indianapolis, he has been a Jefferson City resident for 16 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Lincoln University and a master’s degree in public affairs from Park University. He is the treatment court administrator for the 19th Judicial Circuit in Cole County.

Mark Horvit

Executive Director, Investigative Reporters and Editors; Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism

Mark Horvit serves as the executive director for Investigative Reporters and Editors, a professional organization of journalists headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism. Horvit came to Missouri from the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, where he was the projects editor. An accomplished investigative reporter and editor, Horvit previously has worked at the Panama City (Fla.) News Herald, the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times, The Houston Post, the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune and The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. As IRE’s executive director, Horvit supervises 12 full-time staff members; runs IRE’s renowned professional programs, publications and Web site; and oversees the $1.4 million budget, fundraising campaigns and the more than $3 million endowment fund.

Brian Kratzer

Assistant Professor, Missouri School of Journalism; Director of Photography, Columbia Missourian

Brian Kratzer, who earned a master's degree in photojournalism in 2005 from the Missouri School of Journalism, is director of photography for the Columbia Missourian and an assistant professor. He teaches photo desk management and staff photojournalism. Kratzer has more than 18 years of professional experience as a staff photographer, photo editor and newsroom manager. His most recent position was assistant managing editor for online and multimedia for the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, where Kratzer was instrumental in leading the newsroom in the transition to a Web-first environment. During that time, he coordinated Web and visual coverage of the University of Florida’s two basketball and two football national championships. The online management team won the Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger award, the highest honor from The New York Times, for its innovation and success.

Karen Miller

Boone County Southern District Commissioner, Columbia, Mo.

Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller owned and operated a local neighborhood restaurant and lounge called “The Establishment” before being elected to the Boone County Commission in 1992. She is in her seventh term as commissioner. Miller served as president of the National Association of Counties (NACo) in 2003-2004 and continues to serve on its board of directors. She also serves on the Missouri Association of Counties board of directors and as treasurer of the County Commissioners Association.

In fiscal year 2011, Miller was appointed to the Judicial Finance Commission, which is available to mitigate budgetary disputes between circuit courts and their county commissioners. She also received the prestigious Athena Award, which is given to individuals who display excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession, providing valuable service to improve quality of life in their community and helping women reach their full leadership potential. In 2010 she was named Business Woman of the Year by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

Perry Parks

Journalism Instructor, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Athens, Ga.

Perry Parks is an editor, author, and journalism instructor and doctoral student at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. He has worked for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper based in Norfolk, Va., The State News at Michigan State University and AOL's hyperlocal news network Patch.com. He has taught newswriting, editing and ethics courses at Michigan State and UGA. His book, "Making Important News Interesting: Reporting Public Affairs in the 21st Century," has been used in classrooms and newsrooms throughout the country.

Jim Pumarlo

Community Newspaper Success Strategies, Red Wing, Minn.

Jim Pumarlo understands that energized newspapers are at the foundation of energized communities. His message is straightforward: Community newspapers - whether delivering information in print or on the Web - must focus on local news if they are to remain relevant to their readers and advertisers.

Pumarlo spent 27 years working at small daily newspapers in International Falls and Red Wing, Minn. He served as editor of the Red Wing Republican Eagle for 21 years. He resigned in 2003 and now is director of communications at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the state's largest business advocacy organization. He remains active in the newspaper industry through his consulting and speaking.

Pumarlo is a member of the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s journalism education and legislative committees. The association recognized him in 2005 with the Al McIntosh Distinguished Service to Journalism Award and in 2007 as a Friend of Minnesota Newspapers.

Jonathan Sessions

Member, Columbia Board of Education, Columbia, Mo.

Columbia Public Schools are important to Jonathan Sessions. As a Columbia native, he received his entire K-12 education in the Columbia Public Schools. At the University of Missouri he earned a bachelor's degree in music and elementary education. While at the University, he assisted in CPS classrooms at Midway, Field and West Boulevard elementary schools. In April 2010, Sessions was elected to a one-year term to fill a vacancy on the Columbia school board and then ran for a full three-year term. He will be running for re-election this coming year.

Sessions is a member of the long-range planning committee, which has undertaken three major initiatives: building Battle High School, upgrading the facilities at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools, and building an addition to the Columbia school board administration building.

Karl Skala

Third Ward City Councilman, Columbia, Mo.

Two-term Third Ward Columbia City Councilman Karl Skala holds degrees from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and the University of Missouri, where he retired from cross-disciplinary behavioral and biomedical research. He serves on several panels for the National League of Cities, is the past chair of the Columbia/Boone County Environment and Energy Commission, and past vice chair of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission. He is the past president of the Boone County Muleskinners Democratic Club, the chairman of Boone County Smart Growth Coalition, and a longstanding member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee. He is also a current board member of KOPN 89.5 and host of KOPN's Morning Ayre, which features classical music.

Tom Warhover

Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism; Executive Editor for Innovation, Columbia Missourian

Tom Warhover is an associate professor and chair of the print and digital news faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism. He also is the executive editor for innovation at the Columbia Missourian, a community newspaper edited by professionals and staffed by student reporters, copy editors, designers and photographers.

His role at the Missourian is to transform the newsroom for the future, experimenting with new approaches and technologies in content and delivery while honoring the best traditions of public service, integrity and independence.

Prior to joining the university, he worked for The Virginian-Pilot, where he was a copy editor, designer, wire editor and metro editor. He covered city hall as a beat reporter.

Hank Waters

Publisher Emeritus, Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia, Mo.

Hank Waters has written daily editorials for the Columbia Daily Tribune since 1966, including many political endorsements and comments. The Waters family has owned the Tribune since 1905. Waters is publisher emeritus, and other family members are in active management positions. He was inducted in the Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001.

Brian Wheeler

Executive Director, Charlottesville Tomorrow news website, Charlottesville, Va.

Brian Wheeler was hired as Charlottesville Tomorrow's first executive director in July 2005. Wheeler helped launch a unique partnership with The Daily Progress, the first of its kind in the nation, which placed Charlottesville Tomorrow’s reporting in the pages of the local newspaper. Since 2009, more than 1,000 news stories have been published in the newspaper, and today Charlottesville Tomorrow produces almost 60 percent of the newspaper's content related to growth, development, and local politics.

Wheeler was recognized by the Virginia Press Association with four first-place awards in 2012 for feature reporting, general news writing and investigative reporting. In the hyperlocal community news sector, he has participated in the Block by Block conferences, the Local Independent Online (LION) publishers association and the 2012 Community Journalism Executive Training program. Under Wheeler’s direction, Charlottesville Tomorrow was able to expand through a $102,000 grant awarded by the Knight Community Information Challenge.

Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

4-5 p.m. Registration, Outside Fred W. Smith Forum on the second floor of RJI

5-6:30 p.m. Fulfilling community newspapers' role in local democracy: The importance of outstanding election coverage, Smith Forum 200

Jim Pumarlo, consultant with Community Newspaper Success Strategies and author of "Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Campaign Coverage"

6:45-8:30 p.m. Reception, Palmer Room 100A

Hors d'oeuvres and beverages provided.

Special presentation by Reynolds Fellow Trina Chiasson showcasing Infoactive, a Web-based program allowing professionals without experience in graphic design to create impressive graphics for online storytelling.

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014

8 a.m. Light breakfast, Lambert Room 200A

8:30 a.m. Introduction and overview, Smith Forum 200

8:45 a.m. Helping voters make informed decisions through thorough election reporting, Smith Forum 200

Scott Swafford, workshop coordinator and 2013-2014 Reynolds fellow

9:30 a.m. Doing deep background checks on candidates for local office, Smith Forum 200

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors

10:15 a.m. BREAK

10:30 a.m. Mining online campaign finance records, Smith Forum 200

Scott Swafford, workshop coordinator and 2013-2014 Reynolds fellow

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors

11:15 a.m. The pressures of covering elections and endorsing candidates in small communities, Smith Forum 200

Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky

Hank Waters, publisher emeritus, Columbia Daily Tribune; member of Missouri Newspaper Hall of Fame

Noon LUNCH, Palmer Room 100A

1 p.m. Newspaper campaign coverage from the candidates' perspective, Smith Forum 200

Laura Bryant, former Creve Coeur (Mo.) city councilwoman and board member of Missouri Sunshine Coalition

Shawn Cockrum, four-term member of the New Bloomfield Board of Education

Larry Henry, Fifth Ward representative to the Jefferson City (Mo.) City Council

Jonathan Sessions, two-term member of the Columbia (Mo.) Board of Education

Karl Skala, Third Ward representative to the Columbia (Mo.) City Council

Moderator: Karen Miller, Boone County Southern District commissioner

2:15 p.m. BREAK

2:30 p.m. How photography and multimedia can breathe life into your election reporting, Smith Forum 200

Brian Kratzer, director of photography, Columbia Missourian; assistant professor, Missouri School of Journalism

3:20 p.m. BREAK

3:30 p.m. Policy over politics: How to make election news engaging and relevant by involving citizens and focusing on issues, Smith Forum 200

Perry Parks, journalism instructor, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Athens, Ga.

Tom Warhover, executive editor for innovation, Columbia Missourian; associate professor, Missouri School of Journalism

4:15 p.m. Handling election-related letters to the editor, Smith Forum 200

Jim Pumarlo, consultant with Community Newspaper Success Strategies and author of "Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Campaign Coverage"

4:45 p.m. The Web as a tool for multimedia election reporting and citizen engagement, Smith Forum 200

Brian Wheeler, executive editor, Charlottesville Tomorrow

5:30 p.m. Adjourn for the day

Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014

8 a.m. Light breakfast, Lambert Room 200A

8:15 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Concurrent lab sessions

(Each session is 55 minutes, with five-minute breaks between. Participants can rotate through both or choose one or none.)

1. Microsoft Excel: Creating and working with campaign finance spreadsheets

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors

Basic knowledge of Excel is recommended, but not required.

2. Graphics and maps: Creating quick interactive election results

Chad Day, investigative and projects reporter, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

10:30 a.m. Voters guides: Last-minute digests of election information, Smith Forum 200

Scott Swafford, workshop coordinator and 2013-2014 Reynolds Fellow

11:15 a.m. Covering election night: How to be first with results, hit deadlines and provide comprehensive, forward-looking reports, Smith Forum 200

Scott Swafford, workshop coordinator and 2013-2014 Reynolds Fellow

Noon Adjourn

Wondering who else you'll meet at Down-home Democracy? Take a look at who we have signed up so far.


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