© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

WKAR launches voter engagement program for 2024 election

America Amplified from WFYI Public Media and WKAR PBS NPR
WFYI Public Media, WKAR-MSU

Every four years, the focus of local, state and national media turns to elections. But within this frenzy, the voices – and questions – of voters often go unheard.

Ashlee Smith

This election cycle, WKAR wants to bridge this gap for Michiganders. As we intensify our coverage for the upcoming election cycle, WKAR is partnering with America Amplified to answer the questions that matter most to voters.

WKAR's Michelle Jokisch Polo spoke with Ashlee Smith, WKAR's Senior Director of Content and Education, to learn how WKAR is working to provide accurate voting information at the local level.

WKAR's 2024 election coverage is available here.

Interview Highlights

On what WKAR is doing alongside America Amplified

This initiative allows our viewers and listeners the opportunity to ask us their questions directly. We've added an embed to our website where anyone can submit their direct questions about the election, and then we'll be able to send back a personalized response to their questions. So, this will be an opportunity for a one-on-one engagement. But we'll also be offering a free voter guide that will compile some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about the upcoming election, and that will be available on our website as well.

On why WKAR wants to take an intentional focus on election coverage

It is a pivotal time for local news as the amount of news deserts in the nation is on the rise. So, this is lessening the coverage of local voices issues and experiences across especially for many of our more rural communities. As a public media station, and to me personally, I feel that it's essential for us to offer a platform for local voices, and to ensure we're answering the real questions and addressing the real issues of our community.

Interview Transcript

Michelle Jokisch Polo: Hi Ashlee! Thanks for being here.

Ashlee Smith: Thank you so much for talking with me.

Jokisch Polo: We are one week out from Michigan’s presidential primary. How does WKAR plan to talk to voters in the mid-Michigan region to learn what’s on their minds during this election year?

Smith: It's extremely important to us here at WKAR to talk with our community members and to understand what questions our community has as we continue into this election year. We've partnered with America Amplified, which is an initiative out of WFYI in Indianapolis, and this initiative allows our viewers and listeners the opportunity to ask us their questions directly.

We've added an embed to our website where anyone can submit their direct questions about the election, and then we'll be able to send back a personalized response to their questions. So, this will be an opportunity for a one-on-one engagement.

But we'll also be offering a free voter guide that will compile some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about the upcoming election, and that will be available on our website as well.

We hope to use the questions that we're receiving through the website to inform the coverage that we provide over the course of the election season as well.

Jokisch Polo: America Amplified is a national program, that exclusively targets local communities, why did you feel it was important to join this effort to dedicate resources to listening to local voices, and answering questions that may be very granular?

Smith: It is a pivotal time for local news as the amount of news deserts in the nation is on the rise. So, this is lessening the coverage of local voices issues and experiences across especially for many of our more rural communities.

As a public media station, and to me personally, I feel that it's essential for us to offer a platform for local voices, and to ensure we're answering the real questions and addressing the real issues of our community.

Jokisch Polo: I understand another part of America Amplified is reaching out to local community members, those members that may be underserved in election education. We can talk about Spanish speakers there’s not always voter guides in Spanish. But America Amplified is hoping to do outreach to these folks. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Smith: We want America Amplified to be a resource to all in our community. This means that we want to make a real effort to ensure everyone has access to get their election questions answered. So, we've already have some excellent Spanish language programming like our ¿Que Onda Michigan? podcast, and we're now taking that a step further.

Our 2024 election page at WKAR.org is going to feature stories, both in English and in Spanish. Our voter guides will also be available in English and in Spanish on our webpage. And we will provide access to that embed in both English and Spanish as well to open the accessibility of that resource. So, we can take your questions in both languages, and we'll also send back responses in both languages.

Jokisch Polo: Where can voters access this election information ... and ask their questions?

Smith: All of our election information is available on our website at WKAR.org. You can scroll down the homepage a little bit and you'll see ‘2024 Election’ ... all our English and Spanish election related content. It will house the voter guides and it will house the embed where folks can ask their questions directly. The embed is also available on our homepage WKAR.org. In both places, you can find it on the right side of that webpage if you just scroll down.

Jokisch Polo: Thanks for being here!

Smith: Thank you so much for having me

Jokisch Polo: Ashlee Smith is WKAR’s Senior Director of Content and Education.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
 

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.