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2019 Gather Award in Engaged Journalism, Project finalist

Florida Voices

About the Project

We set out to cover the 2018 election differently in Florida.

With Floridians poised to choose a new governor, we put our audience in the driver’s seat.

The goal of the project, known as Florida Voices, was to listen intentionally to the hopes and concerns of everyday Floridians — then amplify and create conversation surrounding them. In doing so, we produced sustained coverage that served as an authentic counterpoint to campaign narratives driven by political parties.

Florida Voices launched six months before the midterm election and included:

– Written and video profiles of 22 Floridians of diverse views and backgrounds
– Scientific polling commissioned from Florida Atlantic University to guide our coverage and keep us honest about which issues to focus on, and which Floridians to spotlight
– An online nomination form where readers/viewers could recommend Floridians to profile in the series
– A 24- minute documentary, “Florida Voices: A State In Transition” that debuted on all six USA TODAY Network-Florida sites and was screened at in- person discussion events
– Creation of a Florida Voices Facebook group, where we facilitated thoughtful conversations about the future of Florida and election issues
– Creation of a Florida Voices Instagram account to reach new audiences and drive engagement surrounding the highly visual project
– Creation of a Florida Voices weekly e-newsletter to share behind-the-scenes stories of our journalists’ travels across the state, and to spotlight the weekly profiles

Florida Voices was proposed and led by Opinion & Engagement Editor Eve Samples of TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers, one of six newsrooms of the USA TODAY Network- Florida.

The lead visuals journalist for Florida Voices was Leah Voss, also of TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers, who photographed and created videos for the vast majority of the 22 Floridians profiled. Leah also produced the 24-minute documentary.

Florida Voices was the first collaboration of its kind among the six newsrooms of the USA TODAY Network- Florida (which include the Naples Daily News, The News- Press (Fort Myers), FLORIDA TODAY (Melbourne), the Pensacola News Journal, the Tallahassee Democrat and TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers). Journalists from all of our newsrooms assisted in execution of the project.