The race to succeed the long-serving Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York presented a challenge for The New York Times: a sizable field of candidates, some of them little-known beyond the world of political junkies, seeking to woo voters in a vast city facing a raft of vexing issues. The Times made the race one of its highest priorities throughout 2013, and its metro and interactive news departments collaborated to pilot and produce an astonishing array of digital features designed to help voters understand who the candidates were, what they were saying and doing, and how they were being funded. Reporters, photographers, videographers, graphic artists, producers, developers and editors created and sustained a trove of valuable data available to voters whenever they checked in — be it throughout the campaign, during a debate, or just before the election, and on multiple platforms — for the first time. Many of the features were designed expressly for mobile users, as well as for those getting access to the content on computers or in print.
The backbone of the Times’s digital coverage of the race was an easily navigated, constantly updated and highly interactive guide to the candidates, allowing readers to peruse the politicians’ stands on issues, sources of funding (sortable by geography), whereabouts (mapped using a database The Times created tracking thousands of campaign appearances), standing in the polls (surveys by multiple outlets tracked over time), and advertising strategies (the site allowed readers to view every broadcast ad of the campaign, accompanied by a fact-check done by a Times reporter).
Many elements of The Times’s digital coverage were highly ambitious. To help voters get a better sense of the candidates’ personalities, The Times created a striking animated video questionnaire, with which viewers could choose a candidate and watch him or her talk, often with unusual candor and charm. And The Times obtained (with some difficulty) nearly unfettered access to the campaign of Christine C. Quinn, one of the more colorful candidates, producing an intimate, raw and provocative film about her defeat that was widely praised for demonstrating the possibilities of documentary video created by an outlet traditionally associated with print.
There was much more, as the Times determined to use the opportunities presented by digital reading to extend the reach and expand the scope of its political journalism. A reporter’s notebook column, called Trailside, was adapted as a subscription email (“Trailside to Go”) for highly interested readers, providing those who signed up with regular behind-the-scenes dispatches from Times journalists. At the newsiest moments of the campaign — on debate nights and on primary and general election nights — The Times created dashboards to integrate a running stream of dispatches from polling places and campaign headquarters, observations gleaned from exit polls, real-time fact-checking of candidate claims and useful Tweets. And, for the first time in a New York City campaign, The Times was able on election night to provide precinct-level results, mapped across the five boroughs, and filterable by race, income, homeownership levels, and previous voting behavior — and all this ran smoothly on smartphones and tablets.
The Times’s online coverage of the race was informative, entertaining, innovative and comprehensive, helping casual readers and as well as politics enthusiasts to get the information they needed and wanted to better understand the candidates and the campaigns.