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When the pandemic created an extraordinary voting situation in Massachusetts, the state rolled out an extraordinary mail-in voting solution — and WBUR came up with an innovative way to explain it to voters, one that arrived in their inboxes and on their own schedule. Automated newsletter courses are gaining popularity in newsrooms as a way to teach subscribers new skills, disciplines and lifestyles. In 2020, WBUR was an early innovator and harnessed this instruction method as a public service: Ahead of the November 2020 election, WBUR launched Mass. Election Prep, a limited-run email course designed to help subscribers become informed voters in just seven days. Mass. Election Prep distributed vital and comprehensive guidance on an array of brand-new voting options and ballot choices.
For the project, WBUR forged a partnership with Boston’s daily Spanish-language newspaper, El Planeta, to translate, market and distribute the newsletter course to Greater Boston’s Latinx communities, one of the region’s fastest growing populations. With voting rights, immigration, the economy and policing at the heart of the 2020 elections, WBUR and El Planeta made a joint effort to reach this diverse audience before they went to the polls.
How it worked: Over a seven-day period of their choosing, Mass. Election Prep’s nearly 5,000
subscribers received practical information on a variety of topics, including a primer on Massachusetts’s first attempt at universal mail-in voting, an analysis of the 2020 state-wide ballot questions, and issue explainers from newsroom beat reporters. Mass. Election Prep truly catered to the subscriber: upon signup, readers chose when they wanted to begin receiving the newsletter course, with availability right up to the week before Election Day. WBUR’s newsroom collaborated to produce a combination of online articles, videos, Alexa skills, and audio stories to explain intimidating topics like ranked-choice voting in engaging and accessible ways.
El Planeta translated all of the emails and collaborated editorially on all the sections addressing the Latino vote. They published select materials in their print newspaper and sent a special edition email to their Spanish language audience on why Latinos should vote. Their team also created Facebook video campaigns and interviews with local influencers about the importance of voting along with their community outreach efforts.
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