Politics quicken the pulse of many Marion County voters. 

It stirs conversations over coffee cups from Pleasantville to Pella. A Knoxville woman bites her tongue rather than risk political spats with friends. A student, agitated by social media posts against gun control, posts his own views for the world to like or troll.

The Knoxville Journal-Express and The Pella Chronicle soon will embark on a unique project to capture the pulse of local voters in their homes, communities and workplaces.

It’s part of a nationwide effort by the 100 or so newspapers owned by the papers’ parent company — Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Our reporters will roam the county, listening to people talk about the direction of the country and the performance of Congress and the president.

We’ll also likely ask groups of voters to visit with us at informal meeting places, taking the opportunity to listen in a more meaningful way than just a straight question-and-answer interview.

We won’t be asking so much, “What do you think of politicians and their ideas” but more “How is what’s happening with Congress and the president affecting you, your family and the place you live and work?”

We’ll write several local stories but we will also share reporting to a CNHI national editor who will cull the reporting all newspapers provide and combine it into a longer national story that all newspapers can publish at the end of March. The project calls for a package of stories every quarter until the 2020 presidential election. CNHI newspapers are mostly in medium and smaller-sized markets, both dailies and weeklies.

The reports should provide not only a good cross section of each community in terms of political leanings and other demographic factors but also a cross section of the country as a whole.

Many of the markets where CNHI newspapers exist were solidly Republican and went more so with the election of President Donald Trump. Many voted for Democrats for many years and went for Trump by smaller margins.

The effort is approached without bias or pre-conceived notions. We will be seeking people who voted or are registered to vote. We’ll also be seeking people who are somewhat informed on the issues but who are not policy wonks.

We’ll try to get at the bigger issues by simply asking people if they think American democracy is working and why or why not. We’ll follow up from there based on where those answers take us.

This is your time to speak out, speak up or speak softly if that’s more your style.

If you’d like to participate in this project and don’t mind having your views and photo in the newspaper, contact us at (641) 842-2155 or editor@journalexpress.net.

We think this project will be a great service to readers and, more importantly, to our democracy.


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