Inauguration coverage is always a challenge because you know every other news organization is out there covering the same event along with you, so you want to get something different. Our team decided to create a piece with perspectives throughout the city during inauguration day instead of just focusing on the official events. Brad Horn went to a family’s home in southeast D.C., where people would be watching the events on TV. Gabe Silverman went to a gym and a restaurant and got some street scenes away from downtown. And I stayed on the mall, getting reaction’s to Obama’s speech. After we all got back to the office, I gathered everyone’s footage and edited together this piece. It was a 23-hour work day to make it all happen, but a lot of fun to create nonetheless.
Over the past couple months, Joel Achenbach and I traveled to four of the swing states that will decide this year’s presidential election. We looked at each state’s political geography and offered a picture of what voters in each place are thinking. We didn’t line up interviews with voters in advance (we did arrange to talk to some officials and experts beforehand), and instead chose general areas and routes where we stopped to talk with people we found along the way.
In Ohio we looked at the Cleveland area since much of Ohio’s stretch along the banks of Lake Erie is considered to be a firewall for Obama. We wanted to find out if his base there will remain intact. I focused on whether his ground game will be effective, and how the economy is doing there since that is the biggest issue in most places across the country.
In Florida, we traveled to the Orlando area to seek out that state’s Puerto Rican voters. The Puerto Rican population there has grown dramatically in recent years, and a high percentage of them live in central Florida. Unlike the Cubans in the southern part of the state, Puerto Ricans tend to vote for democrats. But some of them struggle to find a candidate who meets all their needs. Many Puerto Ricans are socially conservative evangelicals, but they support immigration and entitlements.
Wisconsin seemed to be the land of the true swing voter. Many people we met said they were genuinely undecided, independent voters. We met one woman who decided to vote for Obama, but after the first presidential debate, she may have changed her mind. But as it is in many places, we also found differences between the urban and rural parts of the state. Milwaukee and Green Bay seemed to be leaning towards Obama, but the open spaces in between often echoed more conservative sentiments.
And in Virginia we drove south from Washington to find where the South begins. We wanted to find out if Virginia is still a southern state and how that will impact which way that state swings. The state has changed a lot in recent years. Farms have been turned into shopping malls and housing developments. People from other states have moved there, changing the political makeup of Virginia. The state selected Obama for the presidency four years ago, but the race remains tight this time around.
On Tuesday, these states and a handful of others will be the places where the election is decided. See the stories here.
I produced all the videos. Joel Achenbach wrote the stories. And there were some terrific still photographs that were made for this project as well. Michael S. Williamson traveled with us to Virginia and Ohio. Sarah Voisin came to Florida. And Bill O’Leary joined us in Wisconsin.
In mid-June a group of us from The Post took off for Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada to check out oil sands operations before driving down the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I produced a story about the environmental impacts of different types of extraction methods companies are using to pull the oil out of the sand there, as well as a story about what it’s like to live in the boom town that is Fort McMurray. I put together this moody piece about our departure from Canada and did a quick story about the town in Montana, with a population of only nine, just over the Canada/U.S. border.
We went a little off course to North Dakota to check out the oil boom happening there since some of that oil will likely be shipped to the Keystone XL. We found that infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the population growth in the western part of the state and many people have struggled to find affordable places to live. Jobs, however, are plentiful and the pay is good. It felt a bit like a modern day gold rush, with people flocking there to make a fortune of their own.
In South Dakota we met rancher John Harter who has been fighting TransCanada in court to try to stop them from bringing the Keystone XL across his land. But TransCanada recently won the case on the grounds of eminent domain and Harter could not have seemed more downtrodden about this. Harter is now hoping he can at least demand more money for the inconvenience of having a pipeline built across his land. I didn’t realize a private company like TransCanada would be able to obtain eminent domain, so it was interesting learning more about how that works and how people like John Harter are impacted by it.
My last stop was in Nebraska, where we went to a cookout and fundraiser in Spalding for state senator Ken Haar. People there wanted to thank Haar for his work to redirect the pipeline from their land, the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Many of them also gathered there to talk more about how to completely stop the construction of Keystone XL because they see it as a threat to the water and land throughout their state.
In all I spent two weeks on the road before hopping on a plane in Omaha to head home. My colleagues, Steven Mufson and Michael S. Williamson, along with Mufson’s daughter Natalie, kept going after I returned to Washington, heading down to Port Arthur, Tex., to see where the refining process will happen. They stopped at some Native American reservations in Oklahoma along the way, which was a part of the trip I was especially disappointed to miss. Keep up with the rest of their journey at www.washingtonpost.com/keystone.
It was eye-opening to get a firsthand look at the oil sands operations in Canada and to see how folks along the proposed pipeline route may be impacted if it comes their way. Environmental, social, economic and political effects will be important considerations if plans move forward to put this pipeline into place.
With an unemployment rate hovering around six percent, Iowa’s economy has fared better than most states’, but the economy is still the issue that most concerns voters in the Hawkeye State. While the farming industry is booming, the manufacturing industry there has faced significant challenges as Iowa heads into the caucuses on Jan. 3. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)
Whitney Shefte is in Iowa right now to cover the first caucuses. She’ll have coverage coming from New Hampshire as well. Meanwhile, get some insight into what matters to Iowans in Whitney’s video above.
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz examines the changing political landscape in Iowa, where GOP presidential candidates are spending less time meeting caucus voters in intimate settings and more time at debates and on social media. (Whitney Shefte and Dan Balz)
Washington Post VJ Whitney Shefte spent last week in Iowa, reporting in the state whose caucuses mark the opening of the presidential nomination process. Whitney, along with national political correspondent Dan Balz, learned that things are changing in Iowa, as they change across the country. From Dan’s story:
DES MOINES — Four years ago, Iowa was awash in presidential candidates crisscrossing the state. Campaign headquarters were packed with staffers and volunteers. The airwaves were clogged with political commercials. Excitement was palpable. Today, everything seems different.
Iowa still holds its coveted position as the state whose caucuses will mark the opening of the Republican presidential nomination process. What happens here Jan. 3 will still have a major impact on the Republican race. But at least for this presidential cycle, Iowa has lost much of the unique character that has marked previous campaigns.
This is what the US–Mexico border looks like in Big Bend National Park. Or: Why GOP presidential candidates have no idea what they’re talking about when they talk about building a high-security fence on every inch of the border.