Kerry Concession Changes Ohio Papers’ Focus

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By: Joe Strupp

With the presidential race focused on Ohio early this morning as the undecided state, newspaper editors in the Buckeye State were already organizing big plans to cover the expected provisional ballot count — which some believed could have gone on for weeks, a la Florida in 2000.

But when word spread that Sen. John Kerry had called President Bush to concede, Ohio newsrooms scrambled to refocus coverage.

Some, like The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, breathed a collective sigh of relief that the close count would not drag on, and pulled back some resources from the presidential election. “It’s a moot point,” declared Doug Clifton, Plain Dealer editor, who said he had about six reporters on the presidential election story — one-third of what he would have assigned without a Kerry concession. “We were in the middle of an attack plan when the concession moved on the AP. We are now sorting out who is going to do what.”

But most others, such as the Dayton Daily News, said they would still focus on the provisional count, while also expanding efforts to look at how Bush won the state and why so many voters turned out.

“It’s still a big, big story for us,” said Steve Sidlo, managing editor of the Dayton paper. “It underscores the impact of Ohio in deciding who the next president would be.” He added that the Kerry concession almost caused his paper to put out an extra edition today. “We came about an inch away from doing it,” he added. “But we had some printing limitations and we will do a special section instead tomorrow.”

Sidlo, among others, pointed out that the Kerry concession clears the way for other analysis stories that have merit given the last-minute elements of Ohio’s vote. “We have a couple of people looking at how the GOP won it,” he said. “The Democrats did what they set out to do — they got victories in key counties, but it was not enough. Why?”

Alan Miller, managing editor/news at The Columbus Dispatch, agreed. “We are still going to look at the provisional ballots,” he said. “Ohio still has to address how they are handled. We will put a little more focus on stories explaining the voting system, and the huge crowds that showed up. One location still had people voting at 4 in the morning.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer, meanwhile, still planned to keep its three-person statehouse bureau on presidential election coverage. “We will look at the secretary of state and the pressure on him,” said Managing Editor Hollis Towns. “Also, how did Bush overcome the job loss issue in Ohio to win?”

The undecided vote in Ohio had prompted the Enquirer to plan for an extra edition late Wednesday morning if any final outcome had been decided by 6 a.m. “But there was no victory speech or definitive decision in time, so we did not do it,” Towns said.

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