Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 24, 1996

WOI Radio tunes into voters of Madison County

by Steve Sullivan
WOI Radio is launching an election-year program that could make Madison County as famous for its voters as it is for its bridges.

"The Voters of Madison County" is a citizens' forum that will gather several times during this election year for group discussions on issues, politics and candidates. The discussions will be used for news stories and other special WOI broadcasts.

The project is an effort to advance "civic journalism," in which the people of the community largely determine the issues and course of discussion, as opposed to debating issues shaped by the media and politicians, said Rick Lewis, WOI Radio station manager.

"Madison County is obviously the most internationally known of any Iowa county," Lewis said. "Because of its location, we have been able to put a group of people together who will bring both rural and urban perspectives to the table."

More than 50 Madison County residents were interviewed for the project. A group of 18 voters ultimately were selected for the project. The initial selection process was conducted by T.L. Grantham and Associates, a Des Moines research firm.

"We are seeking a variety of perspectives on the issues impacting this election year, so we put together a diverse group of people in terms of age, gender, political affiliation and income," said Rick Fredericksen, WOI Radio news director. "The group includes farmers, small business people, community leaders, students, an accountant, a minister and insurance agent."

Alternating groups of nine voters will meet at least three times before the November elections. Each recording session will last two hours. News stories and special expanded programs resulting from the recording sessions will be broadcast on WOI AM and FM stations. The material also will be "uplinked" over WOI's Iowanet, a satellite news service, and offered to National Public Radio.

The voters will meet at historic landmarks in Madison County. The first recording session was held this week at the Madison County Historical Museum in Winterset. The first broadcast of "The Voters of Madison County" on AM will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 (repeated at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 8),and on FM at noon June 8. WOI reporter Joyce Russell will moderate the broadcasts.

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