Image by Joe Amditis.

Strengthening democracy one story at a time: A content menu for newsrooms

Joe Amditis
8 min readJul 6, 2023


As we gear up for U.S. Democracy Day on Sept. 15, 2023, newsrooms across the country are delving into the heart of our nation’s democratic processes. This nationwide pro-democracy reporting collaborative seeks to shine a light on the bedrock principles that hold our society together.

For those who are considering joining our ranks as reporting partners, or for anyone seeking a clearer understanding of what we mean by “pro-democracy reporting,” we’ve crafted this comprehensive content menu. It provides a range of story examples and reporting directions you and your newsroom can explore to engage your audience, promote democratic practices, and contribute to the national conversation on the state of our democracy.

The content menu shared below is meant to inspire and guide your newsroom in producing vital, compelling, pro-democracy reporting. This commitment to local reporting contributes directly to our democracy, highlighting the often unseen but critical work happening in communities across the nation, and providing necessary scrutiny to anti-democratic movements and policies.

Voting rights, processes, and what’s working to fight voter suppression

Stories about how voting works, how to vote, changes in voting laws or polling locations, information about how to access absentee ballots, early voting, etc. Stories about efforts to suppress turnout, how communities are responding, and what’s working to increase turnout — especially among those who have been disenfranchised in the past.

Stories that feature who’s making progress and how when it comes to increasing voter turnout, making voting easily accessible to all citizens, ensuring fairness in redistricting, or other ways groups or municipalities are strengthening democracy.

Pre-bunking: Stories about what election boards and states are doing to ensure voting systems remain secure in between elections.

Stories about new citizens being registered to vote, with someone’s story of how they were able to join our democracy, and what their plan is for participating.

Fact-checking articles debunking misinformation about the democratic process.

Articles comparing the U.S. democratic process to other countries, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement.

Explaining the voting rights of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and examining attempts to restrict those rights.

Here are some examples from other newsrooms:

Elections: Centering communities, not candidates

Voter guides and town halls (or reverse townhalls) that center audiences and the issues that are most important to them, instead of politicians.

Solutions stories examining the evidence behind the policies and proposals backed by major candidates versus those supported by the public — are those the same? If not, why?

Stories about how elections are conducted in your city, region, or state, focusing on behind-the-scenes processes and the credibility of those processes.

Explain the process of getting ballot measures and constitutional or charter amendments approved on a municipal, county and or state level.

Explain legislative maneuvers to make it harder to get ballot measures and constitutional amendments approved at the state level.

Candidate profiles through a community or voting rights lens: Who is coming out in strong support or opposition of these candidates, and why? What are their stances on policies related to voting rights, democratic participation, and protection?

Profiles or other humanizing pieces about people working in government or local election offices (to combat vilification).

Follow the money: Who is funding these campaigns and candidates, and what are their interests?

Proactive stories that warn readers about what to expect on election day & related threats.

Here are some examples from other newsrooms:

Government + policy

What’s working in your city/county and state? And what’s not working, and who is doing it better?

What policies and mechanisms — if any — exist to allow the public to scrutinize public officials and agencies, or hold government officials accountable beyond the election ballot?

Articles about transition of power in your municipality, city or state: How does it work? What laws cover it? Is it undergirded by tradition? How much preparation does it take, and when does that prep start?

Articles examining how checks and balances work in your municipality, city or state. Explain the branches of government and what it can do on its own, and what they must work together on, and what happens in times of disagreement.

Here are some examples from other newsrooms:

Transparency + trust

Transparency stories that explain your newsroom’s approach to democracy and elections coverage (what you will do and won’t do).

Engaged journalism that democratizes your own newsroom: Take and answer the public’s questions for candidates, about the mechanics of voting, or how journalism relates to democracy.

Stories that explain the impact of your work: How have the mechanisms of reporting in your newsroom changed how local or state governments operate? And what has your journalism done to advance democracy?

Participatory and service journalism: Are there ways for publics to use the same tools journalists use (i.e FOIA, Sunshine Act, etc.) to access the same information journalists access? How?

Here are some examples from other newsrooms:

Civic engagement

Coverage of civic holidays like National Voter Registration Day and Vote Early Day.

Interactive journalism that gamifies civic engagement, like quizzes on voting or local government in your area, candidate or volunteer opportunity matches, etc.

Articles that explore some of the most well-known constitutional rights, including the First Amendment — its history, notable legal cases, and what is allowed and not allowed, and how violations are punished or not punished.

How to: Explain ways and organizations locals can get involved with related to democracy (E.g., host a ballot party, volunteer with X organization).

Profiles of local democracy-focused nonprofits and their work.

Here are some examples from other newsrooms:

Attacks on democracy

Stories about threats to democratic processes, rights and institutions at the local, state, and federal level.

Articles about city and state-imposed restrictions on libraries and education

Stories about attempts to limit citizen-driven legislative efforts, such as constitutional amendments

U.S. Democracy Day is not just a date on the calendar. It represents our collective commitment to uphold the principles of democratic participation, transparency, and accountability.

As we look toward Sept. 15, we cannot forget or ignore the indispensable role journalism plays in informing the public and safeguarding our democracy. We invite you to join this nationwide pro-democracy reporting collaborative, because every story matters, and your voice can play a pivotal role in strengthening the resilience of our democratic institutions.

Let’s join together in this endeavor to equip our communities with the knowledge they need to actively defend and participate in the democratic process.

Joe Amditis is assistant director of products and events at the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact him at or on Twitter at @jsamditis.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit

The Democracy Day Content Menu was compiled by the U.S. Democracy Day organizing committee, including: Beatrice Forman, Jaisal Noor, Rachel Glickhouse, Stefanie Murray, Bridget Thoreson, and Jennifer Brandel.



Joe Amditis

Associate director of operations, Center for Cooperative Media; host + producer, WTF Just Happened Today podcast.