Eight twenty-five on the morning of August 18, 2014. For most, this journey started when the first Red Box email briefing arrived in thousands of inboxes. For me, it began at 6am the previous Wednesday, when I walked into the new Times newsroom on my first day.
We’ve come a pretty long way since then. I am now used to a 4.30am wake-up call, and our readers — both inside and outside of Westminster — are increasingly interested in the general election, as we edge ever closer towards it. The point of Red Box, the election project from The Times and The Sunday Times, is to tell the story which pans out over the coming months in a different way.
It’s a safe bet that every news outlet in Britain will cover the general election — and most will do so pretty comprehensively. Now that we’re in the final 100-day period, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Whether it’s a newspaper splash, a knock at your door, a tweet, a party election broadcast or an item on a news bulletin, even the least engaged members of the electorate will encounter the campaign.
Red Box aims to serve those who are actively seeking out in-depth election news.
Through data-based analyses and features, the team looks at politics from a different angle to those covering the day-to-day Westminster stories. On top of this, we have a brilliant team of commentators — including Times columnists like Tim Montgomerie and Daniel Finkelstein, ST writers such as Adam Boulton and Camilla Cavendish and other contributors like Damian McBride and Matthew Goodwin — on hand to give their take on the election’s twists and turns.
My personal highlights so far include:
- Voters on the move (Alice Ross and the Times Data Team)
- Lib Dems in danger (Alice Ross, Tom Knowles and the Times Data Team)
- Cameron could win on a third of the vote (Tim Montgomerie)
- David Cameron is mistaken if he thinks he won’t be empty-chaired (Adam Boulton)
- Who will survive election year? (Philip Webster)
- An open letter to Douglas Carswell (Daniel Finkelstein)
Of course, Philip Webster — a man with peerless political experience on Fleet Street — is in charge, working on his eleventh general election at The Times. Tim Shipman, the political editor of The Sunday Times, takes the helm at weekends, writing a brilliant take of the state of British politics every Sunday morning.
Our free daily briefing, which more than 30,000 people signed up to in the first five months, is sent shortly after 8am during the week, and just before 9am on Sundays.
We use two brilliant pieces of software developed in-house — Deck by Chris Hutchinson and Axis by Ændrew Rininsland — to build it. The manner in which developers have worked so closely with Red Box journalists has allowed us to discuss these tools on an ongoing basis, ensuring they are as useful as possible.
Building a political news website from the ground up isn’t easy — but few would have been expected it to be.
Joseph Stashko, digital development editor, and Nick Petrie, deputy head of digital, devised a topic-based structure which allows readers to follow every aspect of the race each day. If you want to look at the Liberal Democrats’ campaign, the jostling over TV debates, the economic discussion or another area of the election, we have it covered. And you can read some of it for free — or try it all for just £1 for a month.
Times+ members also get the chance to come to our events in which leading Westminster faces grapple with some of the most difficult questions in British politics. Why not come along to our next debate?
Red Box has been on quite a journey since its launch. As the campaign continues and our readership grows, make sure to keep an eye out for what comes next.