Hispanic Nets Cover Vote on TV, Online

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With over 12 million Latinos expected to go to the polls this Nov. 4, Hispanic TV networks are putting together their most-comprehensive Election Day coverage ever. Plans include sending news teams to cover voting booths in major Hispanic markets, real-time news updates throughout the day and special election-night broadcasts.

But unlike previous years, when coverage had been mostly limited to the television screen, Hispanic networks will leverage their growing Web presence for a multiplatform effort that will include live blogging, online polls and text-message updates.

There is a great deal at stake in this election. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, although the voter-turnout rate among Latinos is still relatively low (they are expected to make up only about 6.5% of those who turn up to vote), they loom as a potential “swing vote” in several key states.

Spanish-language media giant Univision claims it is set to deliver “unprecedented” election coverage, most of it revolving around a state-of-the-art Election Center complex in its Miami studios. From there, news anchors María Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos will track the race through to the concession speeches. They will be joined by a group of experts (still to be determined) to analyze the day’s events from a Hispanic perspective.

Univision’s Election Day coverage will begin early in the morning as polls open with special reports during the network’s daytime shows. Later, a special evening broadcast will kick off at 7 p.m. (ET) and continue throughout the night.

Similar efforts are underway at competing Spanish-language nets, including V-me, Telemundo and HITN, which are expected to extend their current political coverage with special election-night telecasts.

“We are going to replicate what we’ve been doing since April with Destination Casa Blanca 2008,” said HITN CEO José Luis Rodríguez, referring to the English-language launched to follow the presidential race from a Hispanic perspective.

During election week, Destination Casa Blanca 2008 will continue its special programs, but will include a two-hour pre-election live wrap-up, with viewer call-ins and pre-voting analysis on Monday Nov. 3 (9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET). There will also be a special Election Night Live show with viewer call-ins starting at 9 p.m. and continuing until candidate concession and victory speeches. V-me, for its part, will kick off a special evening broadcast beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) anchored by top newsman Jorge Gestoso, who leads the network’s news and news-analysis programs.

TUNING IN ONLINE

Hispanic networks will also be leveraging their Web presence to engage audiences beyond the TV screen.

NBC-owned Telemundo will create a “digital set” from which news correspondent Cristina Londoño will be reading comments and questions sent by viewers via the network’s YahooTelemundo Web site. Pedro Sevcec, one of Telemundo’s top news anchors, also will be blogging live about the day’s developments.

“The Internet will play a very important role [in this year’s election coverage] and for the first time, our viewers will be able to participate,” said a Telemundo spokesperson. Also online, the network will post polls every half hour and will be reading results live throughout the night.

Univision is using the Web to encourage visitors to be part of the election-day coverage. Earlier this month, visitors to “Destino 2008,” the network’s election-news microsite, were invited to submit their information and comment on which candidate they think will solve their particular problems. The site is in the process of evaluating readers’ responses to determine who will be invited to participate live. A Univision spokesperson declined to say how many people have registered so far, as there is still some time before the election.

Even English-language networks targeting young Latinos with entertainment shows are beginning to jump into action. Los Angeles-based LATV this year launched Decisión 2008, a program created to discuss political issues relevant to young Latinos.

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