Dispatches from the Swing State

(NOTE: Use Google Chrome or Safari to view all pictures.) To the contest judges: Dispatches from the Swing State was one photographer's and one radio producer's desperate search for humanity in politics. Below is a curated selection of their findings and an explanation of their journey.


  1. (If site is not working in some way, you'll find the same content in video form here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95jKt-IsEeg )

    For 10 days, Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell and WLRN-Miami Herald radio producer Kenny Malone waded into a battleground state talking to people first and eventually getting around to politics. 

    The result was an array of multimedia (radio pieces, audio slideshows, tweets, Instagram photos and a front-page newspaper story) that challenged readers, listeners and viewers to hear people out - to hear their stories, their circumstances and, eventually, their politics.


    From Key West to the Florida Panhandle, Farrell and Malone talked health insurance with a fire juggler, trickle-down economics with a goat farmer and tobacco taxes with a Cuban-American cigar maker.

    Their journey was tracked on an interactive map. Each point on the map is a piece of content.

    Along the way, Dispatches from the Swing State experimented with a social media travelogue. The team used Instagram and Twitter to chart a sort of digital bread crumb trail that could engage an audience in between more time-consuming production elements like radio pieces and audio slideshows.  Below is a sampling of the Twitter and Instagram content.


  3. Dan Stratton, 53-yr-old billboard man, would prefer to be hanging ads for Herman Cain, but he'll settle for Romney. "It's a little easier (than Obama)," he said of hanging this Romney sign. #fldispatches
    Dan Stratton, 53-yr-old billboard man, would prefer to be hanging ads for Herman Cain, but he'll settle for Romney. "It's a little easier (than Obama)," he said of hanging this Romney sign. #fldispatches
  4. BILLBOARD DAN: (Above) Our Dispatches team pulled off State Road 51 in Suwannee County when they saw Dan Stratton installing a Romney/Ryan billboard.

    9 MPH OVER: (Below) Within a couple hours of starting the trip, the Dispatches minivan got pulled over for doing 64 in a 55 on the way to Key West. On the left side of the following photo, a shadow of Patrick Farrell can be seen snapping the picture. In the silver car, a Monroe County police officer uses his loudspeaker to tell Farrell to get back into his minivan.

  5. #FLDispatches by the numbers: 64 in a 55, < 1 mi. after @RadioMalone took over driving.
    #FLDispatches by the numbers: 64 in a 55, < 1 mi. after @RadioMalone took over driving.
  7. BAD PREDICTIONS: (Above) Dispatches stopped in Florida's psychic capital, Cassadaga, on Thursday, Oct. 11 to get a sense of where the election was headed. They also checked on a rumor that Fidel Castro had passed away.

    PUP-SICK: (Below) Kenny Malone Skypes with his dog after almost a week apart.
  8. Miami Herald executive editor Aminda Marquéz Gonzalez wrote in an editorial that, "Malone and Farrell’s daily reports — a rich collection of audio-visual vignettes — are a marriage of old-school street reporting and modern social media tools.”

    From crashing the "Old Timers Reunion" in Naples to staking out an "oystering" boat ramp near Panacea (see "Love and Oystering"), the "old-school" reporting helped the Dispatches team find Floridians you wouldn't normally encounter in a political story. The new tools of social media and digital storytelling helped bring those stories to an audience in a new and exciting way.


    When the Dispatches team landed in the Florida Panhandle (where one political yard sign read "Fishing = Jobs"), a singular sentiment emerged: Oysters had been unusually scarce during the season. It had been devastating.

    At 5:30 a.m. the team parked at a boat ramp near Panacea and waited. Eventually, Matt and Hollie Hodges, a rare oystering couple, came along. Their dispatch, an audio slideshow titled "Love and Oystering", is below.
  9. Hollie and Matt Hodges - Love and Oystering

    About 375 miles southeast of the Hodges is the Umbuzi Farm & Dairy in Buckingham, where goat farmer and cheese maker Jim Ellis started as a handyman. The farm's owner bought the 15-acre spot in eastern Lee County as a getaway and inherited a handful of goats. With his boss's financial backing, Jim has turned Umbuzi into an award-winning goat cheese producer.  Jim's dispatch: How trickle-down economics blends with goat cheese.

  11. Jim Ellis - Trickle-Down Goat Cheese
  12. ADDITIONAL NOTE: The Ellis family almost exclusively uses goat's milk on their cereal, in their coffee and for general drinking. Our Dispatches team confirms that it's just as good as cow's milk.

    Ivery Luckey does not concern himself with milk distinctions in the morning. The 64-year-old talks through a gob of green apple-flavored chewing tobacco he refers to as his "breakfast." Below, one of the Dispatch team's favorite characters - a cowboy who's afraid of horses and retirement.
  14. Ivery Luckey - 'As Is' Cattleman

    The strangest incident of the Dispatches project happened early in the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 9th - down on the farm with Ivery Luckey. The following radio dispatch aired in Miami later that afternoon.


    Before the trip, Malone and Farrell loaded a laptop with hundreds of spreadsheets of Florida economic, demographic and electoral data. The information was a crucial supplement to the team's social media travelogue. The data sets helped the Dispatches team steer their reporting and provided added value to their digital breadcrumb trail. See below some examples.

  17. 80 Years, 20 Elections, One Woman

    The final installment of the Dispatches from the Swing State series was one of the most popular. The following radio story aired on WLRN on Election Day, Nov. 6th, 2012.  Presenting the unforgettable Selma Friedman.