Image for post
Image for post
Emma Kaden, Creative Commons. Original photos by Gage Skidmore. Adapted and republished.

By Kerrie Vila
Election SOS

One day this election process will be over, but for now there is still work to be done. In order to help newsrooms stay organized throughout a busy month the ElectionSOS team has put together a list of relevant topics and potential stories to cover this December.

Transition Part I: Biden’s cabinet and agenda

Guiding principles: When covering the transition and new Biden administration try to stay away from the traditional cabinet horse race stories. Although conjecture over potential local politicians becoming national stars is interesting it ultimately is not useful. Try to tie each appointment and policy proposal back to your community. What does having an education secretary with a public school background mean for your school district? …

Image for post
Image for post

Journalists across the country are working hard to keep their communities informed following the election. And that necessary work is often happening when newsrooms and freelancers were already overtaxed and overwhelmed.

At Election SOS, we’re thrilled to support vital journalism with our Rapid Response Fund, to assist journalists who are working to create a well-informed citizenry during post-election emergencies, fast-changing situations and high risk of misinformation and disinformation. In other words, our goal with this fund is to enable reporting that supports democracy and democratic processes.

Today we are pleased to announce the recipients of our first round of funding and also invite applications for an additional round of grants. We will review applications on a rolling basis and provide grants of between $500-$10,000 until the $100,000 in this round is distributed. We prioritize requests that make a clear case for how their work will serve the public and impact democracy in this crucial post-election period. …

By Kerrie Vila, Election SOS

Just because we made it through Election Day does not mean we can become complacent. Yes, most of the country has turned its attention back to the COVID-19 crisis gripping our nation and some of the inches on the front page should return to the other urgent reporting and feel-good stories we all need right now, but let’s be clear: the election is not over. There are still important questions to be answered and the democratic process remains under threat.

In order to help newsrooms continue to surface relevant election coverage amidst the noisy news environment, the ElectionSOS team built its Story and Pitch Database. …

This story will be updated with further resources.

Image for post
Image for post

Engagement is highest in times of need. Today, as the world starts to process the news of President Trump’s positive COVID-19 test, audiences desperately need answers. Here’s how you can immediately invite their questions and incorporate them into your reporting.

3 Steps to Focus Your Coverage on Audience Needs

There’s no better way to focus your reporting on the issues that really matter to your audience than to ask them what they need to know. Here’s what you can do today to center your coverage for the duration:

1. Invite audience questions across channels. Questions, the atomic unit of journalism, give your reporting direction. This is more effective than simply asking people what they want to know. Craft an ask: “What questions do you have about President Trump’s diagnosis and what it means for the election?”

Santa Cruz Local portraits
Santa Cruz Local portraits
Santa Cruz Local is running portraits in every newsletter of people responding to this question: What do you want local candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote this November?

A new portrait appears in every edition of the Santa Cruz Local newsletter, with a local resident’s response to this question: What do you want local candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote in November?

The responses have ranged from racial inequalities to homelessness, from municipal budgets to the human challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That question is being put to voters all around the country as newsrooms incorporate the citizens agenda approach in their 2020 coverage. Media critic and journalism professor Jay Rosen is to thank for articulating this approach, and tirelessly advocating for it each election cycle. The citizens agenda is a powerful model for reaching new audiences and deepening your existing relationships, that allows newsrooms to focus their coverage on the most important issues and demand accountability for responses from candidates. …

Image for post
Image for post
Credit: Austin Geter.

Or Month? How newsrooms can rise to the 2020 challenge

“It’s been 102 hours since the polling results last budged, and here again is our correspondent in the field to offer more insight into what these results could mean for the outcome of last Tuesday’s presidential contest…”

What will November 2020 look like if news outlets use the same tired playbook that served us so badly in the last presidential election?

We are just three months away from the unprecedented challenges of the U.S. presidential election coming to a head on Election Night. It is increasingly likely that results will be agonizingly slow in returning. For the news media obsessed with competition and attention-grabbing, this could mean disaster. …

Image for post
Image for post
As lockdowns began in early 2020, Hearken saw an unprecedented level of submissions across all of our partner sites.

The story of COVID-19 has been told through phases — of infection, of lockdowns, of reopening and then rolling back.

As we continue to enter new phases of the pandemic, new questions continually arise, and newsrooms need to be ready.

That’s why Hearken has teamed up with the Solutions Journalism Network to create an easy-to-use resource based on the best practices we’ve developed with our partner newsrooms who are owning the story, rather than feeling like it owns you.

Read our full post and find our 16-step checklist at Stop drowning alone, start sailing together.

Election SOS
Election SOS

Election SOS now accepting applications to develop listening-based coverage strategies

If you’re a working journalist right now, chances are some of these questions are crossing your mind:

How can I reach new audiences in the midst of a pandemic?

What do people need to know this election season, and how can we best position our coverage to serve them?

How can I produce stories that capture readers in the midst of continuous, all-consuming and competing COVID-19 coverage?

What does it look like to build trust with audiences when attacks on media credibility continue unabated?

What role do newsrooms need to play in ensuring a free and fair election with so many threats to the process? …

Image for post
Image for post

When it comes to topics that New Yorkers have a lot of questions about, it’s hard to beat transit.

“It really speaks to pretty much what unites all New Yorkers, how to get around the city,” said Patricia Willens, metro editor at WNYC.

In 2017, when NYC was facing a “summer of hell” of intensive Penn Station repairs, WNYC and Gothamist partnered on the “We the Commuters” project as a way to serve the information needs of New Yorkers who used mass transit.

The project then went on hiatus, but when WNYC acquired Gothamist the next year, both newsrooms saw an opportunity to collaborate in a bigger way. …

Image for post
Image for post
Photo courtesy Chris Faraone.

The Citizens Agenda is a model for election coverage that puts people, not the horse race, at the center of campaign coverage. Chris Faraone, editorial director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and his team decided to put the citizens agenda to work for the Feb. 11 presidential primary in New Hampshire.

After hearing about the approach in November, they began to plan in earnest in January. By the time they set up shop at their pop-up newsroom in a Manchester bar, they had conducted a survey to identify the top issues people wanted the candidates to be talking about. …


Bridget Thoreson

Storyteller and audience advocate. Engagement manager at Hearken, helping newsrooms pursue public-powered journalism.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store