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The California Journalism Preservation Act would do more harm than good. Here’s how the state might better help news
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Oct. 15, 2020, 11:53 a.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   October 15, 2020

From wild conspiracy theories to legitimate growing pains associated with implementing brand-new voting procedures, exactly how Americans will cast their ballots has become a major political story. FiveThirtyEight is promising “constant coverage” of the evolving process — including all of the moving parts and “subplots” – by launching a “slower-than-usual liveblog” that will last until voting ends on November 3.

In the year 2020, the logistics of voting — “once the province of only the most committed election nerds,” as election analyst Nathaniel Rakich writes in an opening post — keep taking center stage:

The closure of in-person voting sites has resulted in long lines at those that have remained open. Many people have not had their votes counted because their mail ballots were rejected or didn’t arrive at all. Problems with the U.S. Postal Service have exacerbated concerns that mail ballot deadlines are impossibly tight. And the tsunami of mail ballots could mean it takes longer than ever to learn the results of the election.

Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of the election, falsely claiming that mail ballots are prone to fraud and opening up a gaping partisan divide in who is likely to vote by mail. He has encouraged his supporters to police in-person polling locations and suggested he will challenge the results in court if he loses.

(We’ve written about what experts think journalists should do ahead of the presidential election, which may take days or even weeks to conclusively pick a winner, and why providing context when reporting on voting irregularities is important.)

FiveThirtyEight sees the blog as a “‘reporter’s notebook’ for all things election administration” with journalists dropping developments that don’t yet merit their own full stories.

Rakich told me the newsroom (of around 35 people) just doesn’t have the bandwidth to write a standalone article for every scrap of election administration news. The live blog is “basically just a cleaned-up version of the Slack channel we already had going,” he said. “We were already pasting in links to share with each other and discussing the various issues at play, so we figured, why don’t we publish these exchanges for everyone to see?”

The granularity of the project will appeal to those who want to track relevant court cases, early voting totals, and reported problems before they become fully-fledged national stories.

Rakich, for example, flagged an issue affecting voters in Pittsburgh.

The live blog will also answer reader questions about voting and hold live chats “discussing the voting-rights topic du jour.” Here’s reporter Kaleigh Rogers asking about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dramatically restricting the number of sites for voters to drop off completed ballots.

I think this exchange happened yesterday, but FiveThirtyEight doesn’t seem to have updated its live blog format — usually used for single-day events — to consistently include the date alongside the time stamp. FiveThirtyEight has received hundreds of reader questions, ranging from specific queries about voting (“Can I vote in person if I’ve already requested a ballot by mail?”) to ones that skew a little broader (“Who is going to win the election?”).

You can keep up with updates on the loooong live blog here.

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The California Journalism Preservation Act would do more harm than good. Here’s how the state might better help news
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