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Oct. 1, 2020, 2:07 p.m.
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   October 1, 2020

Editor’s note: With mis- and disinformation campaigns heating up, a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and a President who refuses to commit to accepting the results, the 2020 election arrives at a period of extraordinary uncertainty and tension. Nieman Reports and Nieman Lab are publishing a collection of stories exploring how newsrooms are covering this intensely contested vote and its aftermath.

What do newsrooms need to cover the election right now? More people, for starters. Two new initiatives — Votebeat and Election SOS Fellowship — have been launched to help resource-strapped outlets cover a contested and highly consequential election by pairing them with local reporters and emerging journalists.

Votebeat, a pop-up project focused on funding local reporters to cover election administration and voting in key states, is being built on the fly. There’s no official landing page — just a Google sheet and Twitter thread from Elizabeth Green, the founder and CEO of Chalkbeat — but Green says her scrappy idea is moving forward thanks to ProPublica’s Electionland project, Institute for Nonprofit News, and other philanthropic partners.

Green’s original idea called for local reporters to be placed in 23 key states before Election Day but she told me they’ve since narrowed that scope “after learning more about local needs.” Votebeat is currently confirmed to have reporters in six states and they’re hoping to add three additional states in coming weeks.

Green wrote that several state-wide newsrooms — including The Texas Tribune, Mountain State Spotlight, Vermont Digger, and Spotlight PA — have already agreed to participate. They’re looking for additional newsrooms willing to host reporters, assign stories, and distribute election-related work. (Local reporters can signal their interest here.)

Election SOS has also launched a program to provide newsrooms with extra hands to cover the election. The paid fellowship, run by the engagement consulting firm Hearken with financial backing from the American Press Institute and The Democracy Fund, will be staffed by student journalists and recent graduates.

The fellows placed by Election SOS will support their host publications by contributing research, doing community engagement, and compiling voter guides. The emerging journalists will also help the newsrooms they’re paired with “monitor social networks for breaking news, polling, militia activity, and voter suppression.”

The fellowship application period has closed but interested journalism students and reporters can register for the group’s free training sessions.

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