A snapshot of Election Day coverage from Grady Newsource, a student production of the Grady College and the only local TV newscast focusing on events in Athens and the surrounding Northeast Georgia region.
Grady journalism students participate in Electionland, searching for voting problems
With rumors swirling around the country about a rigged presidential election and anticipated problems at the polls, there is little doubt that students in Barry Hollander’s course, Public Opinion and the 2016 Election, will have their hands full with Electionland on November 8.
Grady College is one of 13 journalism colleges across the county participating in Electionland, an effort to identify and verify problems at the polls. On election day, the public opinion students will be part of First Draft, a coalition of social newsgathering and verification specialists monitoring social media through apps like Facebook Signal, TinEye and Dataminr. They will be looking for voting problems like long lines, voting machine problems, accusations of intimidation issues, voter fraud and provisional balloting.
Once problems are identified, they will be sent to the headquarters at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York where the problems will go through further verification and be forwarded to local journalists for follow-up.
“Think of this as seekers and catchers,” Hollander, a journalism professor at Grady College, said. “The students are the seekers. They go out scouring social media for reports of voting problems looking for key words. Their job is then to try to verify whether it’s really occurring. Then they send it up to the catchers in New York. They will verify it again then send back downstream to journalists on the street who can then do stories about voting problems.”
The Grady students will be responsible for monitoring Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout Georgia from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. The students have a long list of key words they will be searching for that people might use to describe voting problems. Students will also be trying to verify the authenticity of photographs and have been trained in techniques used to spot fake photographs through reverse image searches, metadata and verifying file sizes to authenticate original photos.
“Rumors, conspiracy theories, debunking, fact finding and fact-checking…it’s what we do every day in journalism,” Hollander said. “We’re just focused here on the election. Once you master the skill in this domain, you can apply it anywhere else.”
Public Opinion and the 2016 Election is a special topics course comprising 27 students who have watched the debates, learned what public opinion is and how polls work. Each student is also assigned a journalist to cover and evaluate during the election.
Hollander has a few expectations for his students. “I expect the students to understand how hard it is to really measure public opinion and how to report and write about public opinion. This project is really a chance for them to master finding what’s going on in social media and verifying if it’s really true.”
“In a way, we are just part of the reporting step,” Hollander continued. “Our job is to save journalists the time and trouble of separating the chaff from the wheat.”
Other colleges participating in Electionland include, but are not limited to, the University of Florida, University of Tennessee and University of North Carolina. Each Frist Draft organization was assigned a geographic region to monitor and trained in the process needed for reporting.
Electionland is coordinated by ProPublica and a collation of news organizations including Google News Lab, USA Today Network and Univision, among others.
Election Day coverage from Grady College
Reporting on elections is a cornerstone in journalism education, and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has several special projects scheduled to cover the local and presidential elections Nov. 8, 2016.
A preview of the expected print and video coverage is below:
Electionland is a nationwide effort to identify voting problems such as long lines at the polls, voting machine problems and voter fraud. Professor Barry Hollander’s special topics class “Public Opinion and the 2016 Election,” is one of 13 journalism schools across the county that was selected and trained to identify and verify these issues using a variety of social media search engines and to report them for the entire state of Georgia. Once reported, the issues will be filtered to local journalists for follow-up. This program is sponsored by ProPublica and the Coalition of News Organizations. Visit the Electionland website for more details.
Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County TV coverage
Grady Newsource, the only television broadcast provider in the Athens-Clarke and County County area, will provide extended political coverage to its viewers on-air and online with “You Decide Northeast Georgia,” an election special on November 8 from 8 to 10 p.m. After the regular 5 to 6 p.m. Newsource broadcast that day, the students will provide three cut-ins at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. leading up to the special. If local races are not called by 10 p.m., Newsource will program additional cut-ins after the special. The digital team will update the website throughout the day, so that coverage is continuous even when the show is not on air.
“You Decide Northeast Georgia” will broadcast from multiple locations. Students will provide coverage featuring interviews with political experts, as well as updates from the digital team. There will be a team of reporters at each county elections office in the coverage area. Clarke County and Oconee County reporters will be live during the show. Newsource will air live shots from the University Union Watch Party, as well.
In addition to live coverage, reporters are already working on content that digs deeper into the local races and provides context for the vote. The show will feature profiles of candidates, analysis of voting trends and interviews with some of Georgia’s leading political experts.
Similar election coverage was done by Grady Newsource in Fall 2015.
Graduate Newsroom team
Grady’s Graduate Newsroom team includes 11 graduate students who will provide written and video coverage of the local Athens-Clarke County elections under the direction of Professor Pat Thomas. Students will provide coverage of democracy in action from local precincts before, during and after Election Day. A panel discussion has already taken place featuring State Rep. Regina Quick, Athens Banner-Herald Editor Ed Morales, Professor Charles Bullock (UGA SPIA) and Ms. Cora Wright, supervisor of for elections in ACC. Writing from the vantage point of Athens, they will report about candidates, campaign volunteers and events, donors and finance issues, voter engagement, referendum issues, poll workers and voters.
Students will report on one print and one video story in the run-up to the election. On Election Day, each student reporter will stake out his/her polling place and conduct interviews with people involved with the voting process. They will also report on a feature after the election, looking back at candidates and issues.
The professional partner of the Graduate Newsroom team is the Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.