The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Department of Journalism and Creative Media is partnering with a coalition of organizations to create a virtual newsroom that will produce stories on voting problems as they happen. The initiative, termed Electionland, is one of the first of its kind.
By creating a virtual newsroom to produce stories on voting problems in real time, and by distributing leads about voting problems to local journalists who can follow up on them, the project aims to help those who might have been turned away to cast their ballots. It’s an issue ProPublica believes is particularly urgent this election cycle because of new legislation that could affect citizens’ access to the ballot box, and because of the doubt cast on the validity of the system by one of the presidential candidates.
“There is no more essential act in a democracy than voting,” ProPublica stated in a news release announcing Electionland. “But making sure that the balloting is open to all and efficiently administered has been, at best, a low priority for many state legislatures, a victim of misplaced priorities and, at times, political gamesmanship.”
Chip Brantley, senior lecturer of emerging media, and his team of C&IS faculty and students will aid the organization in its initiative this Election Day from their own newsroom on The University of Alabama’s campus. Using a variety of social networking sites, data software and reporting systems, the team of approximately 30 students will monitor polling sites across the states of Alabama and Mississippi.
By viewing users’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the “feeders” will report voting problems to a team of professional journalists assigned to specific regions of the country. From there, the national Electionland desk – also staffed by professional journalists – will liveblog pertinent election happenings and appear on national media to discuss these issues as needed.
The University of Alabama’s Department of Journalism and Creative Media is one of only 14 journalism programs in the nation selected to participate in this year’s Electionland. Other programs include: Columbia University, CUNY, the University of North Carolina and the University of Missouri. Corporate and organizational sponsors include: ProPublica, Google News Lab, Univision, First Draft, and USA Today Network.
C&IS professors Dr. Kim Bissell, Dr. Scott Parrott, Dr. Jen Hoewe and Meredith Cummings have also contributed to the UA Electionland project.