ProPublica and the Electionland coalition won an Online Journalism Award for planned news/events, announced at the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet on Saturday.
A collaboration with a coalition of organizations — including Google News Lab, Univision, the USA Today Network, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, WNYC, First Draft and student journalists from 12 colleges and universities — Electionland tracked voter experiences in real time, across thousands of polling sites. With more than 1,100 participating journalists, local newsrooms were alerted to reports of problems such as long lines, provisional ballots, and voter intimidation unfolding at their local precincts; national partners and their readers received an unprecedented, nationwide look at problems facing the vote.
Specially trained students scoured national social media, looking for problems at polling places with special emphasis on states with histories of election administration issues. Google News Lab provided tools and expertise to help track search trends related to voting issues (Disclosure: It also provided some project funding). The Election Protection Coalition allowed Electionland to feed the data from their nationwide call center into a database as calls came in. The team also communicated with voters directly, checking in with more than 120,000 people who had signed up to text Electionland about their voting experiences.
As Electionland partners collected these tips, professional journalists vetted them, forwarding them as real-time leads to the national news desk and to local reporting partners across the country. Instead of reporting on a patchwork of precincts, local journalists were given the tools to target polling stations facing clear problems.
Despite President Trump’s warnings about the election being rigged, and his later claims that massive in-person voter fraud cost him the popular vote, the Electionland coalition saw no evidence of widespread fraud.
Following Electionland’s successful coverage of the vote in 2016, partners have continued to build on the lessons of the collaboration. First Draft launched Crosscheck (another OJA winner), which brought together newsrooms in France to cover the 2017 election, while ProPublica launched Documenting Hate, a national project bring together newsrooms to create a repository for hate crimes and self-reported hate incidents across the U.S.
See the full list of Online Journalism Award winners here.