How to Cover 11,250 Elections at Once

The 2020 US elections are more than a presidential election. In fact, it is more than 11,000 elections, concerning everything from state legislature to dog catchers mosquito commissioners. A journalist can’t cover all this, but computational journalism can help you to figure out where to put your resources.

Infinite Ballot Illustration

Main content

Computational analysis is being used in newsrooms worldwide, and Washington Post are pioneers when it comes to using bots, automation, and large-scale data in its reporting. With computational political journalism they are taking is a step further, and using it to cover the 2020 political campaigns in a new way.

ViSmedia-researcher and algorithmic reporting expert Nick Diakopoulos is working in a team with post data scientists, engineers and graphics team members at news lab at Washington Post. The lab will algorithmically provide analysis of these areas to make judgement on which elections and which areas they should put their human resources. 

Nicholas Diakopoulous

ViSmedia-researcher and algorithmic reporting expert, Nicholas Diakopoulos

Nick Diakopoulos explains:

- The lab is going to be working on fingerprinting every county, congressional district, and precinct in America with info that gives us a descriptive understanding of who the voters are, how they’ve previously voted, and how they might vote in the future.

This way they will figure out which areas needs extra attention, and use it to make editorial decisions on where they’d like to go.

 - We’re already kicking around a bunch of innovative ideas that would capitalize on automated and algorithmic news production to augment the capacities of journalists and provide unique experiences and information for readers,” Diakopoulos explains. - We’re also thinking about how computational techniques are changing politics more broadly, and how that in turn may change the way reporters and editors need to cover the elections.

Removed from the daily deadlines the team can evaluate more thoroughly what to give up on and what to push along to full product development. In this process, it is helpful for the team members to rotate through the lab where they get the time to consider what they need to do in the long run, not just what needs to be done today.