Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Querying fact checking

At NPR's headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

Geopolitics has been at the epicenter of the news the past few months, from the news of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union with a new Prime Minister, and the diplomatic conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria, to the closely watched campaigns for elections for president of the United States.

As the 8th of November nears, a subject that has been debated is that of fact-checking, and what role it should have in the context of modern political journalism. In the recent debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NPR had a running transcript with annotations going, the checks being communicated on Twitter, Facebook, and the web site.

When all was said and done, NPR achieved its highest traffic day ever, and the transcript got 7.4 million page views.

Beth Donovan, the supervising senior editor for its Washington Desk, who has worked on previous election output, said the public broadcaster had been trying to perfect engaging audiences when it came to fact-checking.

“Fact checking has long been a priority for NPR,” Donovan said in an interview by email. “Even before this particular race shaped up, we had been trying new things in the fact check lane in hopes of connecting with our audience and helping them engage with political rhetoric through this prism.”

Donovan said audiences had valued a second screen accompaniment to live events, and this fact-checking feature was a way to hone NPR’s engagement strategy. She says similar plans will be in the works for the forthcoming debate this weekend and the final debate later this month.

“There was a transparency to our fact check, people could see us highlighting facts we were about to check (as well as a lot of typos in the first and even second draft of the transcription),” Donovan said. “The audience could see the statement in context, our journalism, and source links. And the page kept moving and changing right on your phone.”

While there was success for NPR in its engagement strategy, it came amid some concerns, before and after the debate was over. The fact-checking annotations commenced amid concerns of trust in the media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

In addition, after the debate, concerns had been raised by the ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who, in addition to some listeners, said some questions were missed, despite the best efforts of reporters and editors in Washington. Donovan said her team did the best they could under the circumstances, even as concerns of bias were prevalent.

“We just do our best every day to cover the news and to report fairly and accurately,” Donovan said. “Fact checking is no different.”

Yet, Donovan notes, there is difficulty in accomplishing such a task.

“Even in a news room with as much policy depth as NPR’s, live fact checking is hard,” Donovan said. “The biggest challenges are often the littlest things.”

However, Donovan says, there is something that makes it all worthwhile — the drive and collaboration between its journalists.

“It can look easy or obvious the next day, but watching our annotated transcript come to life was inspiring,” Donovan said. “This is a remarkable newsroom. I always feel especially proud to be part of it on debate nights and in breaking news situations.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tamara Keith on social political journalism


Instagram was unveiled as the largest growing social network last year, according to the Pew Research Center.
(Photo: Zenspa1/Flickr under CC license)

It was announced last week that Instagram was the fastest growing social network in 2014. The research from the Pew Research Center indicated that 26 percent of the US adult population was using the Facebook owned social photo and video site, an increase of 9 percent from 2013, while 53 percent of 18-29 year olds use the service.

The same week of that study, as speculation continued as to who would be running in the 2016 presidential election, former Florida governor Jeb Bush launched his PAC, Right to Rise, on Instagram, with Hunter Schwarz of the Washington Post writing that the 2016 election could be the first Instagram election.

The PAC for a campaign for Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is said to be considering a run for the presidency in 2016, is also on Instagram.

As Instagram continues its user growth, and as reporting continues on the lead up to the election across many media outlets, what are the implications for those who cover politics? Can Instagram be a beneficial social resource for the political beat?

Tamara Keith

NPR’s White House correspondent Tamara Keith. (Photo: Kainaz Amaria/NPR)

Recently, Net Worked spoke to Tamara Keith, NPR’s White House correspondent, about this as well as social media and political journalism. Below is that conversation.

NW: From a social standpoint, what role do you think Instagram has now when it comes to politics? What do you think the decision by Jeb Bush to launch his PAC on Instagram said about the network overall?

TK: The Obama White House uses Instagram quite effectively. They just posted a slick State of the Union “spoiler alert” video and on a daily basis post photos of the president related to the policies they are pushing at the time. That might mean a photo of a beautiful lake and mountain and a caption about climate change. But they have multiple official photographers and a videographer. The White House really uses Instagram as an outlet on its own.

Another politician who uses it effectively is Elise Stefanik (R-NY) who just became the youngest woman elected to congress. She instagrams pictures from her meetings with constituents and other stops in her very large district.

I think it is too soon to judge Jeb Bush’s effectiveness. He doesn’t have very many followers and his videos have a home-made feel, one shot in an airport and sort of back lit, the other shot while walking down the street in NYC.

Bush’s team also posted his videos on Facebook, where he has significantly more followers than on Instagram. So, I’m not convinced they really have an independent Instagram strategy. And truth be told, many users don’t have an independent Instagram strategy. It is fun to use and easy. But it also links directly to Facebook so it’s a sort of two for the price of one outlet (for me and a number of my reporter friends).

How do you think the idea of social media has affected how you think about covering politics and the idea of storytelling?

Social media is frequently just another part of my storytelling. I tweet or Instagram or post a vine as I am working on the story. Sometimes I even edit a short video.

Other times I get ideas or suggestions from people on social media, so it is very much a two way street.

And of course now we have to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram and even LinkedIn because you never know when a politician is going to go around traditional media and take their news directly to their followers. They usually make sure we get the message, though, because they still need the amplification that comes from traditional media.

For politicians, there’s a multi-part advantage to going around us. 1. They reach their supporters directly and make them feel like there is a more personal connection. 2. We all still report it anyway. 3. While social media is still novel, the politicians get extra attention for the ways they use social media. They get extra stories or coverage from more tech-centered publications and blogs focused on their use of non-traditional media channels.

For politicians it is a win win win. For us in the media, it’s just a sign of the times. We’ve adapted.

Do you think Instagram has traditionally been taken for granted by the media? What would you say the perception was of Instagram within those who cover the White House and politics generally?

I think the perception of Instagram is that it is for fun, fun filters, pretty pictures. For me, I also like the freedom of 15 second videos rather than the 6 seconds of Vine. But I am still not totally convinced it has the power or influence of Twitter or Facebook.

For instance, with the Bush announcement videos, most media outlets used the Facebook version of the videos and said he had made the announcement on Facebook.

As a user of Instagram, from a journalism standpoint, when it comes to political coverage, what differences do you notice in Instagram allowing you to tell a story compared to Facebook and Twitter?

Instagram allows longer captions and longer videos, which is nice. But my audience (and I think most people’s) is smaller on Instagram so I almost never post something only on Instagram.

Last year my colleagues and I did a really fun project called #shevotes where we asked people to post pictures on Instagram about their first political memories, who or what got them engaged in the political process. We got a ton of really neat responses. We also did a call out on Twitter but the photos and captions on Instagram were far more meaningful. This became two blog posts on our It’s All Politics blog.

Generally speaking, how relevant do you think social media will be for those covering politics this year and going into the election? How do you see that applying to Instagram?

It’s hard to overstate how relevant social media will be. It will be part of our reporting process every single day, from candidates making announcements to local reporters posting about what they’re seeing in their communities.

But I’m still not sure about Instagram. The smart candidates will find a way to use it effectively because it is yet another avenue to get to people. And there are people who use Instagram far more regularly than Facebook (because there are too many articles you don’t want to see on Facebook). But the big numbers and influence are on Facebook and Twitter. At least that’s my perception of it based on where most of the political news comes from.

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is the acting chairman of SPJ Digital and community coordinator for the SPJ. Veeneman is also Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can follow Veeneman on Twitter here.

How social media helped cover the DNC in real-time

Here’s a pretty interesting, nuts-and-bolts piece from Poynter by Melissa Abbey that describes how she used social media at the Democratic National Convention.

Here’s an excerpt about how she used social media to find an angle and then covered a protest:

Tweets are great for illustrating how an event unfolded. Half an hour before my shift ended Monday night, a colleague turned to me and asked, “Hey, did you see that tweet about a protest happening?” I hadn’t, but it didn’t take long to find it. Within a couple of minutes, I’d found a link to a Ustream account from which 23-year-old Nathan Grant (@Occupy Eye) was broadcasting the march.

By that time, several tweets had appeared relating to the late-night protest. There was a live video of protesters in black marching arm in arm. Something was happening.

We told the writers nearby. While they tried to reach sources over the phone, I compiled tweets in Storify and prepared a new post in Blogger. Within two to three minutes of the first tweets announcing the protesters had returned to their campsite, we published a blog post (with the Storify) highlighting tweets that showed how the protest unfolded.

The piece also offers a lot of helpful food for thought, because Abbey divides it into a section on how social media helped tell the story, and then how social media could be the story.


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