Building tools for covering Congressional primaries

Spurring technology innovation in the way elections are covered will be an ongoing initiative at the Knight Lab, and the March 20 primaries in Illinois provide a great place for us to start. (See project page here.)

Thanks to redistricting and successive "wave" elections that brought many new faces to Congress in 2006, 2008, and 2010, there will be hotly contested Republican and Democratic contests throughout the state on March 20, 2012. The races will pit newcomers versus political veterans and current members versus former colleagues.

The Lab will be utilizing technology to analyze websites and social media to help illustrate what candidates stand for and where they are getting their support. By aggregating content from a variety of sources, the Lab aims to offer voters a more comprehensive picture of the races than any single news source can provide on its own.

Digital services that until recently were only on the periphery of campaigns are now often central to candidate strategies, so we'll deploy technology to monitor Twitter, Facebook and the candidates' own web sites to capture and illustrate the language that candidates and the supporters are using as the races take shape.

We'll also aggregate coverage of the elections from widely-dispersed sites and blogs, with the goal of presenting an comprehensive overview of the campaigns in districts that twist across many miles and through multiple media markets.

Our election services will be offered to sites as widgets and pages that media partners can incorporate into their own election coverage as they see fit. The Lab will also operate a demonstration site that includes all of the features offered to partners. Details on the services will be available in January.

-- Mike Silver

About the author

Mike Silver

Executive Director, 2011-2012

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