Here are some skills that educators can teach budding reporters (and voters!) so that they can productively engage in the debates around the 2014 midterm elections. (PBS MediaShift)
Use our United States MapMaker Kit to plot areas where voters will be deciding key issues.
Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”
The terrific MediaShift article is geared at education audiences, and gives a great guideline and set of links. This is just a summary.
1. FOCUS ON ELECTORAL CONSEQUENCES INSTEAD OF THE HORSE RACE
Look at the consequences of local and statewide ballot issues. Consider different outcomes for different constituencies, determined by such factors as income, ethnicity, gender or age.
- Here are some great resources for midterm-round-up coverage:
2. DESPITE THE DRAMA OF THE HORSE RACE, ELECTIONS ARE LARGELY FUNDAMENTAL
Consider the long-term patterns in election outcomes as well as the latest poll. Patterns might include such issues as local, regional, or national financial health; or the political party of the incumbent president.
- The fact that this is a midterm and not a general election is an issue.
3. UNDERSTAND WHEN THE MESSAGE MATTERS
Investigate what different campaigns are saying—about how and why initiatives and candidacies will impact a person’s finance or lifestyle.
- Here’s why this political scientist thinks negative “attack ads” aren’t going anywhere.
- And here are the “7 wackiest political ads of this year’s campaign season.”
Check “very precise claims” (hint: “wackiest political ad” is not a precise claim!) and be sure to discuss the issue with the source of the claim (such as a campaign) as well as material such as government reports and expert advice.
- Here’s one of the best fact-checking sites out there.
- Here’s a short list of midterm myths debunked.
5. DATABASE MANAGEMENT AND SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYSIS
Don’t be dazzled by “big data”—be sure that your analysis has some core significance or meaning. A good one to start with: What people or organizations are funding specific campaigns or initiatives? Then use tools to gather data on different platforms.
- Follow the money. Here’s the skinny on this particular election cycle.
- Here’s an analysis of one “Super PAC.”
- Here’s a great series of visual analyses of how campaigns are using social media.
6. WRITING FOR MULTIPLE PLATFORMS IN REAL TIME
Research, research, research . . . then integrate that research into informational messages using social media, traditional media, and new media platforms.
- Here’s a great resource for understanding key issues.
- Here’s what PBS NewsHour did with their research—conducted a Twitter chat with open-ended midterm election questions.
7. SEARCH FOR SMART TAKES
Don’t re-invent the wheel—pay attention to smart, seasoned political scientists and reporters.
- Here are NPR’s quick “5 Things To Know About The 2014 Midterm Election”.
- And here are 538 . . .
- PBS NewsHour round-up.
PBS MediaShift: 7 Strategies for Teaching Student Journalists to Cover Midterm Elections
Nat Geo MapMaker Kit: United States
PBS Learning Media: Key Issues to Watch in the Midterm Election
the Skimm: Midterm Election Guide
Pew Research Center: Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?
Center for Responsive Politics: 10 Things Every Voter Should Know
ProCon: Pros and Cons of 52 Controversial Issues
PBS NewsHour: Midterm Elections