If you’re a working journalist right now, chances are some of these questions are crossing your mind:
How can I reach new audiences in the midst of a pandemic?
What do people need to know this election season, and how can we best position our coverage to serve them?
How can I produce stories that capture readers in the midst of continuous, all-consuming and competing COVID-19 coverage?
What does it look like to build trust with audiences when attacks on media credibility continue unabated?
What role do newsrooms need to play in ensuring a free and fair election with so many threats to the process?
One thing is for certain: Elections in 2020 are unlike anything we have experienced before.
This election year is dominated by concerns about mis- and disinformation, rife with challenges threatening to undermine the institutions of information that form the foundation of democracy.
To meet these challenges, newsrooms of all types and sizes are increasingly seeking alternatives to traditional campaign coverage by pursuing a listening-based model designed to build trust and foster understanding. Newsrooms are also hungry for support around how to spot, cover and inform their communities around elections threats.
Journalism is a vital public service, but not all news consumers are finding the information they need to make crucial decisions. Journalists should be asking themselves how they can do the most good — and make their value clear to the people they aim to serve.
Which is why we’re providing a new training program designed to support journalists in responding to critical election information needs.
Announcing Election SOS
With the support of Democracy Fund, Election SOS offers free training for journalists covering the 2020 US elections, connecting them to best practices, resources and support around election coverage.
We are now accepting applications for our first training cohorts, kicking off in June. Availability is limited. Learn more and apply at electionsos.org. Applications for June training are due by 11:59 p.m. PT on Tuesday, May 26.
The SOS in our project name comes from the distress signal used in Morse code, and speaks to two different aspects of the program:
The public is crying out for help. How can you listen?
Journalists are calling out for assistance. Who will respond?
Last year, we issued a call for radically different campaign coverage, in collaboration with and inspired by the work of Jay Rosen of New York University on the citizens agenda model for elections. In this call we issued a challenge and offered a vision for creating voter-centered news reporting:
“No longer as news organizations can we presume to understand what our public needs from us, nor can we assume that being first with the latest salacious turn in a campaign is what actually matters.
“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. We can break the vicious cycle of the election cycle.
“The only way you can find out about that is to get yourself to the table, to listen, and then respond with the information people say they need to make informed decisions.”
Election SOS is the response to that call, the result of interest from hundreds of journalists around the world to reimagine how we can serve our communities.
This network is an open invitation to those who want to come together to source solutions for a community-focused, listening-based, public-service model of journalism.
Today, we are issuing a new call, inviting journalists covering U.S. elections in 2020 to examine how you can surface and respond to the public’s critical information needs related to elections and support your fellow journalists by drawing on your collective expertise as you navigate the challenges of this election year.
Learn more and apply here.