4 steps for journalists to combat voting misinformation and confusion

September 30, 2020 01:30

The pandemic, coupled with a surge in election-related litigation, has created a new environment for the administration of American elections. Many voters have misconceptions or concerns about voting this year, especially when they assume information they come across in national news or through social media reflects local circumstances. These misconceptions present fertile ground for misinformation, confusion, and other efforts that may discourage voting or undermine confidence in our elections.

So what can the news media do?
At the American Press Institute, we’ve convened more than 200 journalists and experts to explore the best ways to support voters and cover the election this year through the Trusted Elections Network. In this process, we’ve distilled recommendations that all news outlets should consider as they cover the election.
  1. Provide key information about voting and elections to your audiences frequently and across multiple platforms. Help them understand how, when and where to register and vote, whether in-person (early or on Election Day) or by mail. In a brief Guide to Covering the Elections and Misinformation, we’ve included tools, research and reporting examples to help journalists stay up to date with all the changes, communicate that information effectively to audiences, and understand the false or misleading information audiences may be seeing or hearing. 
  2. Understand that different segments of your audience may have different questions and information needs about the voting process and may require different approaches to reach.
  3. Work to build trust with your audience. Start with this 15-minute presentation from Joy Mayer and Lynn Walsh of Trusting News, which offers 7 practical tips for newsrooms to increase trust in their election coverage this year.
  4. Be aware that your audiences are taking information from many sources — especially through social media — that may be false, misleading or lacking context. Here are 9 Tips for Covering Election-Related Misinformation, including reporting on the mechanics of elections, providing accurate vetted information frequently, and asking your audience what questions they have about voting and the election. If you’d like to dive deeper on covering mis- and disinformation online, watch this presentation from Buzzfeed News senior report Jane Lytvynenko.

If you want to learn more, join the Trusted Elections Network today!


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