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COVERING CAMPAIGNS ONLINE

 

The 2008 election is being covered on more platforms than any previous election, and it's already putting a strain on many newsrooms. If you're looking for ideas to try online or places to find good information, look no farther. We've put together a list that includes a number of widgets you can simply embed on your station Web page or offer to your audience for free. No need to reinvent the wheel, right?

Congressional candidate profiles: From Sunlight Labs, a Javascript-based widget that adds mini-profiles to the names of Members of Congress on your page. The profiles appear when you mouseover the sun icon. Example: Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Candidate fundraising: This customizable Flash widget from MapLight.org creates a graph from FEC data on fundraising by presidential candidates that you can embed in your page. You control which candidates to include, what order to put them in, and the colors to use.

The Center for Responsive Politics has tracked candidate fundraising for a decade now. Check their site, OpenSecrets.org, for data on congressional candidates as well as presidential.

  The Huffington Post has developed a bunch of political fundraising widgets from public records filed with the FEC. At left, one version of a widget from Fundrace 2008 that lets users search for contributors by name or location. They also have a "celebrity donors" widget with photos of the biggest givers.

Need to fact check campaign videos or candidate statements? Start at factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, run by former CNN and Wall Street Journal reporter Brooks Jackson.

Then check the the “truth-o-meter” from Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times, that rates candidate statements, attacks and ads from "true" to "pants on fire." They've recently added a "flip-o-meter." A widget (seen at right) makes it easy to add the meters to your own site.

Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs has a "Fact Checker" blog whose goal is to "'truth squad' the national political debate."

 

Issue coverage tracker: From the Washington Post, this Flash widget shows the connection between candidates and issues based on mentions by news organizations, political parties, interest groups, bloggers, unions, trade organizations, candidates, activists, and more. Just click on a candidate and a tag cloud shows the issues most closely associated with that candidate in all of the coverage tracked. Click on the tag, and a pop-up window shows recent coverage of the candidate's views on that issue. A slider at the bottom of the page allows users to set a date range for the coverage they want to see.

For more about candidates' positions on the issues, check the non-partisan site OntheIssues.org or Project Vote Smart, which is now allowing its data to be posted on other sites. You need some programming knowledge, however. Read their how-to page here.

MySpace friends: TechPresident tracks each candidate's "friends" totals on MySpace. Their widget turns those statistics into a badge you can embed in your page template.

Wonkosphere Buzz Share   Crawdad Technologies has created Wonkosphere to monitor "political buzz" online. Their widget (left) shows the proportion of buzz for the top five candidates in all blogs for the 24 hours preceding the latest update.

 

Candidate bobbleheads: A fun, interactive widget produced by SpringWidgets, part of Fox Interactive Media. They have a long list of candidates to choose from.

Want to know where the candidates are spending the most time? Check the interactive travel map Slate has created at http://www.mapthecandidates.com/

You could do something similar for your state alone using Google Maps. If you're already keeping track of candidate schedules at your assignment desk, it wouldn't take much effort to map that information. Besides, it's free.

It's fascinating to see how political rhetoric has changed over time. Scroll through these presidential speech tag clouds created by Chirag Meta, a 26-year-old IT manager from Florida. The slider at the top of the cloud lets you go back and forth in time, so you can see at a glance which topics were getting the most attention when. The image below is from President Bush's 2007 State of the Union speech. Consider using the free code to create your own tagged timeline for state or local officials. Or just plug a speech into Wordle to generate a static word cloud.


Curious about the role of faith in this year’s presidential campaign? Visit the “One Vote Under God” matrix produced by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism:


Want to let your audience see how their views match up with those of the candidates? Direct them to the USAToday Candidate Match Game.

You can see how two candidates compare with each other on the issues at WMUR or SelectSmart, or “rate” the candidates on the MSNBC matrix. Or create your own and share it with us.

And here's one more idea you can try at home. This video issues guide in grid form was created by a voter, using clips from YouTube. If he can do it, you can too.


Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009
 

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