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Washington Post Unveils Data-driven Strategy for Election 2020 Coverage


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The Washington Post has announced new data-driven initiatives to enhance its award-winning political reporting and analysis, giving readers the most comprehensive and insightful coverage of the 2020 presidential race.

Working together, The Washington Post’s politics and engineering teams will be rolling out features that will expand the breadth of reporting about voters across the country, give readers faster results on election nights and offer a clearer sense of how candidates are faring after the polls close and votes are being counted.

“The Washington Post has one of the most authoritative, well-sourced political teams in the country, and one of our driving values is ensuring readers have the information they want and can better help understand the country’s diverse and changing political landscape,” said Peter Wallsten, senior politics editor for The Washington Post. “These features are designed to do just that: Give our reporters new resources they can turn to for their reporting and provide our readers with the best possible experience on every election night between now and November.”

The Washington Post journalists now have access to a proprietary tip sheet that highlights newsworthy changes and trends in the electorate for every state. Generated automatically and updated monthly, the Lead Locator analyses voter data across the country to pinpoint interesting or notable anomalies at the state and county level, giving reporters and editors a tool to use as they are planning their coverage during the campaign. The Washington Post reporters have used this tip sheet in stories including “In Georgia, Democrats find turning the state blue is easier to predict than pull off.”

“Working closely with our colleagues on the politics team, we set out to use computational journalism techniques to help them tell the story of the 2020 election,” said Jeremy Bowers, a director of engineering for The Washington Post. “The tools we have developed from this collaboration both help our journalists identify interesting stories as well give our readers the clearest, fastest information they need to understand what’s happening on election nights.”

The Washington Post will leverage predictive modelling on election nights to provide readers with an unprecedented view beyond the raw vote count. Starting with the New Hampshire primary, readers will get a real-time sense of how many votes each candidate has and also how many votes may remain for each candidate that have not yet been reported. Developed by The Washington Post’s elections engineering team, the model uses historical election results, a deep understanding of the shape of the electorate and live precinct results to estimate how many additional uncounted votes might exist for each candidate.

Beginning with the Iowa caucuses, The Washington Post will be among the first non-broadcast outlets to subscribe to the National Election Pool (NEP) for live election results. By combining the NEP for presidential primaries with The Washington Post’s existing partnership with the Associated Press for down-ballot races and new software for gathering precinct results directly from state boards of elections, The Washington Post will deliver the most comprehensive, moment-by-moment results.

When combined with The Washington Post’s new, instantaneously-loading pages, our readers will be able to follow results faster than ever before.