Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2008 Election Coverage

Election coverage this year seems to be all about user participation.

This will be my first election sans-TV. In '04 my roommates and I actually went to the thrift store and bought one just to watch the debates and election returns. This year I thought about it, but decided not to bother. Like many people in my age group I will get most of my news tonight from internet sources (although I will be listening to public radio coverage at work this evening).

For months now I've been frequenting the Election 2008 sections of various online news sources and have been pretty impressed with how sophisticated they have become.

The New York Times' Politics section has a couple of unique features. One called Your State of Mind is a box in which adjectives scroll across the screen from left to right. These are the words entered by visitors to the site describing their current feelings about the election (you are allowed to update your entry every 30 minutes). The words that are largest and nearest the top are the most popular entries. You can also choose to view only the words entered by people supporting Obama or McCain. It is pretty interesting to compare the two.

The other, which becomes active at 6pm, is their pop-up dashboard. It's a small window that opens up and will provide live election updates, allowing you to stay updated while visiting other websites.

They have a multimedia What to Watch for on Election Night feature with an hour-by-hour breakdown of what they expect to be significant.

The site also includes an interactive map that shows which way each state is leaning in different races and how many electoral votes it gives to the candidate. It also allows viewers to change the colors (red for republican, blue for democrat or yellow for undecided) to look at different hypothetical scenarios.

CNN's Election Center 2008 page has a Your Races column that you can personalize to include up to 35 races that you want to keep an eye on (for example the Ohio presidential race, California's proposition 8, and the Oregon senate race). They also have a map, but theirs only shows poll results. They do have other interactive features including a debate forum and a whole website called iReport where voters can share their experiences at the polls.

PBS's Vote 2008 page encourages voters to video their voting experiences and share them via YouTube. They have an interactive map similar to the New York Times', which they share with NPR's Election 2008 website. They also provide links to election-related quizzes.

MSNBC's Decision '08 website offers yet another interactive map as well as a Presidential Results widget that updates every 10 minutes and can be shared on Facebook and other such sites (available in 3 sizes!).

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