by Janelle Hagen, Middle School librarian
It’s Election Day! As we shared with Middle School students, today will be a HUGE news day and there is going to be a lot of conflicting information out there. It’s OK to want to know what is going on, but we’re encouraging students to focus on their classes and take “news breaks” rather than staying glued to the news all day and distracted during class.
Here are some tips from the News Literacy Project on how to be news literate on Election Day:
Do some homework. A number of news organizations have published helpful guides to avoiding misinformation and finding credible coverage of election results. Here are two we recommend:
- “A safe, sane way to navigate election night — and beyond” (Jim VandeHei, Axios).
- “Your guide to following the election on social media” (Heather Kelly, The Washington Post).
The Associated Press has verified and reported authoritative election results for more than 170 years. AP will report a winner in more than 7,000 races this week, and guide the election coverage of news organizations all over the world. This piece from AP’s media writer, David Bauder, explains the organization's process for confirming results and calling races.
Remember: Poll closing times, deadlines for mail-in ballots and counting and reporting procedures vary by state. Use this guide from AFP Fact Check to verify the rules for mail-in ballots in your state, and consult this guide from FiveThirtyEight to learn when you can anticipate results in each state. (Note that Michigan could take until Friday to report its results and Pennsylvania could take even longer.)
- “How Long Will Vote Counting Take? Estimates and Deadlines in All 50 States” (Alicia Parlapiano, The New York Times).
- “Upon Reflection: High stakes for calling the election” (Alan C. Miller, The News Literacy Project).
Make an information plan. Improvising your way through election night information is a recipe for confusion. Make a clear plan and be deliberate about what news and other updates you’ll follow, using these tips as a guide:
- Pick a limited number of standards-based news organizations at the national, state and local levels to follow, then stick with their coverage. You could toggle between one national and one local outlet on TV, then limit your phone or computer use to a handful of other reputable sources.
- If you must use social media, avoid obsessively refreshing your feed or following hashtags that can be (mis)used by anyone, including those who wish to spread disinformation and confusion. Instead, focus on the accounts of reputable news outlets and journalists, or make a Twitter list of credible sources and follow it — or use this one from NLP.
- Related: “The Fix’s 2020 list of outstanding politics reporters to follow in every state” (Natalie Jennings, The Washington Post).
Anticipate misinformation. No one knows exactly what Election Day will bring, but experts anticipate a lot of false and misleading claims to circulate online. Be ready for:
- Raw video and photos of polling places, both authentic and out-of-context. Remember that rumors about long lines and threats to voters are known voter intimidation tactics and that “instant communication magnifies political violence.” Think twice before amplifying viral posts about isolated, local incidents.
- Baseless allegations of voter fraud by bad actors intent on fabricating doubt about the integrity of the election.
- Misinterpretations of poll data and electoral maps.
- Fake tweets created to appear like they’re coming from candidates and official sources shared as screenshots rather than links to verified accounts.
- Falsehoods and bad takes from people you generally trust. With emotions running high and trolls working overtime, some well-meaning people who ordinarily know better will spread falsehoods and confusion. Tune them out and stick to standards-based sources until things calm down.
- Related: “Uncertainty and Misinformation: What to Expect on Election Night and Days After” (Election Integrity Partnership).
To read more about what to expect on election day, read the full article “Be News Literate on Election Day” in the News Literacy Project’s Newsletter: The Sift. Also, if you need a distraction and creative outlet, Mo Willems is doing a live Democracy Doodle today at 4PM!
Read more about how Middle School students are learning about media literacy in this article from earlier this fall.