Tiffany Shackelford / Council on Foreign Relations / October 27, 2020
Source: Council on Foreign Relations
Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Society for News Design, speaks about opportunities for locally-based reporters to educate their readers as they cover the 2020 election cycle. Carla Anne Robbins, adjunct senior fellow at CFR and former deputy editorial page editor at the New York Times, hosts the webinar.
FASKIANOS: Good afternoon and welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations Local Journalists Webinar. Today we will discuss opportunities for locally-based journalists to educate their readers as they cover this election cycle, with our speaker Tiffany Shackelford and host Carla Anne Robbins. I’m Irina Faskianos, Vice President for the National Program and Outreach at CFR. As you know, CFR is an independent and nonpartisan organization and think tank focusing on U.S. foreign policy. This webinar is part of CFR is Local Journalists Initiative, created to help you connect the local issues you cover in your communities to global dynamics. Our programming puts you in touch with CFR resources and expertise on international issues and provides a forum for sharing best practices. I will want to remind everyone that today’s webinar is on the record and the video and transcript will be posted on our website, cfr.org/local journalists.
I just will share a few highlights from our distinguished speaker’s career. Tiffany Shackelford is executive director at the Society for News Design and staff director of the voter communications task force at the University of Southern California Annenberg Center on Communication, Leadership and Policy. She is also the producer of USC’s election cybersecurity initiative. She was previously chief strategy officer and director of communications at the National Governors Association. And earlier in her career, she held roles with the Pew Research Center and the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she founded stateline.org to cover reporting trends and analysis on policies in the fifty states. Carla Anne Robbins is an adjunct senior fellow at CFR. She is faculty director of the master of international affairs program and clinical professor of national security studies at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Previously, she was deputy editorial page editor at the New York Times, and chief diplomatic correspondent at the Wall Street Journal. So thank you, Tiffany and Carla, for being with us today. I’m going to turn it over to Carla to have a conversation with Tiffany and then we’ll open up to all of you for your questions. So Carla, over to you.
ROBBINS: Irina, thank you so much as ever, and Tiffany, welcome, thank you so much for doing this, you have an extraordinary resume and you’re still you’re doing an extraordinary number of things. It’s a little bit intimidating, but it’s so on top of what we need to talk about right now. So I looked at your report, which is elegantly designed. And you start out by saying that voters should be repeatedly informed of up to date polling place data, crucial deadlines for requesting and submitting mail-in ballots, and the practicalities of how to vote, either by mail or in person. And that each voter should be contacted through at least five communication channels, local news outlets, community and civic group outreach, digital messages, push alerts, and paid or in-kind advertising. So with the election just a week away, which is pretty extraordinary, we have a lot to talk about today, including what are the most important stories to be done right now about state and local efforts to get out or block this sort of information that voters most need. And what can local news outlets do as civic actors themselves? But before we do that, let’s just start first with a very quick overview of this project and what we as reporters need to know, knowing that we really don’t have a lot of time left before the election.
SHACKELFORD: Absolutely. You know, we started putting together this project and this task force of both public servants and academics and media types because while there was certainly a huge amount of people getting out the vote, working for voter information in various ways, what we saw is there was still a lot of confusion out there at just some of the basic information getting to people. Getting to people not with a lien, not with, you know, things baked in, but just how, when and where to vote. I think particularly, as you know, journalists or academics or, you know, big, big democracy types that a lot of us are we forget that there’s about a 30 percent group of voters that are not super voters that are not going to automatically look at, you know, every single story and be following people every day. They often have to be reminded, and if it’s not convenient, if voting is not easily understood, they’re not going to make it, it’s just not going to happen. And we really started to put together, you know, this concept that, you know, amongst the growing dim of just, you know, these voting messages, a lot of negative, a lot of drama, that people still were not able to very basically get information. We also assume, you know, I think as, you know, in media, and again, in some of our coastal ivory towers of sort that everyone understands how to get information on the web very easily. Not true. Often if an average citizen is not pushed information, they don’t get, you know, they’re not going to know that you need to go to the secretary of state’s website, or that the League of Women Voters has some of the best information out there without someone to help curate that and really to help get that information out. You also kind of pointed out at the first that one of the things that we advocate for is pushing again, and again, you know, getting information, multiple channels multiple ways to people. This is often something that people forget, as well, there’s a fairly common marketing rule of seven that you’ve probably heard about in your career. And it’s simply, just to oversimplify it, it basically means that the average human doesn’t actually absorb information until they’ve seen it seven different times, in seven different ways. So if you think about it, there is a method to the madness, when in your community, a new stoplight goes up and it blinks for thirty days. That’s because they assume that that’s the amount of time you’re going to go through that seven times. So you’ll notice it and won’t blow through a stop sign or a stoplight the next time. It’s, you know, this is proven again and again. You see marketers use it all the time, not just in digital things, but also billboards and, you know, television advertising. So it’s, you know, it’s very much based on these basic kind of sociological ideas that you have to get to people again and again and again. They’re not going to receive information one time and then automatically retain or even absorb it. So that was, again, one of the reasons that we really said, it’s got to be multiple ways, multiple levels. You know, and not just words sometimes, you know, also pictures, also audio, you know, various other ways of getting to people. So, that’s a little bit about some of the basic background, I think that that went into thinking about the report. The other thing is, one of the things that we were very interested in doing is not adding a lot more, you know; the report is very short and that is intentional. And also we have curated lists that you can look at, you know, on our site and various other things. And, again, that was assuming that right now, people are actually in some ways getting more information to wade through. And you know, that that’s not giving them just the basics that they need often.
ROBBINS: So you looked at different states and their communication efforts, as well as giving them advice about different ways they could come up with, you know, communication plans. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, with the best and the worst that you saw? And I think that would be really useful, because if I’m thinking about going into my community right now and doing some last minute reporting, because there’s still time to get information out there. Last minute reporting about how well my local community is doing at communicating these things, maybe I can learn from either the best practices or the worst practices that are out there that you’ve seen.
SHACKELFORD: So there’s quite a few states, particularly in the West that I think have done an exceptional way. Now, I’m not sure if it’s related or, you know, where the correlation is, but some of them are also mail-in, all mail-in voting states. So you’re talking about, you know, Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, Hawaii, these are some of the states that have been using voting by mail for years. So they already have the infrastructure to not only communicate that way, but also to do the counting, etc. So they were able to use those resources, in some ways to educate voters in a way that others who were scrambling to quickly get, you know, additional mail-in voting couldn’t. I don’t have to tell this group that unfortunately or, you know, however you want to look at it, you know, every state has to balance their budget. It’s not like the feds who can just kind of keep adding as they need to. And that means that in times of crisis like we’re in, you know, what things get cut from state budgets. I mean, you already saw at least sixteen states making some fairly serious cuts in their budgets. And these were budgets that were already fairly anemic in some cases. Well, it’s not hard to figure out that a soft item like voter communication is one that’s going to have to go immediately. So, you know, a lot of those states, you know, while trying to use the CARES Act of money to get, you know, to do some stuff with cybersecurity, they don’t, they can’t also spend it on just basic education. So you saw a lot of those. So I would say that the states that have already kind of had that some of the mail-in voting were in a better position to do that. There’s also states like Iowa, who still has one hundred newspapers, you know, and all, you know, doesn’t have extreme news deserts. So they’re able to, you know, really work with their media out there in Iowa to get voter education out as well. And there’s some states who the secretary of state’s and elections director’s office has worked very hard together to get to get, you know, their services, well done in advance using cloud and enterprise solutions. Minnesota, for instance, has done a really good job. And they, I think, have educated, the secretary of state there has educated its citizens really, really well. The one thing I’ll say that’s somewhat interesting to me is, up until this election, I don’t remember ever knowing or hearing about too many secretaries of state, with the exception, of course, in 2000, you know, and a few others, they’re often kind of under the radar. And I think that’s too bad and a lot of ways, because I think actually, by and large, and I’ve met almost all the secretaries of state in the U.S., they are doing, you know, really some of some of the best work and they are often unheralded, you know, and only demonized when there’s a problem. But, you know, they there’s no election season for them election season is constant. And I think that they have been really, you know, working hard to do that.
ROBBINS: But the information that they need to be getting out the basic information is what are the voting days, where’s your polling site? You know, if it’s mail-in voting, how you fold your ballot, you know, where you get all this other things? Is, are there other basic educational things that they need to be getting out? And how would I, a week before the election other than doing, you know, person in the street reporting, how would I be able to assess the effectiveness? I mean, I suppose there are several things. One is I could look at the budget they devoted to it, I could call them up to try to figure out how many communications they actually sent out, I could look at the push side of it. Are there are other ways of assessing the push side of it?
SHACKELFORD: There’s multiple secretaries of state have put together some, you know, varying in quality and use of usability, I’d say applicate apps, of course, and they actually through the National Association of Secretaries of State, do have trusted elections, which has all of the election information in one place. I will tell you, however, one of my favorite sort of places outside of the secretaries of state that have those official websites, is actually what the League of Women Voters have put together, for every state, they are run by each League of Women Voter in that state. And they’re the in my assessment, you know, they’re the most up to date, and trust in some of the best trusted information. And they are often working together with their local media partners, to make sure that that information is getting out there. So I also would say that’s a great way in terms of looking at how much, you know, was actually done by each state, that’s a little bit harder to do than you would think and here’s why. The lines are appearing everywhere, so there’s not one line that’s voter communication in any state budget, right. So some of its going to be in the election director’s office. Some of it may be, you know, coming out of just a legislative budget or some other, you know, some other line items. So it’s not really clear or easy to see which push would be for, you know, what I would call voter education, unfortunately. And I’m sure the National Association State of Budget Officers is tired of hearing from me on this very question, because I’ve asked multiple times to try and figure that out. But I don’t think that it’s as obvious as one would hope. But that is actually one of the things that I’m hoping to do after the election is take a look and see what different states spent and what actual communications happened in the analysis.
ROBBINS: Did you find some states were more resistant to sharing information with you, more resistant to participating in this, you know, less willing to partner with you if you asked for information about what they were actually doing?
SHACKELFORD: On the contrary, actually, I think and sort of, you know, to the point of often forgotten, almost every secretary of state and election director that I’ve spoken with in this country is thrilled to give you information, wants to be, you know, at the table and has said, please, you know, just get the citizens my information. And, you know, they’re often I said, I worked with governors for a long time, I will say that the secretaries of state have impressed me with their ability to remain as nonpartisan as, as possible, though, they are, you know, most often elected and very, you know, by a partisan or appointed by, you know, one party or the other. But I think that they truly by and large want the information to get out there. Now, you know, if I put on my Society For News Design hat and talk to you about usability, I, you know, they’re not always as usable a site, as one would wish. Sometimes also, the other problem is that it’s not just one secretary of state, in charge, you know, if you look at states like Wisconsin, or Illinois, the ballots are different county by county, sometimes. You know, those are, that’s a county commission system. So those are, you know, that’s a little bit different. And, you know, that’s a different ballot, a different communication model, and, you know, a different kind of set of what’s getting out to the public.
ROBBINS: So that goes back to, I think, my first question, and I do want to throw this open to the group. I have an infinite number of questions, but to the group, which is, it’s a week to the election, which means there’s still good to be done. Keep in mind, I’m an editorial writer, so I still believe in the perfectibility of man. So, you know, what stories could should I be looking for in my community, that, frankly, would put a little bit of heat on the right people to improve their communication skills between now and then, you know. How can I, what story should I be doing to assess how good a job they are doing in communicating what needs to be communicating? I think that’s, that’s really the question, I’m having be my assignment editor for a minute.
SHACKELFORD: I’ve been extremely, I’ve been extremely heartened and impressed with the advocate groups on the ground. Some of the classic sort of well-known groups like the NAACP, and the Urban League. I’ve also been heartened and impressed with a large group of new voting advocate groups that are coming out, ranging from fashion to sports figures, etc. I think if I were an assignment editor, I would I would be out there talking to the advocates on the ground, to see what they’re doing. They have different sets of, you know, different sizes of staff. There’s one, the president of the NAACP in Georgia, James Woodall, incredibly impressive. He was doing voter education seminars himself at one point, simply to make sure that that information got out. They’ve recently also been doing things like party at the polls, you know. I’m interested in knowing that if all of the attention from sports figures and Hollywood types is that actually equaling you know, action, or is it actually activating people to get out and, you know, get registered, etc.? I’d also want to know, you know, you hear from a lot of different corporate organizations now that are actually getting voter or trying to get voter information out through organizations like Civic Alliance and others. Well, what’s happening? How is that trickling down? Where is that going in the communities, is something I’m very interested in, in following and finding out. I’d also if it were, you know, if I can as an assignment editor, I would really also be looking at, you know, there’s some really cool, you know, groundswell kinds of, or grass, I guess we would call it grass roots or grass tops, kinds of organizations, like Black Girls Vote, I Am Voter, who are doing all kinds of really interesting, almost pop up kinds of events around the country. I think that’s pretty interesting, but I don’t know, I’m curious to see if it actually, you know, motivates and gets people into those voting booths and polls. And the other thing that I’m interested in and I would love to see kind of looked at, is the amount of collaboration in some cases and the lack thereof amongst all these groups. You know, I think it’s wonderful again, that all these groups are doing so many different things, but often they’re not talking to each other and often they’re not coordinating across. And that was something certainly we also in part of this report and putting curating all these groups just in one place, just to if nothing else, let them all know, hey, do you all know about each other? Because it’s a funny space, right? Because you come in, you know, you every four years, a lot of people pair, you know, to kind of parachute into all things, voter communications and education. And then they forget about the other down ballot years. You know, and then there’s a core group that keeps going, you know, I would love to see someone, you know, kind of report on who’s talking, who’s doing a good job of that collaboration in the state and who’s, you know, frankly, missing some opportunities.
ROBBINS: All right, thanks, Irina, should we throw it open to the group?
FASKIANOS: Great, so everybody can raise their hand by clicking on the participant’s icon at the bottom of your screen. And if you’re on a tablet, click on the more button on the upper right hand corner, and you can raise your hand there. And our first question comes from Kala West. And please tell us what news outlet you’re with. And be sure to unmute yourself.
Q: Good evening, afternoon, everybody. I’m with WURD here in Philadelphia. Tiffany, to your point. There’s a lot of ground organizations in here in Philly, we’ve been doing a lot of movement they have been working together, Party at the Polls is really big here. Just a whole lot of things are black clergy. However, last night, there was a killing of police shooting in West Philadelphia where a young man, a black young man was shot and killed by Philly police. And I am really worried that all of the rallying cries that we’ve been doing for voting will now be subsided to the police brutality. So my question is, how can we cover both because they’re both important, but still emphasize the fact that we are a week away from voting?
ROBBINS: Great question.
SHACKELFORD: That is an amazing question. And first I I’m so sorry to hear about this shooting. And I am but I’m also pardon to hear that that the Philadelphia organizations are working together are you perceive them to be because it was certainly a city that we were watching carefully to see. And obviously for Pennsylvania, for all of the reasons is that is a state that’s high on my bellwether watch. I know that, you know, I know that a lot of national organizations that are actually asking themselves the same question. You know, the Washington Post, for instance, you know, went to I believe it’s twenty-six or thirty-six people on the ground in states for exactly this reason, because they don’t know if they’re going to be covering an election, or civil unrest or other issues. I would say that, you know, here’s where I wonder if there’s even media opportunities amongst your colleagues within a city to figure out how—I once ran the Association of Alternative News Weeklies. And one of the things after sort of the initial shake up that the news weekly is realized is that they had to go from criticizing the daily media to collaborating with the daily media. And often we were finding that they were able to cover city hall or issues of governance a little bit better, while the dailies were covering the breaking, I just wonder if there aren’t more collaborations like that, that we could all take advantage of. I feel like in the media world, you know, when, what is it, one in fifteen news organizations are no longer working. If we don’t collaborate enough, I was just thinking, you know, could we, for you, for instance, call our friends at Lenfest, and see if we could collaborate the coverage. Again, I would also frankly, not to put too personal pitch on it. There are individuals and organizations like myself who are really I’m sitting here waiting to help coordinate and collaborate with you all on these on these issues. So I didn’t give you a great answer, but those are a few ideas. And I would say that please get in touch with me afterwards. I will, you know, gladly help connect or collaborate with you or that goes for any of the journalist on the call. If I can if I can help do any of that.
FASKIANOS: Yeah, we’re waiting. We’re waiting for questions or comments. Over to you Carla.
ROBBINS: Thanks, I always have questions. So I’d asked you earlier to be about beyond this issue of making sure people know where to vote and when to vote, which seems to be a pretty important question. And particularly in a lot of states where there are voter suppression efforts going on. How can we, this is, you know, a basic mechanical question. And there are many other questions that also I think, you know, about preparing people, politically preparing for what the count is going to be like, what’s going to go on afterwards, but before we get to that and Kala’s question to a certain extent deals with the after, with more with the context, and it was a great question. But just on the sheer mechanics of it, and there is still time to deal with that, I think newspapers, obviously, you know, have can do the basic things, which is use their websites, as one of many websites, people may not know to go to the League of Women Voters, or they may not know, to go to whatever other website in which you can put in your zip code and your name and find it. I mean, how many newspapers are just giving over their platforms to for the very basic ideas of how to find your voting place? How many of them, we used to on the edit page in Times and, they still do, do it as do the basic thing. Here are the voting hours, your endorsements, those sort of things. But to go to the next step, which is people know where to find their local newspaper, that much we know from polling that people trust their local newspapers. Are there local newspapers around the country that are basically participating in the mechanical, you know, here’s how to find voting, here are the hours, rather than directing people to take the next step, which is to go to the League of Women Voters or to go to the secretary of state website, because we have generally have much more usable websites and everybody else does.
SHACKELFORD: Absolutely. All those years of, of the Minnesota fall, I remember that we used to do all the news, follow the eyeball tracking studies? Absolutely, we do. And you’re right, a lot of news organizations have really wonderful, really usable voter guide sites. You know, the voter guide, I think, for a long time was something we all took a lot of pride about, you know. Putting together the best voter guides and I’ll tell you that amongst some other local news groups that I talked with, there does seem to be some, some pride coming back into, you know, the best layout of voter guides and some particularly in the online space about the interactive ones. So that’s certainly wonderful. And you know, Axios, Vox, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times, all who put together really beautiful really usable websites. I’d say also take a look at McClatchy and Gannett, the chains also have some really nice voter, you know, voter tools, but also don’t forget if you are lucky enough to have in your community, a Vermont Digger or a Minn Post, Texas Tribune, Mississippi Today, you know, the speed of nonprofit or just online only the Lion papers, the INN websites are really, I think coming into their own with voter guides that are easy to use and easy to look for. My concern, you know, and I’m sure —Oh, I also want to say that the public radio and television stations also, I’ve seen some beautiful things. The public radio station in Charlotte has a really nice voter guide. WRAL is a television station in North Carolina, who, I think, who’s done a nice job there too in a state that’s one to watch for a lot of different things rolling through. The concern obviously there is that’s wonderful for the areas that have those trusted local media source sources, and I will, you know, to reiterate what you just said, Carla, we do know that that trust in local media continues actually to go up even not just trust it’s going up, whereas the lower the national media, unfortunately, the trust there is on a downward slope a little bit.
ROBBINS: I’m not taking that personally, but go on.
SHACKELFORD: Please don’t and I hope none of my other friends do. I’m just kind of telling you, that was my Pew hat coming out a little bit, to sort of have the reality. But you know, that’s true, though about all things really, Carla. The governors had a poll done by Frank Luntz a few years ago, and he found very, very clear data that said, it wasn’t even, you know, hate Congress trust your congressman, those guys were out the door. The only people that most people trusted in America at that point was governors and mayors. So I thought that, you know, it’s a following a trajectory for everything. But I do worry about the so called news deserts, I’m sure most of us have read enough about news deserts, I do you worry, particularly around those areas and what they are using to get that information because they don’t have, you know, a Mississippi Today or Minn Post, or Texas Tribune to give them a nice ballot. I will also say that the how is the piece that is the most different place to place, obviously, and also the most concerning. We are hearing stories of, you know, highly educated voters who are getting their ballots rejected because of strange logistics, like, in one case, I heard about a husband and wife, who the wife cert turned in the in her ballot and used a return a preprinted return address, you know, the kind we get from the Audubon Society for free or something, and it had her name and her husband’s name on it, too, and they rejected it.
ROBBINS: So that would be a good public service reporting would be to highlight, you know, things that are being done to avoid problems like that. And the last days and hours of it, almost be sort of a hygiene guide, you know, good voting hygiene.
SHACKELFORD: And voting hygiene guides would be incredibly helpful. The problem is there is no national or even state standard.
ROBBINS: But that’s the sort of thing given the fact that that this is, you know, for local journalists, you go to your local election board, because it’s not even for some places, as you said, it’s not even a state standard. You go to your election board, and you say to them, what are the, you know, four biggest mistakes that you’re finding that are unintentional mistakes? And how do we, you know, how do we avoid it, I’ll help get the word out for you. And you might maybe, and then the advocacy groups could probably also help you with that, because they would be able to tell you, because some of this is just screw ups and other of this as are intentional, because I have to assume that, that some malevolent actors are also pushing out the wrong information to people. So people are messing up because of the wrong information. So not just a voter guide of place and time, but also a voter guide, on good voting hygiene might actually be a sort of a useful thing to do between now and Election Day.
SHACKELFORD: Absolutely. I’ve even encouraged if you are, you know, a multimedia sort of type of reporter go get, you know, film yourself with your, with your ballot. I mean, not what you’re filling out, obviously, and, you know, I understand that that’s, but film the, you know, let people see, let people experience it in that way, you know, that’s one of the—
ROBBINS: Or an origami of the folding (laughs)
SHACKELFORD: I actually, I’ve made lots of origami jokes about that, you know, because it really, it is important. And I think too, if we think about education principles, some people learn visually, so wouldn’t it be helpful? And, you know, we’re all I’m sure really tired, and really no more free pizza in the news, no, I guess I can’t even make that joke anymore. But, you know, it could, you know, these are the kinds of things that might even be a little creative and a little more fun than your average, you know, the drudge of the daily day story that you’re trying to get out there, which is super important. But, you know, showing people just about basic civic information is I think, really satisfying, and could be a little fun.
ROBBINS: The advocacy groups, I think would also, you know, be a great place for disinformation, they must have banks of disinformation, people being told to go to wrong polling places, people being told wrong days to vote, people being told, you know, you can’t sit around and wait for the director of national intelligence who may or may not tell you the truth on you know, who’s behind it, or who’s doing what. And this is and you may or may not depending on the politics of your state, but I would think that the advocacy groups would, and, Do you know, particular advocacy groups that are keeping a bank of, you know, disinformation or pushing in the wrong directions?
SHACKELFORD: There are several groups that are trying to do it, I will tell you, there’s also some groups that are coming out of that I’m seeing like that are kind of fact check groups that citizens can use for disinformation, beyond news media as well. Repustar is one, and there’s one called Reality, as well. And I can send the links to folks for that as well afterwards. And so you’re seeing some, it’s almost like the civic journalism of today. It’s this, you know, civic fact checking, I guess, you might say. And so there’s certainly some things like that, that advocacy groups right now, frankly, are, I think, you know, the resources that it takes to combat disinformation are very large. And I don’t know that even some of the, you know, the best advocate groups are always able to, to really combat them, sometimes they’re just, you know, just hitting them as quickly as they can, you know,
ROBBINS: I mean if someone you know, if you know, that in your community that people are pushing out the idea that you can vote online; you can’t vote online, just by saying this, you know, it’s saying this, Kayla has a comment here, seniors are concerned about their ballots being safe. You know, there are things here, you know, that if you are aware of them that, you know, newspapers can actually add them to your list of hygiene or calming people down, or at least disabusing people of things, but it is whack a mole. And that’s why we need to have other people to sort of curate what’s out there. You know, this notion Democrats vote on this day, and Republicans vote on that day, that’s one that’s floating around. But we need to be flagged, whether it’s floating around enough for us to pay attention to it for us to write stories about it or flag people to it. So you know, what sites and what sources are the best ones to help us with? That is really useful information.
SHACKELFORD: And yes, you’re right. And actually, there’s quite a few that are doing that as well and we’ve got a list on voter communication.org. And I’m afraid if I say that a URL, I’m going to say the wrong so I’m going to, again, if it’s all right, I’d love to send that out to everyone. And I will also say, you know, for the advocacy and this kind of concept of the bank of information of that. They are collecting them it’s I think, not always necessarily sharing amongst each other. And so there’s not one kind of National Bank yet, but I just wrote that idea down is maybe that that’s the best idea I’ve heard in a while Carla. So maybe.
ROBBINS: Come on you guys. We need questions from you guys. I’m like, what do I know? I’m like, you know, I’m a national security writer. Come on, you guys are like the experts on, what are you hearing from your readers? You know, we want to learn from you. Come on. Don’t make me work so hard. Okay, while I do that, I’m cleaning, being a sound like Lindsey Graham, pleading for contributions. You guys, you heard him last night. Okay. We have a question here. Great. Can you read that? Irina? Wait.
FASKIANOS: Yes, I can. I was just clicking into it. It’s from Amie Rivers: for our low information voters who might be waiting until the last minute, what do we need to especially get out to them in the final days?
SHACKELFORD: So again, you know, I don’t think you’re going to be able to get them real time information about lines or anything like that. I think, again, this is where I would go back to that rule of seven. And for those low information voters, I would figure out as many ways as possible that I could get messaging to them. So you know, if it’s, well, you know, I realized that most media doesn’t have the resources to go and get their printed copies to people any longer. But I would say, you know, if you can get those messages out where those low information folks are, and that often is, you know, I worked with some corporate organizations to get messages on pizza boxes, things like that. Are there areas that, are there places that you could work with, with local businesses? Honestly, you know, if there is a, you know, I know we’re not going out as much anymore as we do, but is there a delivery site locally, that would be willing to, you know, put out a just a quick little card about, your local media voting site. Think about that. Is there a way, I will also say I know that, you know, religious organizations to have a point of view, they’re not the objective, you know, like media, but they are incredibly powerful, and they are often willing to really help. Also, organizations, you’re not thinking about like the Teachers Association, a local PTA. Again, it is civic, you know, civic duty, you know, you’re not asking them to get Dem information or Republican information to anyone, you’re asking just for basic voter information.
And so far, I’ve found that they’ve just basically been waiting for someone to ask, and they’ll immediately get that stuff out to all of their giant lists. You know, and I think that that’s a great way. We actually do, if it’s helpful for anyone on this call, we’ve got lists and lists and lists of state associations ranging from religious to civic, to professional and membership associations, I’m glad to share that with any of you, you probably know who they are in your own state. But sometimes there’s ones that you never thought about that are surprisingly willing to help. I also would remind you, here’s where you could call your local state and city lawmakers and policymakers again, they do have, you know, they do have opt in information just to get it out there. And just to work with them, you know, in the same way that once upon a time, I think we all did remember, when we would we have the afternoon paper would also have the polling information. And if they if the morning paper, you know, The Washington Star was where I was, you know, the star would have it if the post had missed it in the morning. You know, I do think that with Facebook, and some of the other ways, you know that people are engaging online, there are ways to get to them. In that same way that we’re not thinking about all the time. I again, we have all of these dependencies, and it’s really just there to be helpful and get you that information,
FASKIANOS: Right. And Tiffany, we will put together all the resources and send it out to the group for sure.
SHACKELFORD: Okay, great. Yes. So we can get all of those to you. And if you want language or introductions, even often I can give this to you as well.
ROBBINS: So that’s in many ways, sort of a project for the editorial pages, because it’s, even though you’re not taking a position, it’s more sort of the newspapers or civic actor, although I think maybe that line is not as clear as it used to be. Since they’re sort of people with much more sort of news and editorial melding together than it used to be. So I have a question about, you know, alright, the elections a week away, but the results are not necessarily a week away. So did you guys deal with in this report, questions that news organizations need to be asking themselves about planning for election night and the days after? And coverage, assuming that the results won’t be called immediately? I mean, I think about the night that Obama won. And, you know, we had an editorial saying Obama won, we had an editorial saying Obama didn’t win, we had an editorial saying we don’t know. And I remember that my boss the editorial page editor went downstairs, and because we weren’t going to call anything before the newsroom called, and he called upstairs to me and said, okay, push the button for the Obama won editorial. And I was about to do it. And I was standing there with the copy editor. And I put the phone down. And then I called him back and I said, Andy, I’m putting you on speaker, can you just say that again? And with the copy editor listening, she said, Obama won, push the Obama button. You know, and it was that sort of moment, I thought to myself, what happens if I put the wrong editorial in the paper? You know, this is this notion of calling, you know, the week NBC called wrong in 2000 this notion there. We’ve made mistakes so many times before but now we’re in so much more of a, and I was just looking at this Gallup poll, which was taken in October that found that only 59 percent of Americans say they’re very or somewhat confident the votes in the upcoming president election will be accurately cast. And, you know, extraordinarily a minority 44 percent of Republicans and Republican leaning independents expressed confidence in this. I mean, we were at an incredibly fraught time. So did you guys deal with this question about it’s not just a question of waiting for the AP to call. I mean, there’s there is I would assume explication that has to take place in this and that coverage probably has to be taking place now as well.
SHACKELFORD: So that is, that is exactly an error, because we were trying to get this out in a timely fashion that we thought this is something we need to look at and it will be kind of next for us in terms of that election season, I suppose is what I’ve started to call it instead of election night. And one of the things, you know, frankly, we didn’t necessarily look yet into what, you know, what could be done as much, you know, as we looked a little bit at history to see, you know, what had been done, other disruptions, trying to find even an example other than 2000, you know, where there was this level of potential unrest and disruption around a modern election, you know, even on a state and local level, what the longest time was, you know, before we get there. And again, what I think this, you know, come unfortunately, comes back to is just the trusted information. You know, it’s okay, if we don’t know what the election is, it’s fine, as long as we’re all waiting, we’re all understanding that we’re waiting on the same people to say what the end, you know, results is. And we certainly have started to think about, you know, are there ways that we can now pivot to communicate exactly that, and the message, there is a little strange, though, it’s be patient. It’s, you’ve got to just wait for a minute. And that’s, I think, a hard message to tell most people, frankly, I think, you know, especially with just the absolute exhaustion that we all feel about, you know, going into the election, we didn’t however, you know, I think, go enough into figuring out the potential solutions for journalists on that particular issue. I would say though, there are a number of groups and resources that are beginning to really start to offer some opportunities or offer some ideas. If you all are familiar with the American Press Institute’s trusted elections network, they’ve got a lot of great information on this topic. I would also reference refer everyone to Joy Mayer, who’s at Trusting News, is the name of her project. And she’s got some great ideas in terms of educating to the public on, you know, what the election season is going to what the reality is of the of the potential links before we know.
ROBBINS: I would love to hear from anybody who’s listening in about, you know, how their newspapers are dealing with this, right now, if any of them have some creative approaches to you know, whether they’re, you know, not referring to this, as you know, as Election Day referring to election season, when they’ve been whether they’ve been writing stories that’s that prepare people that this is going to be potentially something that could last quite a long period of time. Because I think we could all learn from that, I mean, we now hearing from the head of the network’s that they’re not going to make the same mistakes they’ve made in the past. They’re not going to be hyperventilating on election night, but we’ll see if that’s really, really the case. But I mean, that could have an enormous impact on whether or not we have civic calm, or we don’t have civic calm. But I think given the level of trust that people have in their local newspapers, that that’s, you know, pretty important. Even if people decided to go to sleep and wake up in the morning, what are they going to do, rather than just have a holding story? I think they’re going to need a context story as well. Not just a holding story, not the Obama didn’t win, Obama did with, you know, this, and not just to be patient, but what does this mean, the uncertainty of it? How does it play out? You know, then if we don’t know, is it because something went wrong? Or if we don’t know, is it because that’s just the process now in the midst of a pandemic? And because we have a different voting system right now. And particularly if you’ve got, you know, one side or the other side, claiming that things have gone wrong, and then you add into this, this whole, you know, possibility with cyber, you know, this notion of a perception hack that, you know, something might go wrong, even intentionally or not intentionally, like, you know, the way the app went wrong in Iowa and there’ll be people claiming that the whole election had been hacked. So I think people will be looking to trusted new sources for explanations rather than just holding stories. So I’d love to hear if people are getting those explanations in the in the midst of the crutch of the campaign. You know, I think it’s time to sort of start hearing more preparation. I know, I’m nannying now but I’m an editorial writer. I nanny, that’s what I do for a living nannying me. Anybody out there, have the guys on anybody have any of your papers done that? Kayla, you guys, I know Kala will talk, have you guys been talking about that at all? I feel like I’m calling on my students. Yes. Kala says yes.
Q: Yeah, we were actually because I’m not able to pay for I’m with a radio station. I know, we’re actually trying to do like an election week coverage. We have a few live broadcasts just to talk about how did people cast their ballots? Did they go to the polls? Throughout the rest of the week, we have a few folks coming on, to just talk about the different campaigns and whenever the news drop off who won the election, you know, we’re really ready to double down on Hey, this is the president for the next four years.
ROBBINS: How are you going to handle this if we don’t know for days or potentially weeks?
Q: Right now, the way we’re looking at, if we don’t know (unintelligible) sorry, I know to talk, I talk for a living. We’re putting it as, until we know, we’re putting together the agenda because we’re special, where that we’re actually the only black talk station in Philly and in Pennsylvania. So we’re putting together as, what is the black agenda that we want to put to this administration for the first 100 days? A lot of times, it’s not until after they get in that we talked about the first 100 days. So we’re really looking at what should we be petitioning for, for these first 100 days when it involves the black community. So we’re really looking at things like that gathering groups, we actually have a lot of our black clergy rather, is Christian or Catholic, Muslim, where they’re joining together, and they’ve actually brought a lot of time on the air to talk solutions with the people. So that’s really what we’re focusing on here, at WURD.
ROBBINS: Irina, I see you, you called on someone.
FASKIANOS: I did I called on Dan, to share with us, Dan Shelley.
Q: Hi, Irina. I’m Dan Shelley, I’m the executive director of the Radio Television Digital News Association and Foundation. I was very pleased to hear what’s happening in Philadelphia, particularly as it relates to the officer involved shooting that just occurred. I think, that speaks to one of the largest narratives in this year’s election cycle, clearly, which is coming to terms with the nation’s racial divide, if you will. And also all sorts of DEI related efforts and initiatives, and groundswells that we’ve been seeing across the country. I think it’s also important to point out that the work that has that is being done and has been done in Philadelphia and around the country, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, you hear about those cities in particular. But also it’s happening in small towns even around the country. As this heightened sense of tension and urgency around all of the issues of 2020 seem to be coalescing into this, to some degree angst and consternation over the election a week from today. And it’s led so far this year, just since George Floyd’s death at the end of May, to more than 850 reports of journalists being assaulted, attacked, harassed, threatened, having their equipment destroyed in the United States of America. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. press freedom tracker, which keeps track, as its name implies, of threats to press freedom across the country. And I can tell you that that number of more than 850 reports of incidents targeting journalists, most of which have come at the hands of law enforcement, by the way, is an exponential increase over the each of the last few years where we’ve had no more than about forty-five to fifty incidents targeting journalists and journalism across the country. So my contribution for lack of a better term to this conversation is to remind all journalists to watch your backs but don’t back down, to make sure that you exercise as much caution and personal safety as you possibly can. I know that a lot of news organizations are providing armed or unarmed security crews to go out with journalists in local communities. The networks have been doing that for a number of years now, particularly overseas, but now it’s happening with local newsrooms across the country, print, television, radio and digital. Unfortunately, there’s also a large group of independent journalists who have what we used to call in the early days of the internet vlogs, video blogs, and websites and other ways of disseminating news coverage, who can’t afford and don’t have corporate backers to provide them with such security. There was an incident in Austin, Texas over the weekend, where an independent journalist was physically attacked by a small group of protesters just for trying to do his job of chronicling their demonstration against the death of a man back in April, at the hands of police in Austin. So this is a daily occurrence across the country, you don’t hear about a lot of them. But there are those of us who are extremely concerned about the via the violence and the threat level targeting journalists in these final days of the election cycle, and my fear is that this climate will continue after the election, particularly if we don’t know the results of the election for a number of days or weeks. And then perhaps even following that, depending on what the outcome is. So watch your backs, but don’t back down. That would be my contribution, Irina.
ROBBINS: And thank you, and we will also send around the link to the tracker, because that is not only an act of solidarity, it’s also news. And a sense of exactly the level of civic distress that we are in when the truth tellers are at threat. Thank you so much for that. Irina, I think you’re doing a great job of calling on people.
FASKIANOS: Well, we are at the end of our time, so I can call on anybody else. But we did call on a few people. So, that was good. Tiffany Shackelford. And Carla, thank you very much for being with us. Tiffany, we’re going come back to you get all the resources that you mentioned, and then sent out to the group along with the link to this webinar. And you can follow Carla on Twitter @RobbinsCarla and Tiffany @TiffanyShack, that’s easy to remember. So we hope you’ll do that. And of course, please visit CFR.org and ForeignAffairs.com for the latest analysis on the pandemic, election 2020, and more. And just please share your articles and suggestions for future calls for our future CFR local journalists webinars by sending an email to local firstname.lastname@example.org. So thank you all again for being with us. And to you, Carla and Tiffany.
ROBBINS: Thanks, Tiffany. Thanks Irina.