Tips on consuming media on election night: Moderation, multiple sources and a bit of mockery
Outside of who you actually vote for, this might be the most important decision you make today:
How will you consume news about Election Day?
If experience is any guide, many of you will be doing it in a multitude of ways.
The so-called "second screen" experience has taken full flower during this election cycle, with people watching election events on TV while chirping away on social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook with a smartphone or tablet computer. Such arrangements offer access to a lot more information (and great jokes), but also can lead to pitfalls.
Here's a few recommendations and random thoughts:
Be careful about passing along unverified information. Even CNN and some other news outlets got suckered during coverage of Hurricane Sandy by a prankster on Twitter who passed along the hoax that the New York Stock Exchange was flooded. While social media allows anyone to become a reporter, it doesn't automatically turn them into Walter Cronkite. Look to see where social media messages originate and look to see if more than one trusted information provider is issuing the same information. Nothing worse that getting suckered into passing along bad info (fortunately, I avoided the NYSE stuff).
Be careful about assuming everyone is consuming media like you. A friend asked for information on how many people watched the last presidential debate online, noting that all her friends seemed to take it in that way. But there's still a lot of folks who aren't quite so tech-savvy -- just 16 percent of adults use Twitter regularly, for instance. It's a curious feature of today's media environment; we can tailor our media consumption any way we like, but we still assume most people make the same media choices we do.
Be careful about passing along silly memes. Online media brought us some amazing moments during the campaign, including spreading word about Mother Jones' posting of video featuring Mitt Romney's damaging 47 percent remarks and circulating questions about the Obama administration's lackluster explanation for its shifting stories about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. But social media has also been a home for snark on binders full of women and empty chairs holding an imaginary president. I'll be snarking plenty during tonight's coverage, but I try not to lose sight that there's an actual, important election also taking place.
If you're looking for something a little different than the typical media outlets, here's a few different options for checking out election reports.
Every big news outlet will have a massive online presence, but YouTube's Politics channel features live coverage pulled together from sources disparate as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Al Jazeera English and former CNN anchor Larry King's punditry fro the ORA channel (I've never heard of it, either.) When I surfed to the page this morning, it was spotlighting this video from Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM, interviewing a woman among 80 waiting in line in South Tampa to vote at 8 a.m. today. now that's full service.
Everybody's got a viewer's guide on how to watch for election returns (hint: despite 7 p.m. closing times in Florida, because of daylight savings time in the Panhandle, all the polls in the state won't be closed until 8 p.m. EST. Big networks have promised not to share exit polling data -- used to call elections among news outlets -- until all polls are closed in a state.) But USA Today has a handy visual guide, including helpful maps showing which states close at what times and
If you're wanting to join the media instead of just consume it -- why, really? -- the website Storify has a handy guide showing how to create your own aggregation of election coverage and online media moments. Storify allows anyone to pull together strings of Twitter posts, online videos, Instagram pictures and more into a large, bloglike file suitable for embedding on blogs and sharing with friends. and there
NPR reported from a polling place at the Florida Aquarium on its show Morning Edition today, proof that, as much as people are talking about Ohio's importance, Florida is also a close race that both presidential candidates would love to win. I wondered, particularly while watching local TV stories on early voting over the weekend, why so few stories mentioned the composition of the lines -- lots of people of color and working class voters who might need early voting days to cast ballot because of their jobs.
Yahoo! has an interesting Elections Control Room dashboard for those too lazy to access multiple media outlets on their own, offering one screen with their ABC News/Yahoo News video reports, links to stories, poll results and twitter hashtag information. Expect it all to go live when ABC's coverage begins with Yahoo! at 7 p.m.
It's easy to forget that NPR provides pretty awesome election coverage on the radio (full disclosure: I work regularly as a freelance commentator on TV for the service). This year, the service is planning seven hours of coverage from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., all of it available online and much of it on Tampa affiliate WUSF-FM (89.7)
Of course, the Daily Show and Colbert Report offer live elections coverage starting at 11 p.m. -- which is just when all the cable TV news pundits should be getting logy and saying stupid stuff. Might be hard to tell the difference between real and fake news broadcasts by then