18 tools for journalists covering elections

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1. Yatterbox

A great tool originally designed for marketing folk to keep up to date with what is being said about their brand. Select the people or places (eg constituencies) you want to be alerted about when they are referenced, and it’s job done. Works with several social networks but is at its best on Twitter.

yatterbox1

2. Facebook interests

Facebook Interests are essentially like Twitter lists, allowing you to build up a list of pages around a particular theme which you can then find very quickly. Once an interests list is created, it should be easy to access on the left-hand side of your desktop page. All activity from the pages you add to an interest list then appear in the same way other posts do on your feed. Given Facebook’s feed generally tries to serve you what it thinks you want, rather than just everything (like Twitter), Facebook Interests ensures you have an easy way to see everything from pages which are important for the election, such as candidates or campaign groups. More details on interests here.

3. Surveymonkey

While it’s true that it would be very dangerous to use an open-access survey tool to ask people how they intend to vote, not least because of the risk of it being hijacked, Surveymonkey does provide an easy way to ask people about issues which matter to them. Surveymonkey provides the ability to analyse results, generate charts, restrict entries from any one IP address (not fool proof, but helpful) and ask multiple different questions. Newsrooms I work with have used it in elections before to help get views on issues which matter to voters. There is a free plan, or a monthly plan for about £25. Not being tied into a long-term deal is a very useful option from Surveymonkey.

4. TinyLetter

Email is enjoying something of a second life in terms of accessing content, probably thanks to the explosion in mobile web. TinyLetter is a clever tool which makes it really simple to send nice-looking emails to people who want to hear from you. Creat a sign-up form, share it and add people to your mailing list. A great way for journalists with specialisms to build a community around their work.

5. Infogr.am

There are many data visualisation tools available to journalists these days. I think this election will be the first where it is expected that all journalists can embed data into their work. The key in choosing one is making sure it works on mobile. Some publishers have bespoke data visualisation tools, but for everyone else, Infogr.am stands out for me because of its ease of use and the fact it promises to be responsive, thus making it great to use online for mobile users.

6. Democracy Club CV

CVs

The aim of Democracy Club’s CV section is to publish the CVs of every candidate standing. It’s a genius idea – so many decisions are made based on someone’s CV, why shouldn’t politicians aspiring to represent us share their CV for everyone to see.

7. YourNextMP

Yournextmp is a database of everyone standing in elections – or aims to be. It’s open source with more information being added all the time. Social media will be critical to this election, and this is a handy place to find the known social media presence of candidates, plus other information on candidates.

8. electionleaflets.org

electionleaflets.org has been knocking around for a few years now and encourages people to share election leaflets which come through their doors. For journalists, it’s a great way of keeping an eye on what people are putting in their leaflets and shoving through doors. After all, the 2015 election wouldn’t be the first where a politician would have preferred election pledges and statements to be kept away from media scrutiny. Also worth digging back to 2010 to see what was promised, and what may not have been delivered.

9. tryspruce

spruce-image

Everything works better with a picture – and Tryspruce makes it very simple to generate images which are the right dimension for Tweets. Type in your text, choose a picture, and you’re away.

10. Newsle

How well are you using Linkedin for election coverage? Newsle is an interesting idea, scraping your connections on linkedin and then sending you a link every time they appear in news coverage. Interesting if the people you need to follow are using Linkedin.

11. Streetlife.com

I plan to write more about streetlife.com soon but I’m currently enjoying using it to get information about my local area. It’s essentially a hyperlocal social network which allocates you an area based on postcode. For my area, I’ve been surprised about the volume of political discussion which isn’t being triggered by obvious activists, and it’s also a great way to get a handle on issues which bother people at a local level. A great way for beat or district reporters to keep tabs on issues it might be worth asking candidates about.

12. Powtoon

If you want to run through a big election issue with an explainer video, then Powtoon is a fun way to do it – as a cartoon. Takes time but if there is a big enough issue, then it makes your work stand out.

13. Creatavist

There are a number of great tools out there for immersive, or long-form, story-telling. Creatavist stands out because of its ease of use. There’s a great example from the New York Daily News here. For journalists expecting election 2015 to be an historic one, Creatavist could be a good way of creating a multimedia diary of how the election unfolded.

14. GoogleHangouts on Air

A great way to broadcast, easily, video format conversations which run live on Youtube, through google+ and which can be embedded on your website. WalesOnline did this very well during the Scottish devolution campaign. If you do plan to use Hangout, check out Hangouttoolbox too.

15. Veetle

There are loads of livestreaming on mobile tools out there but Veetle stood out for me because it comes for both Android and Apple and is very cheap to ‘go pro’ – $4.99 a month. Enables you to live stream from out and about, with the ability to embed on websites and Facebook too.

16. Wevideo

A good all-round video editing tool which is available on Apple and Android devices. You can trim clips, create longer videos, add voiceovers and so on before downloading and sending on.  It’s very easy to get to grips with too.

17. Snip.ly

snip.ly

Being part of a conversation online involves sharing more than just your own links. A clever way to share a link which might be interesting, but also link to your own coverage of an issue, is to use Snip.ly which generates a little pop up when a user clicks on the link you share to show your comment and link back to a source of your choice.

18. And finally … bluenod

A bit left-field, which is why I’ve left it to the end. Bluenod lets you analyse the communities around any one Twitter user, so you can see who they are connected with, and who is a potential influencer in their network. Useful for finding people who might make a noise in the election campaign, but who aren’t actually standing for election, and also for finding people who might want to share an opinion or two.

bluenod

Roll on May 7!

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