News orgs innovate with election coverage

Tuesday night will be the most interactive election night ever.

Millions of Americans won’t just be watching results come in, they’ll be participating in new ways thanks to news organizations doing just about everything they can think of to enhance live coverage tonight.

Hyping the hypotheticals

For all the excitement of election night, there’s also lots of waiting. Waiting all day for people to vote and then waiting hours at night for the last polls to close and votes to be counted.

In the meantime, there’s little left to do but speculate about the potential outcomes. And this year news organizations have built a lot of elegant tools to help you do just that.

The New York Times has won the most acclaim with a beautiful interactive graphic that lets you explore all 500-plus possible electoral paths to the White House for each candidate. Mike Bostock at Source has a great interview about the design and building of that interactive.

The New York Times’ “512 Paths to the White House.”

NPR has a similar Swing State Scorecard which lets you see the effect of a candidate winning swing states.

And The New York Times has another well-done Web app that lets you visualize plausible electoral scenarios and drag states to one candidate or the other.

Voting photos

Photos of polling places and “I Voted” stickers will flood social networks today, and news orgs have built some interesting ways to present them.

NBC News’ Electiongrams website aggregates and neatly maps all the Instagram photos related to voting.

Electiongrams shows election-related Instagram photos from each state.

PBS “Newshour” has a similar labs project called Look I Voted, and location-based social network Foursquare has the I Voted Map.

One note: In some states, it is illegal to take photos inside a polling place.

Live video everywhere

Just about every TV network has said it will be live streaming its coverage online and/or through smartphone and iPad apps. Perhaps that’s to be expected.

But other types of news organizations are also jumping into video coverage. The Huffington Post will make heavy use of its new HuffPost Live video channel. Newspaper companies like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Denver Post and Chicago Tribune are planning live video broadcasts streaming on their websites all night.

The Journal’s video coverage on WSJ Live will include Social Media Director Liz Heron interviewing staff from Twitter, Facebook and Google about how the election is playing out online.

PBS “Newshour” will try one of the more outside-the-box ideas tonight — strapping “hat cams” on the heads of people roaming the parties in Washington, D.C. Newshour’s Kelly Chen filled me in:

HatCam — the brainchild of NewsHour art director Travis Daub and politics editor Christina Bellantoni — was a big hit at both of the conventions. Since then, we’ve taken HatCam to a few debate watch parties in the DC area to get a feel of how/if the debate impacts voters’ decisions.

Two HatCams will be deployed tonight — one to the Democratic HQ and the other to the Republican HQ, in hopes of capturing the partisan atmosphere here in D.C. After the results are announced, the two teams may also roam D.C. for an “election night: street view” vibe and talk to folks out celebrating (or crying…).

The @newshour account and the #hatcam hashtag will promote the HatCams, and you can watch them with other live video feeds on the NewsHour website.

Social engagement

Finally, while most news organizations are focused on numbers and speeches tonight, The Huffington Post is doubling down on its bet that “the social conversation” about the news is as big an opportunity as the news itself.

It announced a coverage plan that “places social media on an equal footing with news sites and broadcast networks for scoops.” From spokesperson Rhoades Alderson:

HuffPost Politics and HuffPost Live reporters and editors will tell the stories that will define Election Day… Just as important, the site will invite members of the community to enrich those narratives with stories of their own. This hybrid approach will weave together real-time reporting and analysis with an unprecedented effort to open up the conversation to those most affected by the election’s outcome — the voters themselves.

Should be an interesting experiment to watch.

Certainly Twitter and Facebook themselves will be flooded with election buzz all night, and journalists will be part of it. BuzzFeed’s John Herrman predicts Election Day will break Twitter, not literally, but because timelines will be moving too fast for users to keep up.

Twitter is trying to compensate with a heavily filtered Election 2012 hashtag page and a political engagement map that shows what tweets and keywords are resonating in each state.

Meanwhile, Fox News will be Twitter’s exclusive media partner today, with Twitter data and analytics used to analyze the election.

Know of other good interactive coverage tonight? Add examples in the comments below.

Related: How the TV networks will be covering election night (AP)

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