BuzzFeed will look to Twitter users to help call elections tonight


The "decision desks" assembled by the Associated Press, TV networks and other mainstream news organizations have been "outcompeted in the marketplace of fast, accurate, sophisticated, and transparent information," BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith writes.

So tonight as it covers returns, he says, BuzzFeed "will be looking first to the players in the vibrant, transparent twitter conversation to make our own calls and to power our election night graphic, and to make our own election night calls."

AP and the nets will be among the participants in that conversation, but so will Nate Silver, Daily Kos and the Ace of Spades HQ Decision Desk, whose honcho, Brandon Finnigan, Smith profiled in September. (Finnigan will work from BuzzFeed's L.A. office Tuesday night.)

In 2012 Brian Stelter wrote about how news organizations planned caution when making election-night calls -- CNN and Fox's goofs when reporting the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision, NBC News' star-crossed George Zimmerman 911 call still loomed large. “In a close contest, we’ll simply wait,” CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist told Stelter.

AP says it called 4,653 races in 2012, with a 99.9 percent accuracy rate. This year it will deploy 5,000-plus people to help it collect vote counts. But AP's first obligation is not to the masses on Twitter but to its customers to buy twitter followers. In 2012 it also promised members that it would not scoop them on social media.

Finnigan and his volunteer cohort have "a tiny fraction" of AP's newsgathering muscle, Smith wrote in September, but they've got more than 100 volunteers who "collect results directly from local officials." They'll "focus on the relative handful of races of national interest, and have become central to a political conversation that has been for years now shaped on Twitter."

Queried about BuzzFeed's plans, AP spokesperson Paul Colford told Poynter "Democracy is a wonderful thing." He continued:

"We're happy to see others participate in the excitement of election night while at the same time we have confidence that AP will provide authoritative and the most comprehensive vote-counting, as well as expert coverage of the results across the country and what they mean. Welcome to the show."

Related, from 2012: How news orgs plan to avoid bad calls on election night

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon