The Weirdest Election “Night” Ever: What journalists and election-watchers need to know about the 2020 elections and a working democracy

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The Weirdest Election “Night” Ever: What journalists and election-watchers need to know about the 2020 elections and a working democracy

Be part of the conversation to set the highest journalism standards for reporting election results and voter turnout in the 2020 election. There is an opportunity in the box below to include a donation. Please feel free to adjust accordingly.

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Be part of the conversation to set the highest journalism standards for reporting election results and voter turnout in the 2020 election.

The Poynter Institute and its Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership are pleased to present a workshop aimed at elevating the journalism around election results and voter turnout in the 2020 elections. Misunderstanding, misreporting and even mischief after the polls close this November pose a real risk for the proper functioning of the democratic transfer of power.

There’s a good chance that the American public won’t have a quickly announced winner, due to delays from mail-in balloting driven by the coronavirus pandemic. If the race is close, it may take a week to declare who won in races across the country. During that wait, partisans might try to shape the social media narrative through misleading readings of voting returns.

The discussions will help produce a report for wider dissemination to media practitioners and consumers. The conversation will expand beyond national races to touch on local newsrooms covering races pertinent to their communities as well.

As the 2020 national and local campaigns gain traction, it is time to challenge the industry to succeed in the highest standards of journalistic and storytelling excellence.

Be part of the conversation.


We will convene experts and journalists online over the course of two days, fostering lively discussion and vetting of best practices. We will host four panels between Sept. 9 and 10, 2020. Replays of all sessions will be available 48 hours after the event concludes.

Morning session: 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m. Eastern
Afternoon session: 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Eastern


Who should take this course?

We are inviting reporters, editors, academics, public officials, civic groups and election-watchers to apply to participate in a short series of topic-based panels on the 2020 elections. Journalists have a special obligation to report precisely, ethically and authoritatively, rather than being swept up in rumors. Civic groups and elected officials, too, need to be conscientious in gathering verified, authoritative information to share with colleagues, the press and the public.


Kelly McBride,

Kelly McBride

Senior Vice President and Chair of Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership
Poynter Institute

Check out the 2020 election panels

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to engage with the panelists via Q&A.

Panel 1: Reporting results

Wednesday, Sept. 9
10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Eastern

A nuts-and-bolts explanation of how the vote-counting process will go once polls are closed. An important topic will be an explanation of how early leads for one candidate can be reversed once different types of ballots are counted.


Louis Jacobson, senior correspondent

Louis Jacobson

Senior Correspondent


Drew McCoy DDHQ

Drew McCoy 

Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ)

Pace, Julie

Julie Pace

Washington Bureau Chief
The Associated Press

joe lenski

Joe Lenski

Co-founder and Executive Vice President
Edison Research


Geoffrey Skelley

Elections Analyst


Amy Walter

National Editor
The Cook Political Report

Panel 2: Confronting misinformation

Wednesday, Sept. 9
3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Eastern

Claims of fraud about voting by mail are made regularly despite a noted lack of substantial evidence. We’ll look at strategies for covering candidates and elected officials who share conspiracy theories. We will discuss how complaints of fraud — starting with early voting and through the election night — are to be understood and reported on and how to separate legitimate problems from false claims.


Angie Holan

Angie Drobnic Holan



Amy Sherman_PolitiFact

Amy Sherman

Staff Writer


Linda Qiu

Fact-check Reporter
The New York Times

Karen Mahabir

Karen Mahabir

The Associated Press


Paul Specht

PolitiFact North Carolina/WRAL

Panel 3: The role of television

Thursday, Sept. 10
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern

Television continues to drive election-related coverage more than any other media. We’ll look at what broadcast journalists are planning for 2020, especially new tactics for covering mail-in balloting and complications of the pandemic.



Eric Deggans

TV Critic


CaitlinConant_CBS News

Caitlin Conant

Political Director
CBS News

Sam Feist

Sam Feist

Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Vice President

Rick Klein (1)

Rick Klein

Political Director
ABC News

John Lapinski, Ph.D.

John Lapinski, Ph.D

Director of the Elections Unit
NBC News

Panel 4: Election “Day” at the polls

Thursday, Sept. 10
3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Eastern

Claims of voter suppression have increased due to fewer Election Day polling places in some states, but the complaints sometimes soft-pedal the steps made to expand early voting and vote by mail. We’ll discuss how to assess the balance of voting changes that have been made in order to better analyze whether voting opportunities have been made wider or narrower.


Tom Jones Profile

Tom Jones

Senior Media Writer
The Poynter Institute


molly beck

Molly Beck

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein

Political Reporter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATalley headshot

Ashley Talley

Enterprise Executive Producer


Patricia Mazzei

Miami Bureau Chief
The New York Times

Training sponsors

The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership

Training partner