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

DEADLINE: Applications closed

TEACHING DATE:  Sept. 9-10, 2020

One 90-minute morning session and one 60-minute afternoon session each day.


COST: Free for selected participants

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.

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.

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.


Kelly McBride,

Kelly McBride is the senior vice president of the Poynter Institute. She is also the Chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter.


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.

Morning session: 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Eastern
Afternoon session: 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Eastern

Accepted applicants 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 is a senior correspondent with PolitiFact. Previously, he was deputy editor of Roll Call and covered politics, policy and Congress for National Journal magazine. He is senior author of The Almanac of American Politics.



Joe Lenski is co-founder and Executive Vice President of Edison Research. Under his supervision, Edison Research currently conducts all exit polls for the major news organizations comprising the National Election Pool (NEP) – ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC.

Drew McCoy DDHQ

Drew McCoy is president of Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ), an election results and data collection and reporting service. He is responsible for all aspects of DDHQ’s election, business, and editorial operations.

Pace, Julie

Julie Pace is Washington Bureau Chief for The Associated Press, directing AP’s coverage of the presidency, politics and the U.S. government. Pace won the White House Correspondents’ Association Merriman Smith award in 2013 for her work explaining the Obama campaign’s complex approach to voter turnout.


Geoffrey Skelley is an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight, a leading data journalism news outlet that is part of ABC News. He examines polling and election data for presidential, congressional and gubernatorial contests.


Amy Walter is the national editor of The Cook Political Report where she provides analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment. She is also the host of WNYC’s “The Takeaway” and a regular contributor to the PBS NewsHour.

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 is the editor-in-chief of PolitiFact and helped launch the site in 2007. She was a member of the PolitiFact team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 election.


Karen Mahabir

Karen Mahabir oversees fact-checking and misinformation coverage at The Associated Press. She has worked as a reporter, editor and producer for the AP in its Mexico City, Washington and New York offices.

NYTCREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times 2/15/2017

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter for The New York Times, based in Washington. She came to The Times in 2017 from PolitiFact. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago.

Amy Sherman is a staff writer with PolitiFact based in South Florida. She was part of the team that launched PolitiFact Florida in 2010. She previously worked as a staff writer for the Miami Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.


Andy Specht is a PolitiFact reporter at WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina. Specht started fact-checking for PolitiFact while at The (Raleigh) News & Observer in 2017. He has reported on local and state government in North Carolina for 10 years.

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, is NPR’s TV Critic and a media analyst/contributor for MSNBC and NBC News. Deggans came to NPR in 2013 from the Tampa Bay Times, where he served as TV/Media Critic and in other roles for nearly 20 years.


CaitlinConant_CBS News

Caitlin Conant, is political director of CBS News where she helps guide the network’s political and campaign coverage.

Sam Feist

Sam Feist is CNN’s Washington bureau chief and senior vice president. Named to this role in May 2011, he oversees daily operations of the bureau and leads all newsgathering and Washington-based programming, including: The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, The Lead with Jake Tapper, State of the Union, and Inside Politics.

Rick Klein (1)

Rick Klein is the political director for ABC News based in Washington, D.C. He oversees the political unit and helps steer the network’s coverage of major news events.

John Lapinski, Ph.D. (2)

John Lapinski, Ph.D., is the director of the Elections Unit at NBC News where he is responsible for projecting races for the network and produces election-related stories through exit polls for NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo, and all of NBC’s digital properties.

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 is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30 years, and has also worked for the Tampa Tribune and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.


molly beck

Molly Beck covers state government and politics for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has covered Wisconsin elections for the last seven years.

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor’s office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Patricia Mazzei is the Miami bureau chief, covering Florida and Puerto Rico. Before joining The New York Times, she was the political writer for The Miami Herald, where she reported on the 2016 presidential election, the Cuban diaspora and natural disasters.

ATalley headshot

Ashley Tally manages the enterprise team at WRAL in Raleigh, NC, which includes investigative, consumer, state legislature, education, data journalism, documentary and PolitiFact reporting teams.

Application process


Applications closed.


Upon acceptance, you will be invited to officially register for the program and enter the online course where you will find program materials.

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