The American Press Institute’s Trusted Elections Network today announced the first round of micro-grants to support local news outlets with special projects to provide accurate information to voters or address misinformation at the local level.
The Network, which brings election experts and newsrooms together to ensure accurate election news, received 100 submissions during a two-week period, representing projects from 34 states plus the District of Columbia. The 20 projects we are funding in this first round stood out for their commitment to helping communities navigate a complex election. Together, these projects present a strong opportunity to consider new and better ways of covering elections throughout the country.
“We look forward to working with the reporters, editors and experts associated with the projects described below. Look out for lessons and takeaways from these projects over the course of the next few months,” API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “We will offer these lessons publicly, but please consider joining the Trusted Elections Network if you would like an inside look at the progress these projects make in the next few weeks.”
Funding for this first round, $110,000 in total, comes from Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Additional money is anticipated for more grants, and the network is open to additional funders.
Those receiving the grants in this round include:
Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
The Bangor Daily News will produce a weekly series up to the election following four undecided voters in Maine’s U.S. Senate race, exploring how uncommitted voters approach a contentious election. This series will embrace and illustrate complexity at a time of a polarized and oversimplified discourse, while delving into the ways ranked choice voting, vote-by-mail, and the pandemic are affecting voters.
The Beacon (Kansas City, MO)
The Beacon will create a text messaging campaign, digital voter guide, printed voter guide, and social media assets with critical voter information to be distributed with community partners in communities at risk for low voter turnout across the Kansas City metro.
The Colorado Sun (Denver, CO)
The Colorado Sun will launch a statewide voter-focused project that addresses information gaps, misinformation and disinformation about mail-ballot voting, and the security of the election in Colorado. The project will include a pop-up explainer newsletter about how voting works and how the election is secured, a public forum on election security with local and state officials, and an “ask us” portal for readers to submit questions and report concerns about voting through Election Day.
Black Girl Media / First Draft (Cleveland, OH)
Shana Black of Black Girl Media will create a voting information guide for Cleveland’s African American voters and other communities of color. The guide seeks to clear up misinformation targeted toward the community, fill data voids, and clear up confusion pertaining to voting. The print guide will be distributed in local independent newspapers, and the digital version will be distributed within the local Solutions Collaborative and by First Draft. Black Girl Media will also produce a series of podcast episodes on the Black voting experience. The episodes will feature local citizens talking about why they plan to vote, reflecting on takeaways from the 2016 election and featuring young people voting in their first presidential election.
Election Kit from Newspack (National)
Election Kit will connect several trusted data sources to create a go-to-market, embeddable solution for newsrooms that want to provide a simple election guide for their readers online. Combining a candidate lookup tool and campaign finance data, the project provides prospective voters with a snapshot of the candidates who seek their support, with links to more information on the source sites. This sample ballot tool originated as a project of The Chicago Reporter and will be provided to partner Newspack newsrooms.
Enlace Latino NC (Raleigh, NC)
Enlace Latino NC will expand its “Tu Voto es Poder” project informing the Latinx community that speaks Spanish as their first language in North Carolina about the electoral process, with a view to making informed decisions, registering and voting this election. The project includes information on voter registration, infographics with statistics and instructions, social media explainers, a WhatsApp network and podcasts.
The Hastings Banner (Hastings, MI)
The Hastings Banner will produce a digital and print Voters’ Guide to provide readers with both traditional information about all the local candidates and granular details about the voting process and individual polling places in Barry County — where, when and how to cast ballots. The guide will also be used to solicit audience questions and feedback about the election.
KALW Public Media (San Francisco, CA)
Focusing on five precincts with the lowest voter turnout in the Bay Area, KALW will create bilingual flyers with targeted elections coverage to hang on every door in each precinct; work with neighborhood organizations and networks to solicit election-related questions; produce original reporting and Election Briefs about the voting process and statewide proposition and county ballot measures relevant to each precinct; and partner with Spanish- and English-language outlets specific to each community to share and publicize content and events.
KCAW (Sitka, AK)
KCAW will develop a comprehensive voter guide as part of its digital Election Hub coverage. This hub includes candidate statements for each elected office, audio from candidate forums, information on how/where to vote, and more.
LevittownNow.com (Levittown, PA)
LevittownNow.com will supplement its traditional election coverage with freelance reporting to cover polling places, candidates events, and county board of elections offices during the tabulation of mail-in ballots. Staff will answer voting-related tips and questions from readers via phone, social media and email and create a guide for voters to navigate both mail-in and in-person voting this year.
Mississippi Free Press (Jackson, MS)
Mississippi Free Press will create a voter-centric election guide to let Mississippians know about changes to polling locations, poll worker shortages/opportunities, and other critical voting information. The guide will be distributed through an extensive community network and use of virtual Solutions Circles.
Mississippi State University, The Reflector (Starkville, MS)
The Reflector’s election coverage will be geared toward fellow students with less knowledge of statewide political races. The Reflector will plan a four-issue series exploring four contests of critical import to its readers: whether to adopt a new state flag to replace the previous flag; whether to allow the statewide sale of medical marijuana; the U.S. Senate race between Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) and Mike Espy (D); and the Mississippi 3rd Congressional District (the district which includes Starkville and Mississippi State University) race between Michael Guest (R) and Dorothy Benford (D).
Missoulian (Missoula, MT)
Missoulian’s election coverage will center Montana’s seven tribal nations, highlighting critical voter information in the context of ongoing litigation about voting rules and the collapse of traditional campaigning due to the pandemic.
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
The News & Observer will publish weekly fact-checks regarding election and voting misinformation, create a highly shareable video tutorial that deconstructs political advertising, and host a virtual town hall meeting to listen to the concerns of voters in our region.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)
The Philadelphia Inquirer will translate its voting FAQ into Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Vietnamese for audiences across its coverage area.
QCity Metro (Charlotte, NC)
QCity Metro will produce a series of short videos, as part of a larger voter guide, featuring local Black residents who lived through Jim Crow voter suppression in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, recalling the challenges they faced to cast a ballot. Each video will include information about voter registration, mail-in ballots and more.
Scalawag (Durham, NC)
Scalawag will expand its Get Your Vote effort, a multimedia and engagement-driven effort to provide information about voting across the South. Scalawag will solicit questions via mail and text message about specific challenges readers are facing and offer responses directly and online.
Serena Maria Daniels / First Draft (Detroit, MI)
Serena Maria Daniels and First Draft, in partnership with local media, will identify commonly used keywords in immigrant and BIPOC communities ahead of the elections to inform targeted infographics that provide accurate definitions and information to help voters identify and assess dis- and misinformation. The infographics will be easy to share through social media and will be printable to post in public spaces.
Tucson Sentinel (Tucson, AZ)
Tucson Sentinel will create a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide to election participation with complete information on how to register to vote, Arizona’s early voting system, how people can ask for a ballot and how they can ensure the ballot has been received, with additional explainers to help people put trust in the vote by reviewing the security of the counting system itself. The guide will also include a query form to solicit voter concerns and questions.
Uvalde Leader-News (Uvalde, TX)
The Uvalde Leader-News will publish its first election guide with information about local races, including job descriptions, area served, compensation, and other information about each office.