Ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, more than 20 candidates have hit the campaign trail to run for president. Until the conventions, the primaries will continue to play a role in public conversation, with much of that discussion taking place on social media.
Our responsibility at Facebook is to foster transparency around the 2020 primaries for both the public and our publishing partners. Our goals are to promote quality content on our platform, provide tools for keeping journalists safe, and offer best practices for using Facebook, Instagram, and CrowdTangle to cover elections. Our efforts around the 2020 U.S. primaries include the following programs.
NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Instagram partnered to select seven talented visual journalism students to participate in a project covering the first two nights of the first Democratic debates. Workshops and training took place in early June at both the NBC headquarters in New York and Telemundo headquarters in Miami. Each student-journalist focused on an important issue facing the Democratic candidates, including immigration, climate change, healthcare, and social justice. Telemundo took a step further by inviting two of the students to attend the debates in-person, where they got to post behind-the-scenes Instagram coverage and report live. The content they created lived on the NBC News and Telemundo Instagram accounts, primarily via Instagram Stories and IGTV. Through the fellowship, the student-reporters got to highlight topics impacting young people. Through the reporting, both networks were able to educate potential first-time voters on critical topics in an accessible and familiar format.
Journalist Training Programs
Facebook Journalism Project + Poynter eLearning Courses: The Facebook Journalism Project and the Poynter Institute partnered to develop a free curriculum to make it easier for journalists to utilize Facebook and Instagram in their daily work including newsgathering, storytelling in new formats, and interacting with their followers. Course enrollees who pass Poynter’s written assessment receive a certificate of completion, recognized by both Facebook and Poynter, via Blueprint, Facebook’s e-learning system.
Storyful Partnership with the Facebook Journalism Project: In October 2018, Facebook launched a team of Storyful trainers to hold in-person and virtual trainings for journalists. The program is intended to support journalists as they navigate the flow of information across social platforms and determine authenticity of user-generated content. It also offers tips and cross-platform best practices for journalists as they discover social media content online that is relevant to their reporting.
Embedded Reporter Workshop
In April, Facebook hosted over 30 embedded reporters who are following the candidates on the campaign trail leading up to the 2020 election. The event included an interactive training on Instagram best practices, a CrowdTangle how-to workshop, and Q&A sessions for journalists to better learn how to use Facebook and Instagram in their reporting. For some, this was their first formal training on how to leverage our platforms to reach an engaged audience.
Democratic Debate Livestream
In late June, NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo hosted both nights of the first Democratic debates. Along with traditional television coverage, the networks livestreamed the broadcasts on Facebook Watch. NBC News and Telemundo used Facebook’s “Scheduled Live” tool to promote engagement, meaning this information was posted on News Feed and viewers had the option to schedule a reminder to tune in. We also worked closely with the Facebook Watch search team to make the streams easily searchable on mobile.
CrowdTangle is a Facebook-owned data platform that allows you to easily monitor trends across Facebook and Instagram. The user-friendly dashboards allow you to benchmark performance for all Facebook and Instagram posts, along with your accounts as a whole. For the 2020 primaries, the Facebook CrowdTangle team has built a live display that allows news organizations to track trends and performance for organic and branded content, as well as assess their performance versus competitors. The team has also created a CrowdTangle election playbook, distributed post-debate content recaps for North American news organizations, and hosted a webinar on how publishers leverage the platform for fact checking.
While we’re encouraged by our progress, we know there is much work remaining in our mission to provide strong platform value and trusted integrity initiatives to news partners. As primary season moves along, we plan to continue empowering local publishers with election-related trainings and discussions. Our eyes are set on Iowa and New Hampshire, to ensure local journalists there have the tools necessary to leverage both platforms throughout their reporting. To keep up-to-date on the latest Facebook news surrounding the election, please follow along on the Facebook Journalism Project website.
Additional Resources for Journalists
Protecting the integrity of elections while making sure people can have a voice is a top priority for Facebook. Our tactics on platform include blocking and removing fake accounts, finding and removing bad actors, limiting the spread of false news and misinformation, and bringing transparency to political advertising. Our approach to this problem — like the problem itself — is multifaceted and continues to evolve. Below are some helpful tools for journalists to use in support of election coverage:
Elections Guide — A summary of Facebook tools to help publishers with audience development and newsgathering before, during, and after elections.
Safety Tips for Journalists — From protecting your passwords to turning on two-factor authentication, download guides, and view tips for journalists to stay safe on the Facebook platform and off.
Facebook Courses for Journalists — The Facebook for Journalists Certificate is a free curriculum in partnership with the Poynter Institute to make it easier for journalists to utilize Facebook and Instagram in their daily work.
CrowdTangle During Elections — CrowdTangle’s core products can be used to monitor what’s happening on social media during elections for newsgathering. This guide offers top-line tips to get started.
Facebook Journalism Project Newsletter — Sign up to stay in-the-know on the latest programs and resources available to the news industry.