Much of GIJN’s work is focused on assisting journalists outside the United States. When we do help American reporters, it’s typically to link them up with their colleagues overseas. Within the US, journalists have access to world-class training, ample resources, and a First Amendment to the US Constitution that allows them to do impressive research and reporting.
But times change, and we’ve never seen an election like this one. Amid a highly charged atmosphere, Americans on November 3 will vote to elect a president, members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, and thousands of local and state officials. There are threats to send armed guards to US polling stations, concerns of interference with mail-in ballots, charges of rigged voting and foreign interference, and record amounts of funding by donors both open and covert. There is race-baiting, fear-mongering, and a tidal wave of disinformation — all amid a once-in-a-100-year pandemic.
At the same time, the news media is under sustained attack, with record assaults on journalists and an increasingly polarized electorate that mistrusts the press.
The stakes, not just for the United States but for the rest of the world, are enormous. Washington’s traditional alliances abroad, its actions on climate change, and its support of democracy, human rights, and independent media are all at risk. Domestically, race relations, health care, poverty and wealth, and the strength of once durable democratic institutions all face uncertain futures.
GIJN is fortunate to bring together an extraordinary team drawn from 14 countries, many of them on the front lines of the fight for democracy and independent media. They come from embattled nations like Mexico and Venezuela, from Pakistan and Uganda. For them, what is playing out in the US feels like a movie they have seen before – constant lying by officials, degradation of the rule of law, politicization of security services, and, of course, the declaration that the press is “the enemy of the people.” It may be the hyperbole of a showman running for political office, but our team knows how this movie has played out in their home countries. Things end badly.
With those stakes in mind, GIJN is turning its global attention to the United States for the next 50 days. There is already great work being done on the US election by journalism groups like the American Press Institute’s Trusted Elections Network, ProPublica’s ElectionLand2020, First Draft, FiveThirtyEight, and many others. GIJN will build on that solid foundation by doing what we do best around the world: find the tips and tools most useful to reporters on the front lines. GIJN’s focus will be on practical items that our colleagues in the field can make quick use of: the latest tips, apps, and data sets that can help journalists do watchdog reporting.
Our team will be producing articles on topics we hope will be particularly helpful. See, for example, our just-released Essential Resources for the US Election and How America’s Toxic Political Polarization Erodes Election Reporting — and 12 Tips to Regain Impact.
But at the heart of GIJN’s Election Watchdog Alert is a daily stream of tips and tools that we’ve now begun, available both in English and in Spanish. Look for us on Twitter under the hashtag #gijnElectionWatchdog and #gijnLupaElectoral.
Reporters: Let us know what’s most useful and what else you need. You can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you online. And good luck out there.
David E. Kaplan is executive director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, where he oversees staff based in 14 countries working to strengthen and expand investigative journalism. He is former director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a senior editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting, and chief investigative correspondent for U.S. News & World Report.