The Iowa Caucuses are the first official chance for voters to weigh in on the presidential candidates. It garners a huge amount of attention for the state and its residents. Some journalists spend weeks or months getting to know the voters, issues and candidates in Iowa before turning their attention to other contests. Only the New Hampshire primary, the first primary, is likely to get a similar amount of media scrutiny.
Resources on this page will enable journalists to meet the challenge of effectively covering the Iowa Caucuses, the later caucuses and primaries, and the whole of the 2016 presidential election. These resources are provided as part of a Specialized Reporting Institute, "Nominating a President 2016: How to Cover the Iowa Caucuses," hosted by The Poynter Institute and Drake University on June 21-24, 2015. The SRI was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
What's a Caucus, Anyway?
The Des Moines Register 2016 Iowa Caucuses Web page: Complete coverage and history of the Iowa Caucuses from the center of it all
Confused About the Iowa Caucuses?: An NPR guide to the caucuses from the 2012 election cycle
Northeastern University's U.S. Political Conventions and Campaigns website explains why the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary are so significant in this Iowa and New Hampshire discussion
Resources from the "Covering Campaigns" Conference
In May 2015, Nieman Foundation at Harvard and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics hosted a joint conference on reporting on the 2016 presidential election. The videos page offers links to key talks and roundtables from the conference. These are:
- Will Money Buy the Next Presidency?
- Open Toolbox: How to Follow Money in Politics (And Why)
- Nieman Storyboard: Live Annotation
- Covering the Invisible Campaign
- Learning From Elections About Learning in Elections
- Engaging Audiences in the Age of Participatory Media
- Beyond the Horse Race: Covering What Matters in the 2016 Election
The Center for Responsive Politics informs and educates citizens about money in politics. The site tracks campaign contributions and slices and dices the information in multiple ways. Its Top Organization Contributors page lists, for example, total contributions from a huge range of organizations, from the American Federation of Teachers to the United Parcel Service
Democratic National Committee website offers information about issues and demographics that the party is focusing on
On the Issues: Find out where national and state candidates stand on issues, compare them, find text of their speeches and excerpts from their books and more
Republican National Committee website: What is the official GOP platform? What issues is the party focusing on? How is the party targeting different demographic groups?
Election coverage can become boring to readers if it is always presented in a straight text-plus-headline format. The examples below, presented at the SRI workshop, illustrate alternative formats that can aid you in educating your audience about the caucuses and other election-related topics.
Video can veer from the straight coverage of a campaign speech into something unexpected:
Bloomberg Politics Takes Us To The 'ScrumZone,' For Some Reason, Jason Linkins, May 28, 2015
Meet the Iowans who want Donald Trump to be president, Josh Hafner, June 17, 2015
A BuzzFeed-style quiz can address issues, candidates' positions, history, anything:
- Are You Running for President?, Brian Resnick and Nora Kelly
Highlighting top quotes is a way to provide important or newsworthy information in an accessible way:
- 15 Head-Scratching Quotes From Donald Trump's Presidential Announcement Speech, Tom McKay, June 16, 2015
A Vox-style card stack is a great way to present fast facts and easy detail. You don't need a fancy CMS to do this; turn your text into images and upload the images to a slideshow.
- The 11 moments that define Hillary Clinton, edited by Jonathan Allen, June 15, 2015
An annotation or fact-check of a speech can be presented using DocumentCloud:
- What Happened—And What Didn't—From Last Year's State of the Union, Priscilla Alvarez
You might not get the chance for a long sit-down interview with a candidate; finding those who know more about a huge issue can help you build a narrative:
From Piyush to Bobby: How does Jindal feel about his family’s past?, Annie Gowen and Tyler Bridges, June 23, 2015
Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’, Michael Kruse, January 29, 2015
Connecting the Dots Behind the 2016 Presidential Candidates, Gregor Aisch and Karen Yourish, updated June 8, 2015
This is Who Republican Presidential Contenders Follow on Twitter, Steven Yaccino, Jeremy Scott Diamond and Mira Rojanasakul, March 19, 2015
Social media and the Internet are playing a huge role in this election. Pay attention to trends — maybe using Google Trends — and controversies. But don't forget to fact-check!
Whoa, If True: Hillary Clinton Blows Off Autograph-Seeking Vote, David Weigel, June 3, 2015
Last but not least ... don't forget to have some fun, maybe with a parody:
Leaked E-mail Between Jeb Bush and his Graphic Designer, Glenn Boozan, June 15, 2015
Create your own Hillary Clinton slogan, using her ‘H’ typeface!, Philip Bump, April 14, 2015
Covering a Presidential Campaign from Outside the Beltway: Learn how to offer smart and meaningful presidential campaign coverage, even if you can't be on the trail with the candidates.
Fueling Investigative Reporting for 2014 Elections: Learn to sniff out the connections between campaign donors and political candidates and figure out the influence that prominent donors have on candidates and issues. This Webinar and Resources Page grew out of a 2014 Specialized Reporting Institute.
Money in Politics: Investigating Campaign Finance in Your State and Nationally: The National Institute on Money in State Politics tracks the campaign finance contributions through its website FollowTheMoney.org. This Webinar replay guides you through this and other online databases that track the money flowing into political campaigns.
How to Work with Campaign Finance Data: Thanks to Citizens United and other recent court decisions, campaign finance has become more confusing, more varied and more important than ever before. This Webinar replay will help you better understand how to interpret and analyze campaign finance data and generate story ideas.
Political Fact-Checking: Tips and Tricks for the 2012 Election: Learn to write clearly, concisely and accurately. Bill Adair, the editor of PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, discusses the best practices in political fact-checking.
Election 2012 Reporting: Understanding Opinion Polls: Confidently pull the legitimate numbers and sort good data from sloppy surveys; learn to effectively evaluate polling methods and data.
Examining PunditFact and Its Role in Journalism: A Poynter Broadcast: An in-depth look at the impact of PunditFact's work and how the fact-checking of pundits can improve, expand and further help ensure an informed electorate. This is a replay of a free two-hour Poynter NewsU broadcast held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 10.
Reporting on Super PACs
A 2012 Specialized Reporting Institute examined the impact of the Citizens United decision on campaign finance. This Resources Page compiles resources from the workshop and the Web.