'The Washington Post' To Roll Out Data-Driven Initiatives For 2020 Election Coverage

The Washington Postannounced new initiatives to enhance its political reporting and analysis, built by its engineering teams.

"Working closely with our colleagues on the politics team, we set out to use computational journalism techniques to help them tell the story of the 2020 election," stated Jeremy Bowers, a director of engineering for The Washington Post.

WaPo will roll out features to deliver faster results to readers on election nights, thanks to new resources available to its politics reporters.

Beginning with the Iowa caucuses, Feb. 3,  WaPo will be one of the first non-broadcast outlets to subscribe to the National Election Pool (NEP) for live election results. It will combine data from the NEP with information from the Associated Press for down-ballot races, as well as new software for gathering precinct results directly from state boards of elections.



“One of our driving values is ensuring readers have the information they want and can better help understand the country’s diverse and changing political landscape,” stated Peter Wallsten, senior politics editor for WaPo.

The newspaper's reporters now have access to a “proprietary tip sheet that highlights newsworthy changes and trends in the electorate for every state,” according to a release.

Called “The Lead Locator,” the program is auto-generated and updated monthly.

It analyzes voter data across the country “to pinpoint interesting or notable anomalies at the state and county level, giving reporters and editors a tool to use as they are planning their coverage during the campaign.” 

Predictive models developed by WaPo’s elections engineering team will give readers a “real-time sense of how many votes each candidate has and also how many votes may remain for each candidate that have not yet been reported,” starting with the New Hampshire primary.

The model uses a combination of historical election results, data on the electorate and live precinct results.

Last month, WaPo unveiled a new simulator tool with the goal of making the 2020 Democratic primary and caucus season more interactive for its readers.

Called the "Post Opinions Simulator," the predictive model lets users adjust data like polling averages, fundraising numbers and amount of time remaining until Election Day — and see how the five candidates are faring against each other. It also explains the most likely outcomes.

WaPo launched a weekly newsletter "The Odds" along with the simulator to deliver the latest Post Opinions election news, analysis and features to readers.

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