Initiatives on same-sex marriage were on the ballots in four states during the election last week. Jennifer Vanasco had promised to live-tweet developments on the initiatives for WNYC, but had difficulty since she found few outlets made realtime information available about how the ballot initiatives were faring. An informal poll on social networks to see how others were following the issue didn’t turn up much specific to the issues or any important ballot initiatives. She writes on CJR that people said they were watching “Twitter and Facebook, followed by the interactive maps and lists at The New York Times and CNN.com or the CNN mobile app.” With both the New York Times and CNN maps, readers had to know which states were voting on the issue, then drill down to information on that state. Vanesco was watching the same outlets and explains why she feels this coverage wasn’t enough:
First, it is not okay for Twitter to be the main source of information for something as important as gay marriage battles in four states. Twitter, as we all know, is often wrong. Even when journalists are tweeting, they can do so impulsively, passing on incorrect information that they would never let into a story without double checking it. Twitter is not a reliable source, and it is a shame that people had to resort to relying on it on these issues because they felt like updated information wasn’t otherwise available.
Second, people should not have to know that an issue is important in advance in order to keep track of it on election night. One of the primary jobs of journalism is to bring critical issues to the attention of media consumers and to explain why they should care. People I queried — who are smart, regular consumers of news — were embarrassed that they didn’t know those races were happening. But it wasn’t their fault. It was the fault of election night coverage.
Read more about how Vanesco thinks that reporters can improve the way they cover important ballot issues before the next national election and why it’s critical that they do.