National Journal Deepens Its Election-Tracking Game

NJ staff talk about making sense of election information overload.

First came National Journal’s travel tracker tool, an interactive map that allows you to see every town and event each presidential candidate has visited since November 2014: GOP breakfasts, peach festivals, church stops, parades, fundraisers. On the same day, the candidate pages were revealed, featuring a profile of each candidate and links to polling, fundraising and news about each.

Today the National Journal unveiled the campaign staffer tracker, another interactive tool that allows users to check out each candidate’s staff, see who they’ve previously worked for and lace together connections across years of campaigns.

The tracker was the brainchild of National Journal Hotline editor in chief Scott Bland, and designed and engineered by graphics director Andrew McGill and graphics artist Libby Isenstein. Zach Cohen helped research and organize the information.

“We first started thinking about this three months ago. The really intensive build has been the past month,” says McGill. The goal for the look and feel of the tracker was simplicity, according to Isenstein, who wanted “to have it be really easy to use for our readers and audience.”

“We wanted to organize the data and add value,” says Bland of the thinking behind the tracker, “not just show who was working for whom but where they came from.” It is information the team believes will be useful for multiple audiences, from journalists to political insiders to a watchful, inquisitive general public.

This is the third in a line of tools the National Journal Hotline will develop during the long course of the 2016 campaign, banking on the daily work of National Journal staff. “Every day we’re going through news clips and going through our own reporting and keeping track of what candidates are releasing about themselves,” says Bland.

The plan is to continue to turn what Bland calls the “overwhelming information” being reported, tracked and collected by staff into tools that sort and look at specific pieces of campaign coverage. One such future tool in the works will look at campaign advertising. That should be fun.