Politics and Journalism in the Age of Social Media

[Guest Blog] Commonwealth Duel: Centre students create website to highlight Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race

Posted by Centre News in Uncategorized 19 May 2014

Politics and Journalism in the Age of Social MediaWhile teaching his recent Politics and Journalism in the Age of Social Media class at Centre College, visiting instructor and KET host Bill Goodman presented students with a challenge to devise a way to help Kentuckians “gain a better understanding and knowledge” of the U.S. Senate race. The winning project: Commonwealth Duel, an aggregating website designed and maintained by seven Centre students. The group represents both Republicans and Democrats from a wide range of majors. Team members say they hope the project proves useful to Kentucky voters and ultimately helps highlight the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Kentucky at the national level.

Covering the Commonwealth Duel

websitePublic officials in the Commonwealth of Kentucky still must swear to have never fought in a duel when being sworn into office.

The victor in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Kentucky may truthfully be able to affirm not to have “fought a duel with a deadly weapon,” but the race will be, by all accounts, a knock-down, drag-out fight in the mud — one for the ages. The race has huge implications for control of the upper chamber, with the potential to affect Senate leadership. And it is on par to be one of the most expensive political races in U.S. history.

As part of a CentreTerm course taught by Professor Bill Goodman, called “Politics and Journalism in the Age of Social Media,” students were split into “pods” and charged with developing a unique product to cover the race that mixed aspects of social media, journalism and politics.

Our pod discovered that there was a large amount of information about Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, but that no outlet was aggregating that content in a way that proved useful to voters and interested observers. We developed Commonwealth Duel to provide timely information about the state Senate race as the contest heats up into the summer and fall.

When creating Commonwealth Duel, we knew we wanted to incorporate aspects of social media, journalism and politics in an attractive and easy-to-use site. As we found solutions to enhance coverage of the Senate race, the product became much larger than we ever imagined.

Currently, the site provides information about the backgrounds of all 12 registered candidates. For the three major candidates, it includes major endorsements and their stances on key issues. Additionally, we have included an interactive timeline of main events in the race and are tracking the campaigns’ donations and spending. Our Buzz page highlights recent news about the race on social media, including Twitter. Finally, we have included an analysis section, where we calculated the Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of each county in Kentucky.

While Commonwealth Duel is still very much a work in progress, we do have plans to make the website more interactive and informative in the future. We intend to add pages to cover major events such as the 2014 Fancy Farm Picnic. Additionally, we plan to encourage regular use of the site by incorporating a blog and public forum and potentially develop a mobile app.

IMG_4724Our team is proud of the product we created and excited about its potential to provide coverage of Kentucky politics for years to come. The site was recently featured in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and our team presented to a group of media and political leaders during the spring semester. We intend to enhance and improve the site throughout the 2014 cycle and provide coverage of statewide races in 2015 and beyond.

The project has given back to us as creators in an incredible way. Throughout the process of developing and marketing Commonwealth Duel, we have learned so much about web design, journalism and business. The opportunity to create a product while working alongside Bill Goodman, a leader in journalism in Kentucky, has proved a remarkable experience. Opportunities like these, where students get to work alongside experts in their field and receive personalized training, are a unique part of the Centre College experience. We have no doubt that Commonwealth Duel would not be what it is today without the support of our professor and peers at Centre and are grateful for their support, encouragement and continued feedback.

Kentucky will remain the main battleground for control of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 cycle. Clearly, there is a great deal at stake for all sides in the fight. The duel has just begun in the Commonwealth, but never fear, a group of Centre College students have developed a site to keep you informed, and it all started during CentreTerm.

Submitted by the Commonwealth Duel team

The Commonwealth Duel team is comprised of six students: Sean Dunn ’16, Hayley Hoffman ’16, Austin Jones ’14, Mary Burger ’15, Jordan Shewmaker ’14 and Mary Tanner ’14. For more information about the co-creators of Commonwealth Duel or to contact the team, see the About Us page on the website.

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