By: David Noack
Election news took center stage as millions of users logged on to get the latest results from an ever-growing number of news, search engine, portal and even government Web sites on everything from local contests and congressional and governors races to ballot questions.
The major online news sites such as MSNBC.com, ABCNews.com, CNN and Fox News Online, as well as dozens of major newspapers, all provided up-to-the-minute results of the election contests, with tallies, stories, analyses, graphics and multimedia. The only glitch in the coverage actually happened before votes were cast, when ABCNews.com on Monday inadvertently posted a test page of election results. The page was taken down, and the online service apologized for the mistake.
Online newspapers, such as the New York Times on the Web, washingtonpost.com, the Chicago Tribune Internet Edition and the Los Angeles Times Web Site, all provided continuous coverage, either using the Associated Press or running print stories hours before they appeared in the print newspaper.
Many of the online election sites had been up for a month or more, already providing voters with information about a variety of races. In addition to the latest vote counts, online news sites put many of the races in perspective, with databases of information about the candidates, the issues, biographies, votes, discussion forums and chat areas. Many included hyperlinked maps, where users could click on a state and get a comprehensive look at the contests and issues.
MSNBC on the Internet provided the latest updates, along with special reports and analysis. The coverage included localized state-by-state election returns and links to detailed information about candidates. Users were also able to access personalized results from national and local races including selected referenda by entering a ZIP code on the home page.
America Online, the nation’s largest online service, provided a full slate of election news and analysis from National Public Radio broadcasts, including a discussion of election returns with George magazine president and editor in chief John F. Kennedy Jr., Republican strategist Mary Matalin, and ABC News analysts and reporters, along with live interviews from Republican and Democratic National Headquarters.
In addition, Digital City, AOL’s local content network and community guide, provided live reports in key races. There was even a ZIP code search, provided by Capitol Advantage, which helped members identify their local districts.
Fox News Online’s “Election ’98” offered voters comprehensive profiles and information on candidates and races within local voting districts.
Even non-news Web sites, such as audiohighway.com, an Internet-based information and entertainment company, provided online election results via streaming audio online. “The Internet is all about speed and access,” said Nathan Schulhof, president and CEO. “Before the advent of the Internet, voters couldn’t get an immediate feel for how the elections were turning out.”
The Los Angeles County Registrar and Clerk’s office, through an agreement with U.S. Web Corp., an Internet Service Provider, included the latest results from the Golden State, with information fed to the county Web site directly from the computers that tally results. Regular e-mail delivery of the vote count was also available. The site pulled the data directly from electronic punch-card readers, which send the results to the state’s tallying computers. The site also included historical information that allowed users to follow trends and analyze various races. The system can also provide customized results, with voters in Pasadena, for example, getting local race results while excluding others.
Laura Sigman, a spokeswoman for Fox News Online, said Web site traffic doubled to 4 million pages views Tuesday.
“Our most accessed area in ‘Election ’98’ was by and large the customizable ticker. Users were given a menu of all races nationwide and asked to click on the particular races they wished to monitor. The customizable ticker then launched to the desktop and reported results of the race(s) they chose, allowing users to continue to surf the Web without missing poll returns,” said Sigman.
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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher November 7, 1998) [Caption]