‘The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls’

In the last presidential election, more than a third of voters did not go to a polling place on Election Day but instead voted ahead of time or by mail.

“Voters are increasingly … challenging exit polls’ ability to fully capture the electorate’s opinion on Election Day unless extensive supplemental telephone polling is also done,” Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee told the Nieman Lab blog, as AP today was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for a research project called “The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls.”

“Innovation is required to ensure our work continues to be accurate and complete into the future,” Buzbee added.

AP works with a consortium, the National Election Pool, made up of AP and the networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC), which contracts with the well-respected Edison Media Research to conduct exit polls.

Working with AP’s two polling partners, GfK and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, AP will test new methodologies and methods during a handful of elections this fall and the early 2016 presidential primaries.

The Knight Foundation’s website further describes AP’s research plans and presents our grant proposal.

“One of the things we really appreciate about the Knight Foundation is that work funded by their election challenge grants must be open and transparent,” Buzbee said. “That pleases us.”

Here are bios of the AP team leading this effort:

Sally Buzbee is a vice president of The Associated Press and has been its Washington bureau chief since 2010. Under her leadership, an AP investigative team won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for its probe of the New York Police Department’s intelligence activities following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

David Pace is a Washington-based news editor for The Associated Press who organizes and supervises the news agency’s election race calling operation. For each national election, he recruits and trains a team of about 40 of the AP’s top reporters, editors and managers to call winners in more than 4,000 national and state races.

Emily Swanson has been a member of the Associated Press polling unit in Washington since 2014. She designs survey questionnaires, analyzes polling data and writes about public opinion. She previously worked in survey research for Pollster.com and the Huffington Post.

The Latest format delivers the latest news

The fiscal crisis in Greece, plans by the U.S. and Cuba to open embassies in each other’s capital and tennis competition at Wimbledon are among the many developing stories in recent weeks that AP journalists have covered in a live blog type of presentation.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, right, speaks with Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos during a round table meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the EU LEX building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was heading Tuesday to Brussels for an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders, where he will try to use a resounding referendum victory to eke out concessions from European creditors over a bailout for the crisis-ridden country. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, right, speaks with Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos during a round table meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the EU LEX building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The filing system, called The Latest, presents short blocks of text on a running story in a broadcast-friendly fashion that works for both online and on-air use.

When used, The Latest replaces AP’s current breaking news filing protocol for text — in which a story is first reported as a so-called NewsNow of 130 words or less containing key developments, and then written-through again to restore all the details and background.

Instead, AP journalists file time-stamped updates stacked on top of each other so that The Latest becomes a running file showing how a story evolved.

“The Latest allows us to imbue developing stories with a you-are-there quality, which makes them feel all the more fresh and current,” said Director of Top Stories Kristin Gazlay.

“For instance, when the Boston Marathon bombing trial started and it took awhile for the proceedings to kick off, one of the first updates to The Latest led off noting that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sitting alone at the defense table and described his demeanor,” Gazlay added. “That’s something we would have been unlikely to file a freestanding NewsNow on, but a detail readers would devour on a top story.”

She noted that the pilot would be expanded to more stories, “including ones that have fewer developments but still can benefit from this treatment.”

Gazlay added: “We’ve heard from a number of TV customers that it’s actually a time-saver for them _ they don’t have to search through a number of separate files to glean the highlights of a story, since they’re all in one file. And the self-contained entries are ready to read on-air.”

At least 200 newspaper, television and radio websites featured The Latest when AP used it for the NCAA Final Four games, including many TV network affiliates.

The Latest also is increasingly gaining traction on Twitter: Versions of it showed in Twitter’s top 10 rankings for each of the three days of the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

The bottom line is that The Latest has turned out to be effective in showcasing the newest information about a story in a way that is palpably fresh, fast and even more useful to customers. AP plans to expand its use.

22 years a slave: AP takes readers on emotional journey home

The Associated Press today published a gripping tale of the life of Myint Naing, one of hundreds of former slaves rescued and returned home after a yearlong AP investigation exposed extreme labor abuses in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry.

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing, center, hugs his niece Kyi Wai Hnin, right, and nephew Kyaw Min Tun following his return to his village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia's seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

In this May 16, 2015 photo, former slave fisherman Myint Naing, center, hugs his niece Kyi Wai Hnin, right, and nephew Kyaw Min Tun following his return to his village in Mon State, Myanmar. Myint, 40, is among hundreds of former slave fishermen who returned to Myanmar following an Associated Press investigation into the use of forced labor in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

AP documented how slave-caught fish was shipped from Indonesia to Thailand. It can then be exported to the United States and find its way to the supply chains of supermarkets and distributors, including Wal-Mart, Sysco and Kroger, and pet food brands, such as Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. The companies have all said they strongly condemn labor abuse and are taking steps to prevent it.

To highlight the human side of the story, Indonesia-based reporter Margie Mason, who has worked as an AP correspondent in Asia for the past 12 years, sought the assistance of her colleagues and interviewed more than 340 former slaves.

“We had a unique opportunity because the Indonesian government was providing shelter to hundreds of newly rescued Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian former slaves. We knew that once they went home they would scatter and it would be very hard to follow up,” Mason said. “We typed up questionnaires in three languages, asking everything from what boats they were on to whether they were beaten or witnessed anyone being killed. I, along with my colleagues Robin McDowell and Esther Htusan, have interviewed more than 70 men face-to-face.”

AP reporter Margie Mason (AP Photo).

AP reporter Margie Mason (AP Photo).

Choosing a single story to tell, among many heartbreaking ones, was the biggest challenge.

“Most of these men had not been in touch with their families for years and had no idea what they would find when they got home. The story had to be strong enough to stand on its own regardless of the ending,” Mason said. “Myint’s story is like a movie. The Thai seafood industry stole 22 years of his life. He thought he was never going home. He had no idea if his family was still in his old village or if his mother was even alive. So, to have such an amazing reunion just a day after he got back, was really incredible.”

International Enterprise Editor Mary Rajkumar, who was the editor on the investigation, added: “These stories really show why in-depth international journalism matters, and why it’s so important to keep doing it. In this day and age, it’s remarkable that journalism helped to free hundreds of slaves. But it’s  also a humbling reminder of how much more we need to do.”

AP’s initial report generated significant interest around the world and AP reporters described what they found to numerous media outlets, including HuffingtonPostLive’s “World Brief,PRI’s “The World,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” the PBS NewsHour podcast “Shortwave,” and WNYC’s “The Leonard Lopate Show.”

Read the AP story and explore the interactive report, which features video of Myint’s emotional reunion.