The following post is an excerpt from Newsela Chief Content Officer Jenny Coogan’s post-election letter to staff, sent on November 9, 2020.
It’s a relief to write to you knowing that Election 2020 has been decided and that we can begin moving forward. Despite our two days off, last week was long, hard and strange. Many of us stayed up watching news or refreshing web pages late into Tuesday night waiting for some definitive result… and then again on Wednesday… and on Thursday. With nothing conclusive, we focused our coverage on the results of our student polls and some groundbreaking wins in other races to tide over students and teachers while we all waited… and waited for Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia to finish their count. I thought Friday night would surely bring resolution. In the end, I didn’t get my news from John King or Steve Kornacki, but from the internal Slack channel where several dedicated, sleep-deprived Content team members had been keeping vigil and coordinating coverage.
Like us, students will certainly have heard the news over the weekend, but they’ll read about it on Newsela. We selected as our headline story, Biden wins White House, vowing new direction for divided US, authored by the Associated Press, because of its reputation for impartiality (not to mention their speed). And because she’s made history in many ways, we ran an additional headline article, Harris becomes first Black woman, South Asian elected VP. Stay tuned later this week for leveled text versions of the victory speeches delivered by Biden and Harris on Saturday night. I’m proud of the team’s hard work and grateful for all they’ve done to prepare teachers for a Monday morning like no other.
This particular election year was one nobody felt certain about. The only thing we knew was that it would be fraught, and that 2020 would find a way to take best-laid plans and twist them into a tangled mess. With this in mind, our team strategized early and built out a knowledge-rich collection that would give students themselves the tools they needed to make sense of the election process — no matter how it unfolded. Among them are Who formally declares the winner of a U.S. presidential election?, Analysis: Votes are always being counted for days past election night and Ways to Stay Calm This Election Week. The Content team also put together a free Election Collection unit on Election 2020: November 3rd and Beyond, which contains an Election Tool Kit and a guide to Possible Election Outcomes, designed to provide teachers a reliable and accurate way to prepare their students for a contentious race.
In addition to traditional civic literacy, this long election season has underscored the urgent need for media literacy education, in schools and beyond. We ran Four ways to protect yourself from disinformation and Don't fall for a conspiracy theory; here's how to protect yourself with the belief that students can drive the conversation around media literacy and digital citizenship among their friends, families, and communities at large.
For many of us, this has been a disorienting and anxiety-inducing race. Our country has never felt more divided — not only by ideas and policy, but by information. What’s been grounding for us on the Content team is knowing that we can play a role in helping ease that divide by providing a trustworthy place for news consumption. Thank you for your collaboration in all this. Together, we’re making the classroom a launchpad for a lifetime of civic engagement.
Here’s to empowering future voters,