Election ’08: Unleashing the Cyber-watchdogs

April 23, 2008 - April 26, 2008
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
In partnership with Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Journalism and the Sunlight Foundation

About | Agenda | Speakers | Fellows | Resources | | Blog

About the Seminar

The Knight Digital Media Center @ USC Annenberg School for Communication brought 20 professional multi-platform journalists together with experts from private and public sectors to focus on: 1) how political and special interest organizations are using the Internet and New Media tools; 2) how to use the Internet and New Media tools to provide innovative and interactive coverage of politics; and 3) how to incorporate watchdog journalism techniques into your online coverage.

It is already apparent that New Media tools and the Internet have played greater roles than ever before in the 2008 Presidential contests, building on the political digital strategies of 2004 and 2006. At the same time, news organizations are using New Media tools to create campaign coverage online that allow for greater interactivity with their audiences and a greater ability to practice watchdog journalism at a new level.

But the Presidential campaigns won’t solely determine the direction or policies of the next administration. The makeup of the legislative branch will be critical to the success or failures of whoever is elected President and those races have been taken shape quietly below the glare of national coverage.

This seminar was designed to help news organizations develop coverage plans beyond the presidential election campaigns that exploit the potential of digital media. In addition, fellows received instruction in investigative “money and politics” tools.

Seminars were residential and fellows were expected to attend all seminar sessions as well as other related activities, stay in the host hotel and participate in organized meals with other fellows. As part of the application process, fellows agreed to share the knowledge they gain from the seminar with colleagues at their news organizations in a form that is most suitable to the subject matter and the organization’s needs.


Morra Aarons-Mele
Political Director,, and Columnist, Huffington Post and

Sarah Cohen
Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy, Duke University

Colin Delany
founder and chief editor,

Karen A.B. Jagoda
Founder and President, E-Voter Institute

Dennis W. Johnson
professor, political management, George Washington University

Full Speaker List


Presentation materials and slide decks used during the seminar.

PowerPoint: Congressional Elections: Looking at Some Basics
PowerPoint: Politics and Web Strategy: Metrics of Success
Windows Media Video: Video: Keynote address: “Transparency in the Age of the Internet” (112 MB)
Windows Media Video: Video: Politics and Web Strategies (192 MB)
Windows Media Video: Video: The Database Briefcase (210 MB)

Full Resource List


April 23, 2008, 2:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Welcome Reception

Presentation by:

  • Vikki Porter, Director, Knight Digital Media Center, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

April 23, 2008, 3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Opening Night Dinner

Keynote address: “Transparency in the Age of the Internet”

Presentation by:

  • Ellen S. Miller, co-founder and executive director, the Sunlight Foundation

April 24, 2008, 5:00 AM - 6:30 AM

Politics and Web Strategies

How cyber campaigns are carried out.  What has worked, what doesn’t work, and online attacks and defenses.

Presentation by:

Full Agenda


Ryan Alessi
political writer, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader

Richard A. Bard
deputy world editor, The Miami Herald

Taylor Batten
elections editor, The Charlotte Observer

Christine L. Bedell
government editor, The Bakersfield California

Nancy M. Cook
election Web producer, National Public Radio

Full Fellow List


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