US 2020 Elections: A New Civil War and A New Cold War

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: CommonWealth Magazine

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 30 Oct 2020

Credit: Shu-ren Koo, Yu-hsin Lee, Daniel Kao, Yi-wen Lin

Project description:

“A New Civil War” explored the Black Lives Matter protests in response to George Floyd’s death in police custody. On election night, Commonwealth Magazine published live election results, displaying the results of the Presidency, House, and Senate. This also included a live blog to provide live updates to our readers. In “A New Cold War”, Commonwealth Magazine analyzed how Trump’s foreign policies during his four years in office caused relations between the US and China to become more antagonistic, and how the rivalry between the US and China is set to continue into the Biden administration.

Impact reached:

Not only was this package one of the most visited projects published by Commonwealth Magazine in 2020, it was also widely shared by many political scientists, influencers, and other respected individuals. In publishing “A New Civil War”, Commonwealth Magazine became the only Taiwanese news organization to report deeply on the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, and provided a sharp contrast to the sensational videos of looting that were being shared on social media platforms.

Commonwealth Magazine’s live election tracker presented the election results in a very simple and easy to read page. This also included a live blog to provide live updates to our readers, which many readers responded positively to the live updates that were provided throughout the course of the election.

Techniques/technologies used:

The team at Commonwealth Magazine used a significant amount of different tools and techniques in each of the different projects of our US election package. In “A New Civil War”, we found multiple sources that documented the date and location of each of the protests related to Black Lives Matter to draw our map. We also adapted the models from the Economist to create the graphic that detailed each candidate’s support.

In “A New Cold War”, we used a set of 3D modeling techniques along with THREE.js, an open source WebGL library, to create the spinning chessboard and globe. The technical challenge to display these 3D models proved to be highly technical, but ultimately gave our readers a more memorable, creative approach to illustrating the current US-China relationship.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The challenge in this project was figuring out how to frame the US election in a way that would be helpful to our readers, while also facing the limitations that Facebook imposed on foreign media outlets during election season to combat potential fake news stories. 

“A New Civil War” was the first story published in the series, and the most difficult piece in the series to create. Internally, we debated extensively how our audience would respond to such a story, and whether or not it was worth doing. Ultimately, we decided that although discussions about race may not attract a large Taiwanese readership, it was still one of the largest issues surrounding the US election, and few other Taiwanese news organizations covered it in such depth.

What can others learn from this project?

Overall, this project distilled a nebulous and complex set of issues to an audience generally unfamiliar with the issues around the US election. To a Taiwanese audience, these projects explored both the domestic and international issues faced by the US, as well as tying it in to issues that Taiwanese people would be most interested in.

Project links: