Journalism students monitor social media insights on election night

Friday, November 11, 2022 - 10:30am

Journalism students partnered with a new social media research program to enhance their election coverage on Nov. 8. 

Based in the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Public Insight Lab conducts social media research with collaborators across campuses and the community to identify significant insights that inform action.

Through the lab, CoJMC students Peyton Thomas and Jenna Reynolds used social media tools, including Sprinklr, to monitor social media posts and research throughout election night. They reported their findings through Nebraska Nightly, a student-led live broadcast at the college. Thomas is a senior broadcasting, journalism and sports media communication triple major from Gilbert, Arizona. Reynolds is a sophomore advertising and public relations and broadcasting double major from Omaha.

Sprinklr is an online platform that harvests data from social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, news, blogs and more. Thomas and Reynolds primarily looked at Twitter activity in Nebraska as part of their election reporting.

Analysis of Twitter conversations revealed more positive sentiment among Nebraskans for Initiative 433 and raising the minimum wage and more negative sentiment around Initiative 432 and requiring voter ID. Important topics identified in posts about the governor’s race included property taxes, editorial endorsements, and years of experience. Trending topics about the gubernatorial race also included the blood moon, which some social media users related to candidate Carol Blood. 

Valerie Jones, associate professor at the college, launched the Public Insight Lab in 2022, with support from the Methodology and Evaluation Research Core Facility and in collaboration with the Nebraska Public Policy Center. The lab serves as a hub for social media research on campus, fueling innovative student experiences and interdisciplinary projects. 

“I was amazed by the agility of the students and how quickly they could pivot from scouring the data to delivering a live broadcast,” Jones said. “The election night team worked together incredibly well, on-air and off-air, and I’m glad the Public Insight Lab was a part of it.” 

Ken Fischer, assistant professor of practice and faculty liaison of Nebraska Nightly, talked about future collaborations between the two programs. 

"Our broadcast journalism students had a great experience working with Professor Jones' team on election night,” Fischer said. “I hope this is just the beginning of a partnership between our students."

For more information about the Public Insight Lab, visit To view Election night coverage from Nebraska Nightly, visit the Nebraska News Service’s YouTube page.

Peyton Thomas and Jenna Reynolds
Peyton Thomas and Jenna Reynolds