Thu., October 7, 2010 8:31am (EDT)

Introducing 'Fighting Words': Track What Candidates Are Saying
By Mark Memmott
Updated: 4 years ago

There's a new tool for political junkies on NPR.org that we want to tell you about:

"Fighting Words."

As you'll see, it's an experiment. Our hope is to get a sense of the themes, buzzwords and catchphrases that are being used on the campaign trail by tracking the Tweets, Facebook postings and websites of about 60 candidates and influential politicians. After all, those are the places where speeches, statements, announcements and sometimes remarkably candid comments are being posted. So there should be plenty of material.

We've built a database to "scrape" those sites for keywords. It gives us the ability to both measure how often the words are being used and who's using them. Plus, we can point to the original sources so that you can compare and contrast exactly what's been said.

We've also set things up so that you can see which things Republicans are stressing, what Democrats are emphasizing, the individuals we're tracking and their favorite phrases, and compare the words themselves to see which are trending "up" and which are in decline as these crucial final weeks of the campaign continue.

The folks behind the project have included NPR.org editor Erica Ryan, designer Alyson Hurt, developer Chris Schetter and digital news guru Kim Perry.

And we would be remiss if we didn't give full credit for the name of this project to NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. In one of our planning meetings, the subject of what to call it came up and Ron -- as he often does -- was quick and dead-on. "Fighting words," he said. The discussion ended there.

We hope you like the project. Please send along comments and suggestions for how to make it better -- perhaps, say, for the 2012 presidential campaign.

Oh, and before we close out this bit of self-promotion, might we also suggest checking out our Election Scorecard and Message Machine projects? [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]