Site might predict mayor

By Contributing Writer

by: Heather McGraw, Contributing Writer

While Dan Sinker spends his days as an assistant professor in the Journalism Department, his other projects are

catching attention.

His website,, was acknowledged by The Huffington Post as the most informative site on the upcoming Chicago mayoral elections in an article on its website on Nov. 23.

“It’s been the most informative thing we’ve seen in terms of information on all of the candidates,” said Jen Sabella, Chicago editor at The Huffington Post.

Sabella said the site was a useful tool for the aggregated style of The Huffington Post.

“He would continuously add where the candidates stood in terms of are they running—are they officially in, are they not, are they out—because it was changing on a day-to-day basis,” Sabella said.

According to Sabella, the site can be used as a tool for reporters and readers alike.

“It’s a one-stop shop for somebody interested in the mayoral race,” Sabella said.

Sinker said he had that goal in mind when creating the site.

“Basically, the idea is to give a very quick, easy-read display of all of the information about candidates in the [mayoral] election,” Sinker said.

Unlike other news providers, Sinker’s site doesn’t concentrate on one or two candidates, it seeks to provide information about all of the mayoral candidates.

“Some of these names—if you’re going in to vote on Feb. 22—you will have never seen in any newspaper, and that’s a disservice to being an informed electorate,” Sinker said. “That’s a big part of it to me: just actually having a list and having information built into that list.”

Aside from a full list of candidates, The Huffington Post states the amount of information provided is what sets the site apart from other outlets.

“I started thinking about this idea of compiling a dashboard for all of the candidates, so pulling in all of their Web presence, as well as doing things like tracking polls and marking any other kind of weirdness like, for instance, right now all of the objections to all these people’s [nominating petitions],” Sinker said.

In version 2.0 of his website, Sinker gathered information for all the candidates officially named by the board of elections. The site changed since its creation, shortly after Daley announced he didn’t intend to run for office again.

“In those early days it just seemed like there were 8,000 candidates, and you didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t,” Sinker said. “The news organizations covering it didn’t have a definitive list.”

As the list narrowed, Sinker updated information. He plans to provide additional details on candidates as the race progresses.

“Right now there are 20 people, so finding things in common among all 20 to be able to display is hard,” Sinker said. “Once there are 10, especially as the race matures, more and more people are going to have similar sets of data you can pull from.”

Although there is an abundance of information on candidates, the site’s simple navigation and clear organization makes it easy to process for Paris Lewbel, sophomore journalism major.

“It’s simple, and nowadays websites can be confusing to navigate,” Lewbel said. “Something that is simple, able to show the polls, what their status is, who they are and what they used to be is a good thing.”

Lewbel is a member of the College Conservatives and lead anchor for “Chaos Control,” Columbia’s political show airing on Frequency TV.

“With the younger culture [today], people aren’t really aware of what the candidates are running for,” Lewbel said.

Esta Kallen, co-president of the League of Women Voters in Chicago, said she thinks knowing what a candidate did before running is an important factor.

“If someone is looking for a concentrated area, a concentration of information about this candidate and not just him saying ‘Vote for me because…’, it gives a little background on the person,” Kallen said.

Dick Simpson, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, likes having information on candidates who are contested.

“This site is providing useful information about the candidates, including whose petitions have been challenged and money available for the campaign,” Simpson said.

Simpson thinks there might still be an issue with the site, though.

“The problem is always for people to find a website like this,” Simpson said.

But according to Sinker, The Huffington Post’s acknowledgment of the site may go a long way in promoting it, and he said he appreciates his project being noticed.

“You always want recognition for the work you do,” Sinker said.