Wednesday, November 7, 2012

News Coverage Note

I'll write about the elections in the morning, but for now just a quick note on the news coverage -- specifically on CNN, since I had the TV on to it for most of the night.

If I had to judge them on covering the presidential campaign returns, I'd give them...maybe a B. They called states fairly slowly as far as I could tell from what I was seeing elsewhere, but that's pretty much a plus, in my book. They spent most of their time on the returns, and had what seemed to be relatively little useless partisan spin. The main drawback was that they became obsessed with the close race in Florida without realizing that Obama was actually in terrific shape without it; indeed, eventually Obama wouldn't need Florida, Ohio, or Virginia, and CNN didn't really do a decent job of explaining that until very late in the game.

However: there was actually more than one election last night! CNN basically ignored House races, state contests, and ballot measures completely (there was one late segment on ballot measures, long after the polls had closed). They called the winners of at least most of the Senate races, but that's about it. No discussion of them at all. No candidate profiles. Nothing about the activists working for and against marriage measures, for example.

That's extremely bad news coverage, and earns CNN a poor grade. They missed more than half of the election night story. Plus they missed dozens of great stories in all of those other elections; no, they couldn't have told them all, but surely some of them could have replaced some of their pundit time, for example. I'm curious about whether the other networks did better, but CNN fell down on the job on this one.

11 comments:

  1. I think you are essentially correct about CNN doing a bad job covering state races, but when it came down to it, that's not where I went for the info - I ended up quizzing the folks at the local gathering for Peter DeFazio, which gave me a framework, which I then (of course) checked against elections office stats, local news, etc. But my basic thing was: do I really want to go to CNN, MSNBC or any other national source for what's happening right here in my state? the answer, ultimately, was no - my regret is that the local sources are slower on the the delivery, and harder to find online. Next election?

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  2. Yep, and it takes away a lot of the fun of election day. it really should be a compressed in US geography -- if at the end you can't talk about the top 30 counties in battleground states and the local politics you're missing the fun.

    I.E. Lake vs Ashtabula county.

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  3. I'd add that Wolf Blitzer had apparently been told to hype the closeness of the race wherever possible, and even where it wasn't possible. So he kept pointing to the Florida race, with its margin in the hundreds of votes, and shouting things like "Wow! Look at this! It's absolutely incredible!" Then Anderson Cooper would quietly explain that the remaining votes to be counted were overwhelmingly from Democratic counties, meaning that the race wasn't as close as it looked. And then Wolf would say, "Now let's look at the numbers. And the margin is just 468 votes! This is amazing!"

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    1. Not to mention the fact that he pretended that literally every state was a tossup and acted surprised whenever a candidate won a safe state.

      "Romney just won... Arkansas! Every vote counts folks!"

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  4. I watched (well mostly listened to) NPR streaming on The Guardian website. I couldn't find a stream of CNN. It was ok. Gwen Ifill did not do well in my opinion but it wasn't too annoying. Judy Woodruff was slightly better. It was typical Shields and Brooks even though I haven't seen them for at least five years. They also had Michael Beschloff (sp) with a hideous toupee and another historian which I always find interesting. Plus a couple of analysts focusing on the Senate and House. Mostly ok for background chatter while I surfed around several sites and twitter.

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  5. My wife and I ended up watching an internet stream of BBC One for most of the evening. It was refreshing, generally. Among others, they had John Zogby and Norm Ornstein on as commentators, and the partisan talking heads seemed willing to say things to a British viewing public that they'd never say on US television.

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  6. I watched it on NBC and I think they did a good enough job.

    What was really annoying is that the channel kept on going back and forth between national and local news, and the local coverage was horrendous. All they did was awkwardly read down the list of things that got voted on and read their current %s. They didn't do any projections, and they didn't stop "following" the numbers on things even though most of the stuff had 30 point margins. The only piece of analysis given by the useless guest "expert" was that on one of the closer ones, whether it would win or loose might depend on which precincts still had to report... and then didn't actually check which precincts had reported!! Absurdity reached a peak when they were cutting off the national news being broadcast from Rockefeller Center to air the local reporter "reporting live from the scene" AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER! Yes, they were doing fluff reporting about the reporting that they were cutting off.

    Later on I switched to CNN, where Wolf was grating as usual. If the movie Anchorman was about cable news instead of local news it would star Wolf Blitzer.

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  7. I flipped between the three major cable news channels. It didn't occur to me to check the broadcast channels. (Or the BBC. Thanks for that idea, Jim.)

    I was deeply frustrated that none on the channels I watched even mentioned ballot measures. I went on-line a few times to check on them.

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  8. I grew up watching the big networks on election night, and it didn't even occur to me to do so this year. I watched msnbc while checking 3 or 4 websites at the same time. Rachel Maddow is the best I know of, but the better analysts-- Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Hayes--were in the background.
    They covered some state races beside the Senate and the ballot initiatives of interest to their audience. I switched to CNN a few times--they were into the returns, and they had reporters on the spot--but because they had invested in reporters on the spot, they covered the mechanics to the detriment of a lot else.

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    1. Yeah. I think what I'd say about CNN was that the stuff they developed worked really well in the primaries when there was just one or two things to worry about, but wound up giving a fair amount of air time to details that actually didn't matter at all to anyone at the expense of the details that do matter (non-presidential races) and big picture stuff.

      And I agree -- I actually totally forgot about the broadcast networks as an option until about three hours in, and never wound up checking in with them at all.

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  9. I was also surprised by their paltry coverage of the Senate and House races. However, they were one of the first news sources to point out the near evisceration of the tea party.

    While these individual races may not have been glamorous enough to cover, when taken together they clearly highlight a shift toward the left. This shift is complimented by the Senate seats picked up by the Dem's. Especially Elizabeth Warren's victory.

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