Election Night Reviewing…
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik contrasts last night’s election coverage between CNN and MSNBC…when Obama had been declared the winner…
When that happened at NBC News and CNN, viewers were offered as clear a snapshot as I have seen of the difference between a news gathering operation like CNN and an ideologically driven enterprise like MSNBC.
“We’ve got a really major projection to make right now,” CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said. “CNN projects that Barack Obama will be re-elected as president of the United States. He will return to the White House for four more years, because CNN projects him as the winner in Ohio. … They’re excited in Chicago. They’re excited in Times Square. They’re excited around the world. Let’s listen in to their excitement.”
And then, all the the anchors and analysts at CNN remained silent as the cameras and microphones took viewers from Los Angeles to Boston, Chicago, Kenya and Las Vegas — letting those of us who were watching experience the sights and sounds of victory. CNN reported the moment rather than editorializing.
On MSNBC, by contrast, Rachel Maddow, who was anchoring that channel’s coverage, followed the announcement of the projection, which was based on work done not by MSNBC, but rather NBC News, by declaring, “a point of privilege.”
“I would also just like a point of privilege to say that is an important moment for policy,” she began.
“This was a consequential presidency not just because Barack Obama was the first African-American president. And not just because America turned to the Democratic party after eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney. This is a consequential presidency because of policy.”
Maddow went on to describe those policies, saying, “in terms of civil rights matters like don’t ask, don’t tell; in terms of the president supporting marriage equality; in terms of economic policy like the stimulus; in terms of historic, historic change like health reform, like health reform, and some of the other reform like Wall Street reform, credit card reform, student loan reform measures that this president was able to pass. I know I’m forgetting something in this historic moment.”
Such repeated words and phrases as “historic” and “like health reform” are not typos. That’s what she said. But she wasn’t through.
Instead of hearing supporters of the president or from reporters on the ground with supporters of the victor, we got to hear more of Maddow’s point of privilege.
Zurawik isn’t understating things here. I watched Maddow’s oratory. This is precisely what I feared would happen eventually from MSNBC if it kept putting its pundits in the anchor chair instead of journalists. A pundit isn’t going to be able to stifle their natural inclination to opine forever. Eventually they’ll lose control. Last night Maddow lost control and drove home the point I and others have been making for years about why we need journalists and not pundits anchoring news coverage.