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.

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13 Responses to “Election Night Reviewing…”

  1. Like Spud, Zurawik doesn’t like opinion based electoral coverage and so his review could have been written a week ago. I, and I think most MSNBC viewers, don’t care. CNN had the best graphics but aside from that the analysis was just as predicable as the other news nets. I watched a good deal of Fox coverage and thought it wasn’t unwatchable; although that may be because the party they supported was losing and they just all looked so unhappy.

  2. imnotblue Says:

    Totally disagree about CNN’s graphics. They were bland, and very 70s… and didn’t do a very good job of telling the whole story, only whatever select story they were telling at the moment.

    John King babbled about minutia (like select demographics, in rural who-cares), which while interesting, wasn’t really needed when there were more important things to talk about.

    And Wolf Blitzer just kept saying the same things over and over again. I described Blitzer’s performance as the oil company spokesperson after a spill:

    Reporter: “How are you going to clean this up?”
    Blitzer: “Well, we’re getting all kinds of information in right now, and we’re not sure how things will turn out, but we’re processing everything we’ve got, and will have more results as they come in.”
    Reporter: “Uh, okay. What about the sea life in the area.”
    Blitzer: “Well, we’re getting all kinds of information in right now, and we’re not sure how things will turn out………..”

    And so on. Over and over again.

    But you are right, Fritz… the energy was zapped from FNC’s set quickly, and they seemed down and lifeless.

    But I liked their graphics… mostly.

  3. The reason i liked the CNN graphics had to do with font size and clarity – big and easy to read. I have bad eyesight so that’s more important to me than style.

  4. imnotblue Says:

    And you didn’t like FOX’s? I thought the text was huge!

  5. I have no problem with MSNBC’s decision to cover events like this as a partisan supporter…but it bored me to tears in short order. I gave up shortly after Matthews’ meltdown on NOW with Alex Wagner. When I got back to the coverage later I tolerated CNN for a while, but their insistence on repeating each campaign’s spin that “we like what we’re seeing” every 15 minutes grew tiresome.

    I finally settled on FNC when it became apparent that Romney and most of the controversial Congressional candidates were sinking. That turned out to be quite a show. O’Reilly and Huckabee signaled WAY too early that things were going in the dumper, which told me FNC knew what was coming. Later Karl Rove had his own meltdown when they called Ohio, which was quite entertaining.

    Meanwhile over at ABC, Diane Sawyer was bombed. Good times.

  6. savefarris Says:

    I’d hate to be an EP for any of MSNBC’s nightime shows for the next few months: “What the heck are we gonna talk about: Ted Cruz stiffing a waitress 15 years ago?!?”

  7. Chris Matthews should be FIRED from MSNBC for his offensive remarks which trivialized the lives of over 100 people who were killed by Superstorm Sandy and the countless people who were left with nothing following the storm. Chris Matthews should have to face the same consequences a radio host who writes a parody song about a tsunami; but unlike those hosts, Matthews disgusting remark was made in the same State which faced the most destruction.

  8. I would have loved MSNBC to have actually done straight coverage since their graphics are much more calm and controlled than anyone else. CNNs data love affair is getting tired, and FOX looks like they fired their graphics department to be honest. Near everything on that network – with rare exception – just doesn’t have the spark it did just a few yeas ago.

    Anyhow, on topic, jumped networks most of the event and stayed with CNN much of the time since they actually were reporting. The point that after watching Obama’s speech I had MSNBC on and Matthews was actually critical just stunned me.

  9. imnotblue Says:

    Does anyone know of a place where we can compare on-air graphics? I didn’t see any of MSNBCs, and don’t get what everyone is complaining about for FNCs.

  10. I don’t get the FNC complaint, either. They weren’t distracting, which may be different from years past. If they had less “flash” than before, I consider that an improvement.

  11. Why is this such a gripe? NBC News is NBC’s news outlet. MSNBC is a political operation.

  12. savefarris Says:

    Wither Chuck Todd? Andrea Mitchell? Howard Fineman? and all the rest that pull double-duty for both networks.

    It’s not out of bounds to ask if they share offices/personnel/infastructure/etc., do they also share ideology/statements of purpose?

  13. From what I can find, though they aren’t all election night…

    MSNBC, Morning Joe with their graphics

    FOX, during Special Report,

    CNN, during the Obama wins call

    MSNBCs have a nice play with hierarchy, use of photography, divide it out nicely and the color tone it down. FOX doesn’t have hierarchy to be honest, and all the stark colors make that bottom bat a lot to look at. CNN, visually is alright, but it’s a lot of data on screen all the time.

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