The Media Was Our Election Night Loser
A grim journey through partisan network coverage
For days, if not weeks, our media pundits have been telling us not to expect a winner on election night. The left demanded patience and voiced their concerns that Trump would prematurely declare victory and turn to the courts for support.
Yet when election night came, those calls for patience went out the window. Instead, Democrats melted down on television and social media, treating every Trump red-state victory as a sign of certain defeat. It may not have been their fault.
Why the Election Needle Got It Right, but Felt So Wrong
It’s just a tool, they said. But really, the needle is a metaphor.
While the major cable networks were still doing set up and exposition, the New York Times already appeared determined to induce full-on post-traumatic stress disorder. As early as 7:30 p.m., the newspaper’s online election coverage had all the subtlety of an instrument-only airplane landing: three needles — just like the one they used to condemn Hillary Clinton’s chances four years ago — all pointing to the right. The most important of them was already pinned, indicating a 92% probability of a Trump victory in Florida. It was the sense memory equivalent of a “brace for impact” warning.
MSNBC, which had been in an electoral frenzy for the past six months, put its interactive map wizard Steve Kornacki into high gear. Prepared for extended combat, with not one but two radio transmitters in the back pockets of his trademark khakis, a manic Kornacki orchestrated an almost sarcastically advanced set of displays. Screens opened within screens at breakneck speed, inducing viewer vertigo as he zoomed into evermore granular counties and back again to national scale. It was a war room, with alerts that only Kornacki could decode in real time: “Uh-oh, here we go… Harris County is in… ” The enemy troops are on the horizon. Rhythmic music reminiscent of the stormtrooper theme played as yellow placards in forced…