Frightened by the big gap in 2016, television networks were reluctant to predict winners in the mid-2018 elections. This is not bad.
The political makeup of the United States shifted considerably on Tuesday night during the midterm elections, while the Democrats took over the House of Representatives' control.
However, in news broadcasting and cable news networks, the usual conversations that they usually talked about seemed long to report a simple horror. Whether it is a blackboard that was so badly missed in the predictions for the presidential race in 2016 – not their actual job, by the way – or a return in 2000, when a very short call left a generation of gun reporters shy, no one jumped into any conclusions in terms of forecasts.
This is not bad.
We – and this is not the royal we, it includes every form of media – they are accustomed to the quick decision, the hot reception, the unchanging opinion. The world, or at least the little corner of the media, is moving at the speed of social media as long as we need to hit a quick thumbs-up on a smart phone.
Attention is the rule this year
On Tuesday night, without anyone wanting to repeat the stubbornness of the loss of Donald Trump's presidential victory, provision was the rule. It seemed clear enough that, while there was no blue "wave" for the Democrats that some had predicted, they would take over the House. But no one wanted to make the call.
Instead, they were based on a kind of half-meter: viewing.
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NBC, for example, is projected around 8:40 pm Eastern time the Democrats will get the House. Fox News did the same about an hour later. CNN stayed even more, talking about democratic gains but did not want to pull the trigger. The same happened with reporting the best of the Republican Republic's expected profits in the Senate.
Again, this is a consistent journalism – better to be right than the first, as they say. But it made the night look almost silent.
This does not mean it was boring. Emissions-night shows tend to be malicious, which happens when you fill up a team of "expert" compatriots in a studio and let them go to hammers and forceps. the ABC table was so exaggerated that it looked like production in an amphitheater of the Central Park.
The more enjoyable, perhaps, but it does not make for the satisfaction of television, especially when networks do not track participants fairly often.
What each network has
The "big board", in one form or another, is now part of the coverage of each network. Steve Kornacki of MSNBC was so enthusiastic about hitting numbers that were exhausting to watch him. Harris Faulkner at Fox News was very busy, both of them making CNN's John King look positively on the subject as compared.
The king was, however, part of the best image of the evening. Repeatedly, CNN used a shot with Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper, discussing a major entry into the spotlight while the king silently messed with the board in the background. It looked like a scene from a comedy of the '80s, and it was so funny.
Most networks also went with some sort of prognostic gizmo. In 2016, the New York Times took many kilometers from the election needle, indicating that their way of return is trending. (The Times Needle was not working for a piece of the night this year.) Fox News had a "probability meter" for congressional control. NBC had an out-of-out needle. He is nervous, yes, but strangely satisfactory.
A reasonable pace
Of course, time has changed when it became clear how the House and the Senate will come. NBC began talking about how a separate Congress would look like.
"It will look ugly," said Tom Brokaw, the former network anchor. Meanwhile, Savannah Guthrie wondered how to characterize the night.
"So many shipping is happening," he said. "Is it a wave? Is it a ripple?"
A wash, in fact.
Seeing Brit Hume and Juan Williams going to Fox News was fun in his own way, but is it really worth sitting down through Karl Rove to get to?
So he went all night – a sense of old school, a reasonable pace. In 2016, the media became much of the story and not in a good way. Tuesday night, they were pleased to report it.
Bill Goodykoontz is a film critic and media columnist in the Republic of Arizona, where this column first appeared. You can follow him Twitter: @ goodyk.
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