What I Learned From the Election
By Steve Safran -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/7/2004 7:00:00 PM
From a Nov. 4 posting on the TV Weblog Lost Remote (www.lostremote.com):
It's the day for postmortems in newsrooms around our country. Here are my observations about our TV and Web coverage.
I. Pre-election: Speculation is as good as fact-gathering. Look at the New York Post today—it's got a big picture of Hillary Clinton in its article about the '08 race. Go on—guess away. We've got a lot of time to fill until New Hampshire. Use your online polls to have people “vote” on '08 candidates. Report results on-air. Now that actual, scientific polling has been discredited, fake, non-scientific polling is fair game.
II. Primaries: Buy good shoes.
III. The conventions: Start planning for the conventions now. Not the logistics—the complaining. We need to script lots and lots of complaints about how fake the conventions are and how they're nothing but long, boring, paid infomercials that don't deserve coverage. That way, when we miss the news that comes out of them, we have good, solid excuses. Start lining up guests. Not political candidates—other news people. Use their observations as “insight.” Call them “wags.”
IV. Buildup to Election Night: For God's sake, start making your graphics immediately! Did you see NBC's video wall? Or its skating rink, for crying out loud? Those don't make themselves, people. You're going to need big, gaudy, overblown showcases for the exit polls. If you can't afford a skating rink, you can make a map in your parking lot with chalk.
V. Election Night: The best advice I ever received: Don't walk past the bathroom. Always stop in. Election Night is about one thing: second-guessing. Start with the polls, and second-guess them when they don't “play out.” Second-guess the pollsters. Second-guess the voters: Why on Earth would they vote that way? Didn't they see the polls? Don't they know they're making Zogby look foolish? Second-guess the incumbent party for most of the night, until victory appears inevitable. Then second-guess the challenger. Point out often how you're not calling races early. “With 100% of the vote cast, and the challenger up by 110,000 votes the race is still too close to call! We're not gonna do it. No way. No sir. Not us. Not with guns to our heads!” Once Fox calls it, go ahead.
Analysts, analysts, analysts. There's a lot of time to fill on election night. Tons. Get one person from the right and one from the left. Have them argue. Have them point out how their candidate is winning. Never mind that two candidates can't possibly win. Filling time between commercials is the goal here.
VI. Post-Election: See Section I.
Keep in mind that it's the horserace that matters, not the horse.
Safran is an executive producer at Boston's New England Cable News and a Lost Remote contributor.
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