- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Broadcast and cable networks have promised to behave on election night, swearing off reliance on exit polls, premature calls and overheated analysis in favor of accurate information. Some have even warned viewers that final results in some races could take a day or two.
Protective of regular prime-time programming, ABC, CBS and NBC will not pre-empt much this evening. All will offer hourly updates, followed by one-hour summaries at 10 p.m.
CNN begins wall-to-wall election coverage at 3 p.m., Fox News at 6 p.m. and MSNBC at 7 p.m. All vow that "old fashioned reporting" and reliability is paramount but that hasn't diminished their instincts for expansiveness.
CNN, for example, will get through the evening with three anchors, two political "analysts," four political "experts" a five-person political "team" and Larry King, who will interview politicians for six hours.
Fox has 25 anchors and correspondents on the job, with a last hurrah at 1 a.m. with a program called "You Decide, 2002." MSNBC describes its coverage as "election night, 'Hardball style,'" in deference to Chris Matthews, who will anchor the evening, which includes input from local NBC affiliates.
It is C-SPAN, however, that has taken regional politics to heart tonight. The cable channel will air live, unembellished election night coverage from local TV stations in 12 key areas around the country, including victory and concession speeches.
"People want the election straight. It's as simple as that," said C-SPAN's political editor Steve Scully. "We have no commercials, no guests. We don't manufacture what's not there. This is pure, unfiltered content."
Among others, C-SPAN will pick up broadcasts from ABC-affiliates KATV in Little Rock, Ark., and WMUR in Manchester, N.H.; CBS-affiliates WCCO in Minneapolis-St. Paul and KELO in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the New Jersey Network (PBS). NBC-affiliates KSDK in St. Louis and KUSA in Denver will also contribute.
"We will offer a real sense of politics on local and state levels. There will be no excerpts, no selected minutes," Mr. Scully said. "Everything airs in its entirety."
The coverage does not begin until 9 p.m. "There's just not a lot to talk about before then," Mr. Scully added. "We wait until something substantial gets underway."
In addition to local reports, C-SPAN will feature updates from National Journal's "Hotline," viewer call-ins and "real time results" for House, Senate and governor's races at their Web site (www.c-span.org).
In the chastened atmosphere of the midterms, there is slightly more election coverage than in 1998 but not by much.
Broadcast networks have offered two minutes and 18 seconds of election coverage per night this year. It was just two minutes a night in 1998, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which tracked newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS from Labor Day through Oct. 27.
They found the networks carried 265 stories on Iraq, 163 stories on the Washington sniper and 66 on the elections.
Media coverage of the midterms is down 72 percent compared with 1994, when networks averaged eight minutes a night on midterms.
Meanwhile, are we paying attention? A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found that 27 percent of the respondents said they followed election news "very closely." Another 48 percent followed it "fairly often," 18 percent said "not too much" and 9 percent said they did not follow the news at all.

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