- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

The networks survived without their exit polls, and CNN's left-leaning James Carville survived life inside a trash can after placing one over his head on election night.
Among the cable news channels, Fox News won the evening, according to Neilsen.
Between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m., Fox had 2.2 million viewers; CNN brought in 1.8 million and MSNBC had 745,000. It marks a 17 percent increase in viewership for Fox compared to election night 2000, but a drop of 66 percent for CNN.
Much ado was made about the sudden absence of data from Voter News Service (VNS), the consortium of TV networks and the Associated Press that has supplied voter information for journalists for almost a decade. VNS dropped out when its polling apparatus failed, leaving broadcasters to fend for themselves.
Did it change the network mind-set?
"It is way to early to tell," said Kathy Ardleigh, senior producer for political programming at Fox. "It's too early to tell if a consortium idea is still valid, or if we'll have a repeat of this in 2004."
Fox, she said, has asked VNS for a report on its system failures and will make its own determination on what went wrong, and why.
"The important thing is we had our own polling system in place and it gave us good information. We had something that worked," she added.
All the networks had similar backups in place; explaining the works, in fact, became a story in itself yesterday.
The collapse of the VNS system left room for spin, "for the White House, and most certainly for the press," ABC's Peter Jennings noted as election night wore on. Much of that spin turned mournful as Republican victories accumulated.
"Network reporters politely albeit not cheerfully acknowledged the Republican near-sweep that ended Tom Daschle's days in charge of the U.S. Senate," noted Rick Noyes of the Media Research Center yesterday.
An online poll at the group's Web site (www.mrc.org) found that 78 percent of the respondents felt election night coverage "was slanted towards Democrats."
Some journalists "actually suggested that the voters' message was that both parties should become more liberal," Mr. Noyes said. "While they blamed mushy moderation for the Democratic disaster, reporters warned Republicans to forget about a conservative agenda and hug the center if they wanted to maintain their new hold on congressional power."
Mr. Noyes counted CBS' Harry Smith, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and CNN's Jeff Greenfield and Paula Zahn among those giving out "unsolicited" advice.
"There are those out there who are saying the president is going to have to be realistic about the amount of pressure put on him by the conservatives and religious right," Miss Zahn told Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, yesterday.
"What is your assessment of that? I mean, they are basically saying it's payoff time," she continued.
"Does anyone remember the last election night when media mavens faulted the Republicans for being too moderate or warned Democrats against fulfilling their liberal promises?" media analyst Mr. Noyes asked. "Or do reporters really think both parties should lurch further to the left?"
Some used the election as a reality check, however.
"Yesterday marked the empowerment of George W. Bush. No longer by any rhetorical stretch the 'selected president,' by way of the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush is America's leader," stated a New York Post editorial yesterday.
"Across the nation, voters saw that President Bush and the Republicans had a vision a coherent message and that the Democrats didn't. And now the president has a mandate. He earned it. Let him exercise it."
Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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