- - Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Political coverage on the major television networks continued the slide toward its inevitable demise this week as ABC, CBS and NBC decided that programs like “Selfie,” “The Voice” and “NCIS: New Orleans” were more important than the midterm elections.

By the time these networks started their coverage at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday night, nearly all of the important races had been decided.

At ABC News, for example, the organization lined up its cast, which included Katie Couric, a former CBS and NBC anchor who was doing a show for Yahoo.com from a Washington bar. She gushed about hanging out with the millennials and suggested George Stephanopoulos join her in a bar for the next election. Former ABC anchor Diane Sawyer seemed incredibly uncomfortable as two younger anchors, Mr. Stephanopoulos and David Muir, took over the election banter.

“The mood is sour,” observed Mr. Muir, whose nightly broadcast has provided little political coverage because he apparently thinks younger viewers are not interested in elections.

As a result of the lack of interest on the part of the major networks, I tuned into several cable outlets.

Although I have long criticized CNN for its coverage of many stories, the network did a credible job of providing news about the election.

For example, John King has become the master of the telestrator. He easily enlarged digital state maps like New Hampshire, outlining the southern counties that GOP hopeful Scott Brown had failed to win in his Senate bid. Unfortunately, CNN’s website proved almost impenetrable when it came to finding information about the races.

The panel of “experts” seemed far too partisan for me, with two former Obama advisers, Van Jones and Jay Carney; former GOP House leader Newt Gingrich; and conservative S.E. Cupp.

At MSNBC, the partisanship gushed forth from leftist anchors Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews. Ms. Maddow couldn’t stop rolling her eyes in disgust when Republican after Republican won races throughout the country. She found solace in two states voting for an increase in the minimum wage.

Mr. Matthews went on the attack with Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, asking him when “this piss-ant game of the using the U.S. Senate to avoid doing anything” would end. Twitter users wondered if Mr. Matthews was having a meltdown.

The pollsters also suffered a significant meltdown as their predictions proved wrong in a variety of key contents. Nate Silver of ESPN’s fivethirtyeight.com found that the polls in the Senate races skewed about 6 percent toward the Democrats, creating miscalculations from 4 percent in Iowa to 12 percent in Georgia.

“This is a big ‘skew,’ and it comes on the heels of what had been a fairly substantial bias in the opposite direction in 2012,” Mr. Silver wrote. “The polls … are having some problems.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Silver didn’t mention that he failed miserably in his own analysis of the Maryland gubernatorial race, where he called the Democrat, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a virtual lock to win against GOP businessman Larry Hogan, who won the race by a whopping 9 percentage points.

But Mr. Silver was far from alone; many media analysts didn’t get much right. But the most ridiculous commentary came in The New York Times, which actually gave space to a North Carolina professor and a student to argue that midterm elections should be eliminated because a constitutional amendment for longer terms would encourage greater flexibility on the part of politicians.

Such a change also would deprive people of the right to speak their minds when the country seems headed in the wrong direction. That’s what the voters did — loudly — during these midterm elections, irrespective of what many in the media often didn’t want to see.

Christopher Harper teaches journalism at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at [email protected] and on Twitter @charper51.

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