Election Night Coverage: Battle of the Anchors

I wouldn't label either Brian Williams, Katie Couric or Charles Gibson "rookies," but the Wall St. Journal (free link) offers a preview of the major networks' election night coverage. I'll agree, the stakes are high, but these are all seasoned journalists.

The planned departures from prior election year coverage are interesting.

In a change from the 2002 midterm elections, the networks promise they won't project a winner in any state until after all of that state's polls are scheduled to close. In a first, each network has also agreed to send two representatives to a "quarantine room" at an undisclosed location in New York City to comb through exit-poll data. The goal: to prevent early exit-poll data -- which is often unreliable -- from leaking to the Internet, and to monitor the results in a vacuum, without access to a bank of TV screens tuned to various pundits predicting outcomes.

Also interesting is the listing of back-up help:

Mr. Williams will be joined by his predecessor, Tom Brokaw. Mr. Gibson will have George Stephanopoulos, the anchor of ABC's "This Week" Sunday news program and a former senior aide to President Clinton. Ms. Couric's predecessor, Bob Schieffer, will appear with her.

As for tricks of the trade:

The three anchors will be judged not only on ratings but also on content and their ability to perform on the spot. One particularly tricky moment for rookie anchors to master: bringing the newscast back from a commercial or a local break. Called a "reset" in TV parlance, the anchor must sum up the news so far in a pithy sentence.

While election junkies relentlessly will be flicking the remote from network to cable news, consider what is expected from the average viewer:

Unlike the audience for presidential coverage, when the networks remain on the air all evening, viewership for the midterm coverage is typically affected by the strength of the show immediately before. By that measure, ABC has the strongest lead-in with "Dancing With the Stars."

Still, networks are just networks.

New this time around at every network is a plethora of news offerings on the Internet and cellphones. CBS plans to update its Web site every 90 seconds, while ABC says it will provide updates every minute. ABC will also allow college and high school students to file Internet "perspectives" via video cellphone, Web cam or camcorder. NBC plans extensive additional material on MSNBC.com, along with original newscasts for mobile phones.

Of course, those of us wanting insta-updates will be watching all the networks, cable included, with RSS feeds clueing us in to instantaneous news from individual state election returns.

Does a 1 minute lead make a difference to anyone but political junkies? I doubt it, but bloggers who cover the election live have our loyal readers, who expect us to be on top of the latest, breaking news. Blogs have done it before, and we'll do it again. I doubt you'll find a blog calling a race for Dewey instead of Truman.

Consider this a pitch for blogger coverage of election night. We're instantaneous and immediately self-correctible. We watch them all, and bring you the results as fast as anyone.

Bloggers don't know from Dancing With Stars. We know from keeping feeds open from a variety of sources and clicking the tv remote every 20 seconds. It's another chance for blogs to shine, and I have every expectation they will rise to the occasion.

That being said, go Brian, Katie and Charles. We'll be watching you too.

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Which Coverage Will You Watch on Election Night?
NBC and Brian Williams 0%
CBS and Katie Couric 0%
ABC and Charles Gibson 0%
CNN 0%
Fox News 10%
All, I'll Channel Surf 50%
None, I'll follow along online. 20%

Votes: 10
Results | Other Polls
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    testing (none / 0) (#1)
    by Maggie Mae on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 12:39:44 AM EST
    I tried to post a comment and it didn't show up.  Will this one?

    Well, okay, then. I'll try again! Olbermann (none / 0) (#2)
    by Maggie Mae on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 12:42:36 AM EST
    will be one of the evening anchors.  Matthews will be there too, but I don't ever remember Keith anchoring on election night.  So, I'll be happy to watch his perspective on the day.

    The poll leaves out one option (none / 0) (#3)
    by aw on Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 08:26:43 AM EST
    I'll follow along online with the tv on (probably channel surfing).