Wednesday afternoon was spent performing thumb exercises with the remote control as the results flowed in from the US. The pond that is the Pacific Ocean makes absolutely no difference in the flow of information - from the comfort of my (well, technically my grandmother's, but it would ruin the flow of the sentence... damn) armchair I could flick between CNN, FoxNews, ABC, CBS, NBC, Bloomberg and the BBC.
Remarkable similarities across the coverage all round:
- Tickertape across the bottom
- Multiple 'panels' of experts and commentators to flick between
- Big walls of data for commentators to physically move within
- The same familiar faces popping up for interviews - Guiliani early on, and the Ohio Secretary of State as the night drew on
- A dearth of new and interesting things to say once the seventh or eighth hour of coverage came around.
Full marks to the BBC for having the most gobsmackingly impressive graphic illustrating the result in each state as it arose. It was scintilating television as our host walked across the map, pointing out the geographical features of electoral USA as we travelled on a journey. If only the Beeb spent more on decent, balanced journalism and less on political tourism it would be on the right track.
Ultimately, the coverage from the major networks was disappointing. The Florida saga from 2000 meant that the networks were very risk averse when it came to declaring winners in each state. Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and Ohio all took much longer to call than they should have. It seems that they were too restained this year, and need to be more prepared to trust their instincts.
The experts were seemingly underprepared. There was a complete lack of an Antony-Green-esque character who could demonstrate that they knew their stuff, and too many ring-ins without a strong understanding on the mathematics of an election. The preference for talking in terms of numbers of votes rather than percentages looked remarkably amateur-hour.
In the end, CNN had the best all-round coverage, although Fox News deserves credit for being prepared to call most states early, and as it transpired, accurately.