Assessing the TV Coverage of Super Tuesday - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Assessing the TV Coverage of Super Tuesday

02/06/2008

Delegates will have to be sorted before a real frontrunner on the Democratic side is determined, but as the Super Tuesday coverage wrapped up, I'd have to determine that the big winner, besides John McCain, would have to be the cable news channels, specifically FOX News, and not just because of their debut of Karl Rove as their new, on-air contributor and political commentator.

Brit Hume called the FOX News studio where all their election coverage occurred "a maelstrom," which I'm sure could be said about all the newsrooms of each network, except the broadcast networks, and certainly not NBC or PBS. NBC came on the air at 10 p.m. with coverage of Super Tuesday. Granted MSNBC was already on the ball, it seemed their cable partner took all the oxygen out that broadcast network's coverage.

NBC's announcements of primary winners were late. For example, it took NBC awhile before it called the winner of Arizona. I suppose there was grace in their reserved and relaxed atmosphere, as opposed to the maelstroms on the other networks, but just before NBC ended its coverage at 11 p.m., Tim Russert, the host of Meet the Press and a very good newsman, said Latinos were for Obama. It might have been a slip on his part, but an hour or so before, both CBS and CNN exit polls showed the complete opposite.

I did think Tom Brokaw- who didn't anchor- did make make for good commentary. He did make an interesting comparison of the Republican Party to Humpty Dumpty, which could compare to Dan Rather's quips and sayings, but was somewhat refreshing next to everything else they and all the other networks provided.

PBS went on the air at 10 p.m. as well, with minimal fanfare, amounting to just a small round table of pundits discussing the candidates. The embarrassing moment for PBS came when the host asked her guest why early polls showed McCain was not doing well in his home state of Arizona. First, the guest didn't even mention the immigration bill, which was a big bone of contention last summer, which FOX News cited as a key issue for McCain an hour earlier, but after the guest's long-winded explanation, Jim Lehrer interrupted to tell them, basically, the guest was wrong because McCain just won Arizona.

Despite good commentaries by Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos on ABC, they too were late, as compared to the cable news channels, with announcing the winners of various state primaries.

In fact, FOX News trumped ABC in calling the winner of Arkansas and Montana.

CBS' coverage was less than impressive. Katie Couric was not as engaging as Dan Rather or even Schieffer used to be and still are. The CBS newscast had awkward camera angles at times, and CBS' graphics weren't very exciting. Couric kept reiterating that no matter the winner of tonight's primaries, those persons still wouldn't have enough delegates to secure the nomination, which essentially took the wind out the sails of this entire media coverage.

I must admit, I loved CNN's situation room turned election center. CNN's set was brighter and more interesting than any other networks'. The commentators they had were very lively, but I think Wolf Blitzer got too bogged down with all those graphs and pie charts. I did like how CNN like FOX News had large touch screens where reporters or contributors could highlight numbers and maps. But, from confusing lower thirds to a bad live shot that was too loud and more annoying than informative, I found myself watching CNN the least during the five hours I paid to Super Tuesday.

Most the time, I was tuned to FOX News. Sadly, the set looked like a dungeon or perhaps something out of Dr. Strangelove, and I couldn't stand listening to Karl Rove, but FOX News did get the information out faster and more concisely than the rest. They integrated neat segments like those with Internet bloggers, and their other, on-air talent like Juan Williams and Megyn Kelly who did some interesting walk-and-talk shots through the FOX studio with cool, moving graphics maintained my eyes.
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