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November 07, 2012 11:16 AM News Coverage Note

By Jonathan Bernstein

just a quick note on the news coverage — specifically on CNN, since I had the TV on to it for most of the night.

If I had to judge them on covering the presidential campaign returns, I’d give them…maybe a B. They called states fairly slowly as far as I could tell from what I was seeing elsewhere, but that’s pretty much a plus, in my book. They spent most of their time on the returns, and had what seemed to be relatively little useless partisan spin. The main drawback was that they became obsessed with the close race in Florida without realizing that Obama was actually in terrific shape without it; indeed, eventually Obama wouldn’t need Florida, Ohio, or Virginia, and CNN didn’t really do a decent job of explaining that until very late in the game.

However: there was actually more than one election last night! CNN basically ignored House races, state contests, and ballot measures completely (there was one late segment on ballot measures, long after the polls had closed). They called the winners of at least most of the Senate races, but that’s about it. No discussion of them at all. No candidate profiles. Nothing about the activists working for and against marriage measures, for example.

That’s extremely bad news coverage, and earns CNN a poor grade. They missed more than half of the election night story. Plus they missed dozens of great stories in all of those other elections; no, they couldn’t have told them all, but surely some of them could have replaced some of their pundit time, for example. I’m curious about whether the other networks did better, but CNN fell down on the job on this one.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.