Wednesday, November 03, 2004

(Parts of the) Web Shine on Election Night

The web, not counting many of the blogs, was a far more valuable resource than television for information during election coverage last night. Fox News Channel was amateurish. CNN was boring and pretentious. (Tom Shales called Aaron Brown “pompous.” Heh!) MSNBC, as far as I am concerned, is irrelevant after the months of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann straining for ratings of any kind. Pandering to Democrats is not the same thing as delivering objective news reports. But then they knew that, didn’t they?

The main reason for my frustrated constant channel flipping was the nearly complete lack of substantial NUMBERS being available at any time. We are in an age of spreadsheets and that was probably what I was after. For example Fox News, when they weren’t showing the wrong graphics, would call races, usually after agonizing over whether they were going to get it wrong. But here in Maryland they announced the winners of the Presidential and Senate races immediately after the polls closed. And that was it: “Kerry and Mikulski won” was all we got. Okay, how about some percentages? Admittedly they were basing their projections on exit polling, something they probably didn’t want to admit. All sides were ridiculing the exit polls by early evening. I really felt sorry for the Democrats having their hopes dashed as the night wore on. But it was rough on the Republicans during the afternoon.

Fortunately the CNN website had constructed a very nice election page that had everything: maps, percentages, projections. All one had to do was mouse-over the parts that were of interest and it was then possible to drill down to get the latest updates on the elections that mattered: Daschle in South Dakota, Vitter in Louisiana, Martinez in Florida, etc.

The blogs were interesting but were by their nature not keeping up very well with the news at a useful pace. They were good mainly for moral support for the worriers sitting at home. But they were being hammered and consequently often ground to an unusable state. The outstanding exception was National Review’s The Corner. That blog reacted to events – especially the crappy exit polling – quickly, cogently, and in an entertaining fashion. Republicans reading the NRO blog could not help but be cheered up in the early afternoon before the exit polling started becoming more realistic.

To summarize, kudos to NRO and the CNN web site (but not the CNN cable television channel). An old fashioned Bronx cheer to all the rest on television and much of the web.

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