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On election day, time for media frenzy

Text by Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2008-11-05

Excitement has reached unprecedented levels as the main American networks race to announce election results fresh out of the ballot box. But this year the media are determined not to repeat the mistakes made in 2004.


Read our special coverage from Chicago and Phoenix


View our correspondent's campaign chronicle: 'Washington's sole black university dubious about race argument'


The Observers: 'The world holds its breath on election eve'


The excitement is tangible as American voters make history.


Go to any news website on this election night, no matter what the language or the nationality, and you’re bound to find star spangled banners draped across the page, the starry-eyed and determined faces of the two candidates, and probably a US electoral map with swing states clearly highlighted. Nearly all western media are tuned in on the US elections, in a state of frenzy and nervousness in keeping with the event’s importance.


In 2004, the European media and major US networks (NBC, CNN)  pampered John Kerry until the very last minute, announcing his ‘victory’ in several states where final results tipped the balance in favour of George Bush. Their reaction was anger, disappointment, and a determination never to make the same mistake. From then on, the vote count would be under tight scrutiny, every tiny percent of it. Paradoxally, television channels, newspapers and websites still rush to announce results the minute they’re out of the ballot box.


CBS has already announced it expects to air a first estimation of nationwide election results by 8pm New York time in a bid to be the first to announce a winner… A feat that would involve wild guesses as much as savvy political calculations.


CNN has deployed an armada of high-tech poll-counting devices, from a giant touch screen to an army of correspondents in virtually every voting center in the nation. New special effects include political commentators and guests "teleported" into the studio via Star War-like holograms...


The network began announcing preliminary results when only 1 or 2% of the countdown had taken place. As soon as a candidate’s fate seems sealed in one state, his face appears in a huge red box behind the anchor, with the word WINNER plastered next to him. The network's apparent goal is to flood the public with a constant flow of information, promising “more after the break”. 


In contrast, the political website Slate opted for a solution involving less expensive technology: parody. In an article titled “Prematurely Making Premature Predictions”, they proudly announce a series of results topped by this disclaimer : “These exit polls are 100 percent unreliable. They are not the real thing, nor are they guaranteed to bear any semblance to the real thing.”

At least that way they’re sure not to get it wrong …

Date created : 2008-11-05