Outlets more cautious in election coverage

NEW YORK: Trying desperately to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election reporting debacle, the major news networks took extra precaution in their coverage of this year's presidential election results.

NEW YORK: Trying desperately to avoid a repeat of the 2000 election reporting debacle, the major news networks took extra precaution in their coverage of this year's presidential election results.

"[The networks] were bending over backward to remind everybody that they had been a 'bad boy' last time, but now they were getting it straight," said Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon Communications. Networks often cited 2000's reporting gaffes when explaining their unwillingness to jump the gun.

"[The networks] were definitely a lot more cautious," said John Tedesco, director of the graduate program in communications at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. "I think they were trying to make amends."

In projecting President Bush as the winner in Ohio, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw stressed that NBC was "not the final arbiter" and that the network was using its "best news judgment" in making the announcement. Similarly, after Fox News and NBC projected the winner, CBS anchor Dan Rather acknowledged that the competition had broadcast the news, but reaffirmed the network's commitment to being thorough. "We'd rather be last than be wrong," he said.

CBS' cautious approach was a "calculated, strategic decision," fueled by the remnants of the Rather reporting scandal a few months ago, Tedesco said. "They just couldn't afford to go out and be the first one to break the news, and then have it come back in their face," he said, adding that CBS' reporting tactics on Election Day probably resulted in a regain of some trust and confidence among viewers.

Another noticeable trend in this year's coverage is that the networks frequently cited one another in their own reporting, almost eliminating the highly competitive nature associated with broadcast journalism and the coverage of the last presidential election.

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