There’s been a lot of talk this week about how horribly wrong the conservative press got their election predictions, picking Romney to win in a landslide despite no polls supporting this idea. They have been roundly criticized for attacking Nate Silver, who had the idea to go look at the polls and predict how people would vote based on them. (Personally, I think my method is even better: I predicted who would win just by looking at the candidates. But that’s an aside.)
The conservative press–Fox News, Limbaugh, and that crowd–are, of course, a bunch of liars. I have no doubt about it, and I didn’t even before this election. It’s so obvious as to be hardly worth dwelling on. So I won’t. No, what I want to talk about is the non-Fox mainstream news media’s coverage of the election, especially election night itself. It was not quite as bad as Fox, but it wasn’t good. It covered everything as a neck-and-neck horse race, and really only reported states as they came in. (I will admit up front that I did not watch all of it; I went to bed at 10:00 pm Eastern Time, with total confidence of Obama’s victory.)
On my PBS station, I get something called “BBC World News America“. As you may have guessed, it’s BBC news for Americans. The difference between this and the regular American news is very striking. On election night, the BBC did a good job pointing out that if you counted in the electoral votes of the solidly Democratic and Republican states, the President had a sizeable advantage. Romney was, in short, playing with a handicap. He was trailing before the competition actually started.
On all the other networks, all they really talk about is the “swing states”. Obviously, these are the most important, but to watch the coverage you would think that the whole affair rested entirely on who won these states. They didn’t seem to focus so much on the fact that Obama had more margin for error. It was just a “ooooo, who will win the next state?” sort of show, like a “reality” show of sorts.
Then there were people like David Gregory, who seemed to think he was covering a football game. He kept talking about Obama’s “defense” and Romney’s “offense”. That means nothing. It’s not really that kind of competition. People vote for and against candidates for lots of reasons. I mean, the weather can determine the outcome of elections.
All in all, the television political press is pretty lousy, in my opinion. Fox News is just a Republican P.R. office and the rest of them just like a close race so they can have something exciting to talk about.