Last night was “Election Night in America” on CNN, and the network fired up its election set, complete with giant Vista Wall crawling with 24 CNN correspondents–a visual cue that nobody, and they mean nobody, had ever assembled an election night army of reporters like CNN. They were standing by, on crowded risers in the back of ballrooms in hotels from Florida to Iowa. You, home viewer, could sit back satisfied that when something actually happened in one of those ballrooms, CNN would be on it.
Here’s the thing. Nothing happened. Sure, there was a massive political realignment underway across the country, as the nation gradually repainted state after state in Republican red. But all those reporters filling up that 24-box? They pretty much fulfilled the cliche paint-by-numbers part of election night on TV: standing in a room, telling viewers what they could’ve guessed all by themselves: the crowd is excited (or concerned). The band is playing (or the room is emptying out). They’re cautiously optimistic here at clearly-going-to-lose headquarters. The candidate is upstairs, we’ve been told, watching returns.
Every TV reporter has spent a night on one of those risers, and we’ve all repeated those very same boilerplate observations. The only real news that ever happens in one of those ballrooms or sports bars is when the candidate speaks, and often that speech gets carried live, bypassing the reporter in the room altogether. CNN, for its part, pretty much skipped candidate speeches altogether. And that left all of those 24 reporters with very little to offer, other than the promotional value of being there.
So why have the Unprecedented Team of Campaign Reporters? (Did they all even make air last night?) Read more