Just a few days before the election and yes, you'll find lots and lots of politics in my post tonight... the most recent Metro article from Tom Foreman, a couple of interviews with John Roberts, a recent interview with John King, (no, this really isn't a rerun of last Sunday's post- but it sure does sound like it, doesn't it?), and an interview with Roland Martin.
Also from last month, Media Life Magazine posted an interview with John Roberts. (He votes, do you?)
What has been the most significant storyline of this campaign?
The storyline has changed so many times. It started out being the war in Iraq, and now it has shifted to the economy. And what’s happening is so dramatic, we always identified it as issue No. 1, but now it’s issue numbers one, two, three, four and five.
The real storyline is what factor the economy is having on the campaign. It’s like 1992 on steroids.
Also, there are the historical candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. But the biggest issue is the economy and what to do about the incredible collapse we’ve seen in the financial markets and the failure of all these banks people thought were solid institutions.
There have been some criticisms of the so-called mainstream media in this election by John McCain's campaign. Do you think viewers share some of those concerns?
When it comes to viewers, viewers on some occasion will look at any coverage through their own political prism. And then anything that doesn’t conform to their ideas is seen as biased. That’s true on the left on the right, and it all depends on that prism.
I think the great center of America sees our coverage as very balanced. Every day we make sure we’re telling the story that’s completely down the middle, equal representation from both sides.
In the ebb and flow of any campaign there’s what’s called the bandwagon effect.
And the media leans with who has the momentum, and then it changes back. There are some subtle shifts back and forth, but we try to the greatest of our ability to be completely objective and fair.
Do you think the media has shown bias one way or another toward Obama and McCain?
Well, you know, there are certain media outlets, without naming names, that may have, but all I can speak to is CNN. Our intense desire is to provide people with nonpartisan, non-biased information, and that’s what we try to do to the best of our ability.
Obviously reporters and anchors do have personal opinions about politics and election issues. Do you think it's possible to be completely objective? How do you ensure that you stay that way?
I know that it’s absolutely possible, but I can only speak for myself.
I used to be a member of the White House press corps, and I was very tough on Bill Clinton, and I covered Al Gore’s campaign, and I was very tough on him. President Bush later shook my hand, I think saying thanks for being so tough on the Al Gore campaign.
But within the first 100 days, the Media Research Council named me the worst White House correspondent because I was so unswervingly tough on the new administration.
My goal is to be an equal opportunity holder of feet to the fire, regardless of who it is.
Are you registered to vote, and do you intend to vote in this election?
I am, I’m registered in Virginia. There is no party affiliation registration in Virginia. But if there were, I would be a certified independent. I adhere to no party ideology, I’ll vote for the person who I believe is best for the country and can best address the concerns I have going forward.
What distinguishes this campaign from past ones in terms of media coverage?
One of the things we’ve done at CNN, one of the commitments we’ve made, is we’ve dedicated ourselves to being on the road with the candidates. The amount of manpower we’ve thrown at this really is quite extraordinary. We have producers out on the campaign trail all the time filing i-reports and wire stories. Every time something moves we have it covered two or three different ways.
Another change is the technological resources. The Election Center in New York is kind of like color TV versus black and white. We have this extraordinary technology we use to break everything down and deliver information to viewers so they can understand it.
We have room for two full panels, so we can layer our coverage, and we have the incredible magic wall that John King plays around with. So I think that makes the coverage deeper, more colorful and informative than it ever has been in the past.
You have experience in both broadcast and cable. What's the difference between how the two approach campaign coverage?
I used to think the networks were the be all and end all of campaign coverage.
I can remember back to watching conventions in the ‘60s and ‘70s when programming was dedicated every night. To some degree conventions meant a bit more than they do now, but since that time the networks have diminished the amount of coverage regarding the conventions.
This is an extraordinarily important campaign. We have two wars going on and the economy is struggling. So we have thrown everything including the kitchen sink into our coverage. And a good example of that was during the conventions. We had a wall-to-wall period from 4 p.m. until the conventions ended.
We also had three hours of coverage during my program in the morning. We had the CNN Grill that was up live throughout the day, and we did a number of shows out of there, so it was really the center of gravity during the conventions.
Compare that to what the networks are doing. They’re still doing about an hour of coverage, but they’ve really pared back from what we’re doing. One thing we try to drive home is issue, issue, issue, issue. Candidates like to change the subject, but we like to cut though the clutter and spin to give people the best look at all the issues.
Last week, I mentioned that John King would be on South Carolina ETV's Big Picture. For those of you who do no live in the viewing area, the video has been posted to their website.
The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article by Jonathan Storm posted on their website on Sunday that discussed the precautions that the news networks are taking on Election Day. He also spoke with John King about the Saturday Night Live skit that featured the Magic Map.
The Quarantine Room.
Which is where the networks' election polling data will come from.
Results flow continuously on Election Day from across the country to a central analysis center, and then on to the networks. In 2004, early and incomplete data leaked, leading to reports that John Kerry was winning the election. Nobody wants that to happen again. So all the data will be released to only one place.
"Somewhere in New York City, at an undisclosed location, there's a quarantine room, in which up to three members of each network will be present, reviewing the data, starting in the morning," explained Sheldon Gawiser, NBC director of elections.
"They will be locked in that room until 5 p.m. They will have no cell phones and pagers. The wireless will be turned off on all their computers. If they go to the bathroom, they have to have a monitor."
The last two elections have not been good ones for presidential vote-counting on TV. Bad exit polls fueled the 2000 first-Gore, then-Bush, then-we-don't-know fandango, resulting in a new organization doing the work.
All of it flows to an analysis headquarters above an old Woolworth's in Somerville, N.J., where the data will be examined by a dozen professional pollsters, professors and numbers-crunchers, and then be forwarded to the Quarantine Room.
There, statisticians and "Decision Desk" experts from the networks, such as University of Pennsylvania political-science professor John Lupinski of Ardmore, who has done this drill for NBC on almost all of the primary nights this year, develop their own informed takes and story threads for evening coverage.
They will be released from quarantine at 5 p.m. Then they'll rush to their respective work stations, where even more savants will scope out the numbers.
That antique technology contrasts with CNN analyst John King's Magic Wall, a computer screen with an infinitely variable map that responds to its operator's touch and has given viewers new insight into the electoral process this election cycle.
King originated the device. Now everybody but cash-starved PBS ("We've got the best minds in the room, not the best gadgets," says Linda Winslow, executive producer of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) has one.
Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen borrowed NBC's computer map to do a funny riff on the gizmo last month, drawing a cat on the Rocky Mountain West, breaking Oregon off into the Pacific Ocean, and sliding New Hampshire down Mexico way.
"Fred did such a good job. I'm worried about my job security," said CNN's King, who explained that his gadget comes from a company called Perceptive Pixel and is called a Multi-Touch Collaboration Wall. (You can get your own at Neiman Marcus for $100,000.)
"I have the best job at the network," King said. "We all learn the Electoral College stuff in civics class, but the map and wall can show how presidential politics is a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. It's a visual way to explain and to take people into a state like Pennsylvania, for instance, where counties and voting precincts are so drastically different."
King is a big fan of Montgomery County. If Barack Obama wins strongly there, King has said, that's an indication he might win enough votes in suburban St. Louis and Cleveland to carry Missouri and Ohio and win the election. If John McCain puts Montgomery County in his pocket, the election might go the other way.
The full article is available at The Philadelphia Inquirer's website.
Here are a few pictures that I found of John King on Meghan McCain's blog. The pictures are from earlier in the year during the primary season.
The latest (and the last?) Metro article from Tom Foreman is here. This week is A castaway on the Isle of Politics.
Message in a bottle, found on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay: “I am writing from the besieged city of Washington, D.C., in the earliest days of November to plead for help. Our city has been savaged for many months by two warring factions. The Republicans and Democrats jointly have bombarded us around the clock with the vilest, most ungentlemanly and vicious attacks on each other, each faction trying to sweep the populace into its cause.
“Refugees by the score have been seen trying to wade the Potomac to safety, often shielded by only the flimsiest of Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Dennis Kucinich or Fred Thompson campaign signs.”
So maybe I’m exaggerating. It’s not quite that bad. However, with the highly anticipated vote for president finally looming just ahead, the hyperbole and fear have reached great heights, especially here inside the Beltway. Republican radio and Internet hounds are howling that the election of Barack Obama will be tantamount to the Fall of Rome; that the very foundations of the country will erode to mere dust if the Democrats seize the White House. Democratic doomsayers, not to be outdone, are also rampaging, declaring that the election of John McCain will be a sure sign the nation is descending into the pit of eternal darkness. And each side is poised to proclaim fraud and a stolen election, should they lose.
Relax. Have a cold beverage. Would you like a sandwich? The facts say the extremists are wrong, when they cast their eyes upward and scream about the falling sky. There are real differences between these two candidates philosophically, practically and politically. There is a real choice to be made. But the choice is not between daylight and darkness, or salvation and damnation. Each candidate has grudgingly admitted that the other man is a good American with a genuine interest in helping the country.
The real enemies here are all those forces outside the presidency aligning against whichever man wins. The economy, Iraq and Afghanistan, worldwide terrorism, immigration; the list goes on and on. The next president is going to face monumental challenges that will dictate much of what he can accomplish, no matter what agenda he unpacks at the Oval Office. Those forces are so powerful; the overwhelming truth of this election is something that is at once depressing and consoling: Life won’t improve as much as you think if your man wins. And it won’t be as bad as you fear, if he loses.
CNNPolitics.com | Catch Tom Foreman on CNN every Saturday at 6 p.m. on This Week in Politics for a look back at the presidential campaign trail.
Kam Williams recently posted an interview with Roland Martin. Here is an excerpt:
RM: As part of my CNN special on age, race and gender, I spoke about how I voted for Bush’s father for president in 1988, for Ann Richards and later George W. Bush for governor of Texas. And I announced that in this election I was voting for Barack Obama. I wanted to show that I’ve voted for old white guys, women, white women, young white men, and so forth. I’ve always maintained that I’m a columnist and a commentator, so obviously my role is different from that of a correspondent like John King, because we have a different skill set.
KW: Do you ever find it hard competing for air time with other commentators?
RM: That doesn’t concern me because the bottom line is, when they’re coming to me, they’re coming to me. People bring different perspectives to the table. You just go in and make your points, and that works for me.
KW: Do you feel more pressure to speak in sound bites on TV than in print or on radio?
RM: Nope, the same thing happens in radio and writing. It all has to be compelling. People who write in long, flowery language are boring as hell in newspapers. And it’s the same in radio. You can’t drone on and not be exciting and interesting there either. They’re different media, but the bottom line’s the same. It’s all a matter of mastering the different elements of each part of the industry.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
RM: Always! Look, I have a very simple philosophy: If I wake up breathing, I’m happy. I don’t sit here and get stressed out about all kinds of drama. Hey, I absolutely love what I do. This is what God had destined for me, and it’s been what I have been doing since I was 13 years-old. So, yes I’m happy. Absolutely!
Roland Martin will be providing commentary on both CNN and TV One on Election Night. To read the entire interview click here.