After waiting game, media moves swiftly to call Biden winner
Because votes are counted state by state, verdicts by the media outlets' decision desks serve as the unofficial finish line for the presidential race. The closeness of the race in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina proved another challenge. “We just have to be certain before we call a winner in the presidential election,” said Sally Buzbee, executive editor and senior vice president of the AP. Heading into Saturday, CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC — which coordinate their vote counts and exit polls — had Biden at 253 electoral votes. All know that calling a presidential election wrong is a career-wrecker.
After tense night, election mystery remains for media
A man stops to watch election returns on electronic billboards in Times Square, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in New York. Cable and broadcast news divisions followed the story closely, even as they learned that election night coverage was a relative dud with viewers. An estimated 56.9 million people watched coverage over 21 networks during primetime hours Tuesday, down sharply from the 71.4 million viewers on election night 2016, the Nielsen company said. For weeks, media outlets had warned that Americans would need patience on election night and beyond, and that turned out to be their most accurate prediction. Even if Biden won the presidency, Democrats were sure to face questions about why the race was so close and why predicted gains in Congress didn't materialize.
Media election planners prepare for a night of mystery
Media planners are preaching caution in the face of a surge in early voting, high anxiety levels overall and a president who raises the specter of another disputed election. “We need to prepare ourselves for a different kind of election night,” said Feist, CNN's Washington bureau chief, “and the word I keep using is ‘patience.’”Nearly half of people polled recently by the Pew Research Center said they intend to follow election night returns closely. “There is an odd combination of anticipation and uncertainty about this election night, more than any other election night I can remember,” said David Bohrman, a television veteran who this year is producing the CBS News coverage. Some wait until Election Day or even after polls close. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are prohibited by state law from processing mail ballots until Election Day.
Beyond the Needle: Probability experts assess 2020 race
A graphic on The New York Times' website, the Needle measured in real time the probability of victory for Trump or Hillary Clinton as votes were counted. There’s no sign that the Needle will be making a reappearance on Nov. 3, which would be one change in the world of election probability gurus following the unexpected 2016 result. Nate Silver's influential FiveThirtyEight blog used a number, not a needle, for the same task four years ago but won't on election night 2020. Cohn went into election night saying Clinton had an 85% chance of winning, and that served as the Needle's baseline. At 8:02 p.m. Eastern time on election night, the Needle pointed sharply to the left, and a “likely” Clinton win.
From Trump's taxes to virus: News moves at breakneck pace
Then, just as quickly, they receded into memory with the revelation Friday that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta called it “a bit unsettling.”Meanwhile, the White House Correspondents Association said three journalists there tested positive for COVID on Friday. All had covered White House events last weekend. Then, at 12:54 a.m. Eastern, the president tweeted that both of them were positive. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was asked pointedly why he was not wearing a mask when he briefed reporters Friday afternoon.