The challenge for TV networks on election night is turning inherently dull stuff like vote counts, statistical projections, and tired, carton-lugging poll workers into high drama.
Tuesday night, the model seemed to be treating the election results as something akin to a high-stakes football game. The equivalent of sideline reporters, analysts, and play-by-play announcers sifted through the data pouring in and churned it back out in a fascinating display of high-tech gadgetry and logistical wizardry.
The sets for the big national players — CNN, CBS, NBC, and ABC — looked more like they were designed to land a space shuttle than report on an election. ABC especially had a dizzying array of pundits, number crunchers, and graphics displays. Katie Couric was stuck reporting on tweets, which did not look like fun.
Locally, the surprise was WNWO-TV, Channel 24. The perennial ratings loser was scrappy and aggressive, staying with local reports minutes longer than its counterparts at WTOL-TV, Channel 11, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13.
At 9:30, WNWO stuck with reporter Hubert Wiggins and the local Democratic Party in a union hall as he interviewed Pete Gerken when its competitors were rushing out their reports to go to commercials.
Ironically, WNWO's ancient graphics and bare-bones set worked in its favor. While WTVG featured distracting floating stars and WTOL had a thick pile of numbers scrolling across the bottom, WNWO’s old-fashioned presentation was clear and easy to follow, although its young correspondents and anchors occasionally stumbled over their lines.
Jerry Anderson and Chrys Peterson with WTOL-TV, Channel 11, were caught several times, including just before 11 p.m., talking when their station cut to commercials. They also moved around on their set a lot and then returning to their anchor desks.
At 11:20, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and NBC were calling President Obama’s victory. Locally, Channel 13 was giving us the weather and CBS was on a commercial break. Two minutes later, they had the President winning, and about 10 minutes later, all the networks were questioning whether Ohio really was firmly in Mr. Obama’s camp and pushing him over the top in terms of electoral votes.
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