In 1960, the vice president of ABC News quit his job the week after the election to protest the way his station covered the results. The issue? ABC had showed episodes of “Bugs Bunny” during lulls in their election coverage. Pair this tale with the fact that NBC’s election night coverage desk was originally located in Studio 8-H, the current filming location of “Saturday Night Live,” and one has to wonder if election night television coverage wasn’t destined to be a satirical farce from the very beginning.
We don’t have to look far to find examples of media interference influencing the results of presidential elections.
In 1948, the polls and pundits were certain that Thomas Dewey would win. Now, the only reason anyone remembers the name Dewey is from the image of Harry S. Truman holding up the The Chicago Tribune, which had made the call too early.
During the 1980 election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, NBC News relied on exit polling to call the state of California for Ronald Reagan before the polls had even closed. Carter accepted these results and chose to concede, likely hurting down-ballot Democrats in the state still in tight races.
And of course, in 2000 a litany of news outlets touted different results, only adding to the madness that surrounded one of the closest presidential races in history.
That brings us to today. 2020. Where, in addition to states being called and then reversed and then called again, we are also dealing with an astounding number of mail-in ballots—some of which were counted on election day and some several days later. For many, these variables have cast doubt on the promise that every “call” comes with “99.5% certainty,” as AP editors claim.
So, what’s the role of the media in all this? In an ideal world, they’re the watchdog. Without the media, the people would have to sit on their hands while waiting to receive election results directly from the government. In that sense, we need election coverage. We need Fox and CNN and NBC and CBS and ABC to do their jobs—to ensure the veracity of results and the fairness of the process. The problem arises when these should-be referees become players in the game.
When 119 newspaper editorial boards formally endorse one candidate while only 6 endorse the other, evenhandedness goes out the window. When pollsters drastically miscalculate in favor of the same party in back-to-back campaigns, either their job proficiency or their political preference has to be questioned. When social media posts and ads from only one side of the aisle are being “fact-checked” or outright banned, does the word unbiased lose its meaning?
There’s no doubt that we’ve put those in charge of reporting election results in a tough position. They want to report the correct results, but they also want to report the results first. And if Fox News calling Arizona early is a sign of anything, it’s that being first seems to be the top priority at the moment. And while it’s easy to blame the media and only the media, it helps to take a look in the mirror.
We’re the ones demanding results before they can realistically be calculated. We’re the ones complaining that it’s taking multiple days for people to count votes, when it’s often illogical state laws impeding the process in the first place. We’re the ones that expect elections decided by the narrowest of margins to be decided by the end of the same day we voted.
Asking the media to be unbiased and to report the results within 24-hours has become too tall of a task. Instead, we can remember that the winner of the election isn’t decided until December 14, when the electors cast their votes. Is it so crazy to say that we can’t wait until that day?
If election night coverage is going to be so overwhelmingly biased, then it has not only stopped serving its purpose—it has defeated its purpose. We asked the media to hold the government accountable for how votes are collected, counted, and reported. Now, we have to do the opposite and trust the electors to cast their votes for the candidate who rightly won—not the candidate who received the most media support.
If that’s what election night has come to, America is better off waiting for the results to come in through the traditional electoral process. The media’s role is to hold a megaphone to the mouth of the people. They should shout our desires to our leaders. Instead, they’ve claimed the megaphone as their own. It may be too late to take the megaphone back, but there’s still time to stop listening.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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