Skip to primary content


Presidential Election: Horse Race Coverage Was Fantastic

As someone who backs the public journalism philosophy it might seem like heresy to talk about the horse race coverage of the election. But at the wire on Tuesday night it was fantastic. CNN was stellar with its touch screen maps, its 3-D Senate selection graphic and its commentators, who for the first time in the campaign season stopped yelling at each other and actually sounded like they knew what they were talking about.

In fact, the insider games is what they do know best. Who is ahead, who is behind, who is running the best campaign, who is running the worst campaign. But when it comes to presenting issues in the same stellar way they are lost. They either just don’t have the reporting intellectual capital, enough people to gather the information or maybe they just lack the will.

However, with all the new graphic devices, the power to crunch numbers, the money they spend on the pundits, they really could tell those complicated issue stories in ways that would make them interesting to everyday folks.

My guess is someone will figure it out, just as Joshua Micah Marshall has done with TalkingPointsMemo. Or as Nate Silver and Sean Quinn did with FiveThirtyEight. Their site was by far the best horse race handicapper in the campaign. In just nine months this unknown dark horse came out of nowhere and broke away from the pack in the home stretch.

There is a must-read article at WWDMedia about how Quinn and his photographer Brett Marty traveled 14,000 miles by car and visited 14 states and maybe 100 field offices. They understood the campaign in ways that few reporters flying around in campaign airplanes could.  Although Quinn was openly a supporter of Obama, his reporting about the bottom-up ground game was enlightening.

Now what if someone figured out how to make the issues like health care, the broken prison system,  the economy and international relations just as interesting. Just one person with a good idea could make it happen. All the tools are there. Look at the resources all waiting to be tapped and assembled: graphics, video, slide shows, commentary, feature writers capturing the human drama, investigators digging for the dirt and low cost ways of spreading the word. It can happen, it should happen and when it does happen it will save quality journalism.

Comments are closed.