Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Winners & Losers, MEDIA EDITION

OK. As I wrote for Politics Daily, Harry Reid's a winner and Sharron Angle's a loser. Duh. But there's much, much more to it.

* WINNER: MSM. Sharron Angle believed the Fox/Limbaugh hype that the "lamestream" media is irrelevant. And perhaps in the national universe that's become more true. But not in local races and certainly not in places like Nevada. Literally running away from reporters looks juvenile and inept. Believing you can simply say you never said the thing you just said and get away with it when you're recorded makes you a bad liar. Pissing off the most significant pundit in the state by reneging on a clear promise to debate before him with your opponent is just asking to be treated as if you have no credibility. Angle will surely claim the press was out to get her, but she even froze out the Review-Journal after the June 8 primary, and those are her people. Yes, Harry Reid also played hard-to-get with the media, but at least his people didn't, providing quick and thorough responses to every niggling question in a usually timely, respectful manner. Also, he's the incumbent with years of media under his belt; you're the relatively unknown challenger. Contrary to what Palin and Friends say, The Media is an important means for leaders to be held accountable for their statements and actions and a useful way to communicate with the broadest cross-section of the public they hope to lead. This trick may work in Kentucky because Rand Paul was always the red-state favorite, but it didn't work for Angle or Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and probably not for Alaska's Joe Miller. Miller's folks handcuffed a reporter.

* WINNER: Jon Ralston. The only pundit who got it right is also, as we learn again and again, the only pundit who matters when it comes to Nevada. He could've played it safe and hedged, but he perpetually railed against the likely inaccuracy of the polls -- oversampled this, ignored that, did not make any sense. He predicted a win for Harry Reid and saw silver linings in early voting data and took some guff for it, most notably from the Review-Journal publisher Sherm Frederick, who claimed it exposed Ralston's partisan bias. I'm offended by Ralston's simplistic, petty and personal version of "media criticism" precisely because it lacks the guts and balance and any introspection whatsoever, all things he applies to the rest of his journalism. But he swung for the fences this weekend and bashed it over the wall.

* LOSER: Sherm Frederick. Sunday's Opinion section of the R-J was soaked with pieces explaining why Reid would lose. The worst offender was the publisher, who suggested Reid would need a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment to pull it out. So, when Sherm turns out to be wrong, does he at least show a little class and humility and offer a mea culpa to Ralston or his entire readership? Boy, that's a funny thought, isn't it? No. Instead, he keeps referring to it as a "surprising" Reid victory and quotes that same Dewey-Truman column to compliment himself for foreseeing the House flipping red even though he merely got that impression from pollsters and journalists elsewhere whom he saw on Fox. Reid's victory wasn't that surprising to the people he tried nastily to discredit before the election - Ralston and Reid's people. Sherm just spent YEARS viciously attacking the senator and eviscerating the public's ability to respect or trust his reporters' work. He laid waste to any claim he had of being able to read Nevada's mood and sank to a shocking low by giggling when Sharron Angle gave the sneaky slip to reporters asking reasonable, important questions. He even wrote of Reid at about 10 p.m. last night: "Initially, he was up over 50%, which was hard to believe. But the margin of victory appears closer now, and more credible." Reid's final tally? 50.2 percent. Sorry, Sherm. As the kids say, epic fail.

* WINNER: KNPR. You might recall back in June, I was pretty peeved that Our World of News and Information was re-running morning chat shows as the votes were being tallied. That is, they sat out the first big act of the most significant Senate race in Nevada history. I'm a massive fan of KNPR and I put my prospects of being invited to appear on the air again at risk over that, and KNPR management wrote in the comments that such coverage was too expensive and not in public demand. My solution to the first part was to partner up with a local TV station and take the audio of live victory and concession speeches, maybe have some anchor in the studio talking to analysts and calling up candidates. I don't know if they did the latter, but in my drive from Venetian (GOP party) to Aria (Dem party), I did hear them taking KSNV audio of Rory Reid's speech. Given that the local race was a national one and the national NPR feed contained tons of Nevada reporting, that was pretty adequate. I'm delighted they did it, so I'll be sending an extra check real soon.

* WINNER: KSNV. This one's a point of personal privilege. Miles and the News 3 crew slaved and stressed for weeks to craft the NBC affiliate's election night coverage. I didn't get to see any of it because I was running around doing my thing, but I understand from many people that it was fantastic. And many people should know, because the station won the night in the ratings. Awesome.

* LOSER: Me. I've made more money in the past two months than in the dreadful second half of 2009, thanks to Reid, Angle and new clients such as CBS, Politics Daily, Tablet and The Daily Beast. But now it's over and there's no Sen. Sharron Angle, R-Cuckoo, to appallingly fascinate the political world. Proof of how fast the national media has lost interest in all this? I spent the morning pitching the idea of a profile of Jon Ralston, the only-pundit-who-got-it-right. Responses, and I quote: No, No, Who cares, Thanks but we'll pass. If this had been a big CA or NY race and it was one dude against the entire pollosphere, you know they'd snap that one up. So once my Daily Beast How-Reid-Won piece posts, I suspect that'll be all for now on this. I'll be on to covering the World Series of Poker, and I just don't think anyone's going to care nearly as much.

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