My colleague Leroy Towns recently wrote about how television is still the best way to get election results. He said that the immediacy and the drama are there, not online.
Although I am a print person, I admit that I have gotten my election news through TV for as long as I can remember. Even when I was the Nation & World editor at The News & Observer, I had one eye on the wires and another on CNN. After reading Towns’ blog, I decided to challenge myself for the New Hampshire primary. No TV, only the Web. Would it be the same? Or would I be left wanting?
With polls closing in New Hampshire, I began to feel the itch to turn on the TV and flip through CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and C-SPAN. I was a political junkie in the true sense of the term. I turned to the computer instead and went to the Washington Post’s site, which a friend had recommended as quick and complete on election nights. I found early returns there and on MSNBC. The News & Observer site was a step slower on the numbers, but its Under the Dome blog gave me some of the flavor of the night.
I went to bed without having watched a split second of Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer. I hadn’t seen any speech by any candidate. I didn’t hear the “analysis” by Bill Bennett and other pontificators. Yet I understood that John McCain had an easy win, that Hillary Clinton pulled off an upset and that John Edwards was still optimistic despite another loss. Maybe I didn’t need TV after all. The Web could give me results as they came in, and the newspaper could put it all into perspective the morning after.
Then I noticed this post at MSNBC’s site that forced me to question my new method. Journalists should always check out claims of the first, the last and the only. But the site didn’t do that when it said Wednesday night: “In the modern primary era, this is the first four-way split in Iowa and New Hampshire in the Republican and Democratic races.” The MSNBC site forgot that Richard Gephardt won in Iowa in 1988, not Michael Dukakis. This isn’t hard to track down and verify.
Sure, errors happen. But even after this one was pointed out in the post’s comments and on prominent sites such as Talking Points Memo, the MSNBC post stood untouched for nearly 12 hours. It was corrected mid-morning Wednesday and an editor’s note blamed “the late-night haze of election returns and the barrage of numbers.”
Maybe I will turn on my TV again. Sure, they make mistakes too, but they correct themselves more quickly.