Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election coverage provides a clear victory for old media's new media efforts against the declining efforts of the cable news networks with their emphasis on punditry

Wrapping up my thoughts on the election that just took place and the media, I am struck by well some of the major newspaper brands performed this election cycle. For as much grief as we all give the print newspaper business, it has to be pointed out that the New York Times, Washington Post and other newspaper properties did an excellent job of being the go-to source for election results.

My conclusion has nothing to do with the quality of the journalism involved – that remains outside the area of concern of TNM. I am talking about the digital media efforts of the legacy press.

Both The New York Times and Washington Post released new election year mobile and tablet apps in order to organize their election coverage. In 2010, the NYT's older version of its election app proved very useful indeed.

But this year, on election night, I opened up the election apps exactly once. It was the newspaper websites that worked best for finding the most accurate and fastest election results. I sincerely hope the digital teams in the media gained some valuable lessons: each digital platform has its own merits. The mobile apps are great, when one is mobile. But when at home, the web remains the best source for news.
The NYT's great graphics, in particular, need to be praised. The web team came up with a brilliant package. Though other papers such as The Guardian, Washington Post and others deserve praise, as well, the NYT's efforts truly were spectacular.

(I should add here that the NYT's main graphics and animated map were not that different from other sites, such as the Huffington Post. But it was the complete package that won me over. But other new media sites were also excellent and were far more useful than sitting in front of the TV hoping for information from the networks and cable news channels.)

For me personally, the web efforts of the major newspapers turned the tide, so to speak – no longer was cable news channels as useful as they have been in the past. I learned nothing last night from CNN or Fox News that I didn't already know through the NYT or other web sources. The emphasis on punditry actually prevented viewers from getting a good grasp on what was really happening.

One can laugh at Karl Rove's meltdown last night, but Wolf Blitzer's continuous calls were epic. As each state was called he would say that such and such a candidate "won all the electoral votes," as if he was not aware of how the election system works in the U.S. Yes, Wolf, when you win a state you get all the electoral votes (with only a couple of exceptions).

In contrast, the PBS coverage was far less ridiculous. But the election team appeared aged, tired, without much new to say – though I think politics editor Christina Bellantoni is a breath of fresh air who should be given more room.

Yesterday I ran out of time to point out another digital media effort, this one from The Guardian's U.S. Interactive Team. Yesterday, as voters went to the polls, the team released America: Elect! The action-packed journey to US election day in graphic novel form. The animation is still online for viewing and I would encourage you to see it on The Guardian's site for yourself.

But I have created a video in hopes the excellent work is not quickly forgotten: