Four More Years --with CNN: CNN's Election Coverage Ranks High in Broadcasting History-Comprehensive, Well Organized and Directed, and Very Professional

By Fischer, Raymond L. | USA TODAY, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Four More Years --with CNN: CNN's Election Coverage Ranks High in Broadcasting History-Comprehensive, Well Organized and Directed, and Very Professional


Fischer, Raymond L., USA TODAY


THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL campaign and election warranted the most comprehensive media coverage in television history. As in 2008, CNN led the field covering the 2012 presidential race. Attracting more viewers than any other station, the network upheld its motto as "America's Choice," covering every aspect of the election, including early Republican elimination debates, both conventions, speeches of the candidates throughout the campaign, presidential debates, the vice presidential debate, and election night. Throughout the convention, debates, and election night coverage, CNN devoted more time and personnel to the 2012 events than to its 2008 Emmy Award-winning coverage.

The "best political team on TV" includes CNN's regular anchors--Wolf Blitzer ("The Situation Room"), Anderson Cooper ("360"), John King (former anchor of "USA" and now chief national reporter), Erin Burnett ("Up Front"), Piers Morgan ("Tonight"), Candy Crowley ("State of the Union" and chief political correspondent), and Soledad O'Brien ("CNN Presents"). CNN's analysts and correspondents include David Gergen (senior political analyst), Gloria Borger (chief political analyst), Jessica Yellin (chief White House correspondent), Donna Bash (senior congressional correspondent), and Jeffry Toobin (legal analyst). Several former presidential advisors--such as James Carville, Mary Matilin, Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, and Donna Brazile--often participated in panel discussions.

The network also engaged field reporters for interviews and special feature contributions. Central to conventions, debates, and election night coverage, panel discussions always included Republicans and Democrats, men and women, and minorities.

CNN's coverage of the conventions not only was comprehensive but unique in several ways. Other stations covered evening activities, whereas CNN covered entire days of both conventions--starting in the morning and continuing well past the last gavel. Reporters interviewed delegates on the floor, gave commentary from the skybox, and broadcast speeches from the stage. In the studio, discussion panels convened, and King utilized his "magic wall" for relating statistics--charts, maps, and graphs. At appropriate times, CNN played videos of interviews with candidates and other political personalities. The network introduced "Fact Check," whereby a brief factual account followed replays of misinformation presented in speeches. The technique revealed untruths, partial truths, and borderline stretches of the imagination.

During the Republican Convention, reporters played videos of interviews with GOP candidate Mitt Romney, including three videos shown previously as CNN specials: "Romney and the Mormon Faith," "Romney Revealed," and an interview with the five Romney sons. Highlights of the convention included speeches by Romney, VP candidate Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and especially Ann Romney and former Pres. George W. Bush. Another high (or low) point of the convention was actor Clint Eastwood's monologue to an empty chair.

At the subsequent Democratic Convention, CNN reporters interviewed important Democrats on the convention floor and played previously recorded videos, including "Obama Revealed, the Man, the President," Yellin's interview with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a special about the Obama family. The second night featured a tribute to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.), emphasizing his ties to Obama; Blitzer's interview with widow Vicki Kennedy followed. Later in the convention, Pres. Barack Obama, Vice Pres. Joseph Biden, and Michelle Obama all made major speeches. However, it was former Pres. Bill Clinton's 48-minute speech that stole the show--CNN panelists deemed it his best ever.

The 2012 debates, meanwhile, drew a record 70,000,000 viewers compared to 57,000,000 in 2008 and 53,000,000 in 2004. Although all major stations carried them, CNN offered more pre- and post-debate hours and assigned a record number of staff to each encounter. …

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