Calling It Too Late
If there's one thing I take away from the 2004 election coverage, it's that the networks got awfully skittish about calling races that were done. For example, while I applaud CNN's choice to put Ohio in "green" as a state that couldn't be definitively called overnight, it rapidly became clear that there was almost no way Kerry could win Ohio.
CBS might have been the worst offender -- but after the year they've had, wouldn't you be skittish too? Homey aphorisms aside, Dan Rather kept insisting that they couldn't call Ohio for Bush, even as Ed Bradley sat next to him and engaged in a lengthy series of word problems that began with a train going from Cleveland to Canton and ended with the irrefutable conclusion that unless a UFO appeared over Cincinnati and began dropping pro-Kerry provisional ballots by the thousands, there was no way Kerry was going to make up his deficit to Bush.
It was over, at least to a 99 percent probability. So what was the better editorial decision: to call it for Bush even though you weren't quite 100% sure, or to pretend that Ohio was still in play?
CBS and CNN ended up veering a bit too far the other way, if you ask me.
Got a comment? Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.