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Results clear, but coverage less so

A man is silhouetted against a television broadcasting CNN’s coverage of the midterm elections at an election-night rally in Washington, D.C.

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A man is silhouetted against a television broadcasting CNN’s coverage of the midterm elections at an election-night rally in Washington, D.C.

Let's say you're an over-caffeinated, 24/7 media culture faced with covering a deluge of midterm elections whose outcomes have been predicted for weeks. What do you do?

Throw a lot of flashy technology and big-name pundits at the whole mess and hope it all works out.

That seemed the story of media coverage Tuesday, where many news outlets treated the midterm election results like the Super Bowl and World Series combined — though polls had predicted big losses for the Democrats and President Barack Obama long before voters cast their ballots.

"Voters are about to give the political pendulum in this country a good shove," noted NBC anchor Brian Williams. As advancing returns showed serious losses for Democrats, words grew bolder.

Daily Show host Jon Stewart featured clips of unrealistically optimistic Democratic politicians before results came in. "Democrats here are doubling down," said correspondent Aasif Mandvi. "Today Nancy Pelosi had her right hand removed and replaced with a gavel."

Here's a quick look at some of the highlights from media coverage Tuesday.

Shakiest use of technology: CNN's Election Matrix. Intended to allow a virtual representation of vote totals and exit polling, CNN's computerized set seemed to have quite a few bugs. The channel didn't even use the technology much until 9:30 p.m. or so, when anchor Ali Velshi had to jump around the set to avoid having his face blocked by graphics rising up from nowhere. Perhaps a little more rehearsal was in order?

Best team up: ABC News and Facebook. Creating an online home where users could watch an online-only report, a Town Hall meeting, see election-related Facebook messages and click through to other stories, ABC offered an easy way to surf through a mountain of reaction and punditry (and I'm not just saying that because PolitiFact editor Bill Adair was one of the experts).

Worst coverage decision: ABC News inviting Andrew Breitbart to their online town hall. Breitbart, the conservative blogger who got government employee Shirley Sherrod unjustly fired by releasing a video edited unfairly to make her look like a racist, was originally invited by ABC to its online-only town hall. When liberals and media critics objected, Breitbart insisted he was originally asked to be part of ABC's broadcast coverage, which the network said was an exaggeration, and disinvited him. Ironic and fitting all at once.

Best confrontation: MSNBC host Chris Matthews tried to grill GOP congresswoman Michele Bachmann on whether she would use her party's newfound power to investigate Democratic politicians, as she once said. "Are you hypnotized tonight?" Matthews eventually cracked, exasperated by her answers. "Because no matter what I ask, you give the same answer."

Quickest deflation of media hype: Christine O'Donnell. Delaware's tea party favorite was the most-covered candidate in the midterm elections, with about 160 stories centered on her, according to the Pew Research Center. But her race was called early Tuesday night, given polls showing her at a tremendous disadvantage in a Democratic-leaning state.

Results clear, but coverage less so 11/03/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:49pm]

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