Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

Networks face own election: Isaac or RNC?

The Republican Party anticipated this night for four years. The television news networks had plans in place for months.

But Tuesday night was not what either envisioned.

Already delayed a day, Tuesday's opening night of the Republican National Convention shared the airwaves with Hurricane Isaac as it crawled toward New Orleans.

For the Republicans, it was a cruel twist. As Mitt Romney was officially nominated for president, the festive mood had to be tempered because of the storm. The last thing Republicans wanted was a split television screen with party members cheering, laughing, and dancing in silly elephant hats on one side, while the other showed rising flood waters, downed power lines and flying street signs. Add to that the irony that today is the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina — not exactly a certain Republican administration's finest moment.

Meantime, the 24-hour cable networks were caught between trying to cover a political convention (one of the biggest news events in this country) and a hurricane (the type of story made for cable news) simultaneously. How did they handle it?

Fox News: Fox is often criticized for being sympathetic to the right, but host Shepard Smith was not in Tampa. Instead, he was standing on Bourbon Street in rain gear. Bill O'Reilly arrives in Tampa today, but was in Fox's New York studios. His show led with the storm before diving into political talk.

CNN: Anderson Cooper was hunkered down in New Orleans, but early on, CNN spent more time than Fox, it seemed, covering the convention. In the bottom right corner of the screen, it had a satellite view of the hurricane — a cheap tactic. Cheap because the graphic really doesn't provide useful information, but lets viewers know, "Yeah, we know there's a storm out there.''

CNN did ask Louisiana delegates in Tampa if it was appropriate to hold the convention while a dangerous storm was headed toward New Orleans. (They said it was.) And it did go to Cooper often.

MSNBC: Stuck exclusively to the convention.

In the end, if you wanted storm coverage, you could find it. If you wanted convention coverage, you could find that. The networks, however, could have never anticipated it would have to make a choice.

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