The mainstream media, or MSM, has been furiously backpedaling on grand prognostications of Democrat victory in Tuesday's midterms. Talk in April of a "blue wave" ran out of steam mid-summer, with MSM pundits shifting tone to assure audiences that "well, Democrats will surely take the House."
Now, they're not so sure about that either.
As Politico reports, CNN and other networks are determined not to be caught flat-footed like they were in 2016, warning their journalists and editors to prepare for any outcome.
CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist has spent a lot of time talking about the race in Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. A lot.
His team at CNN — including anchors, reporters, producers, chyron writers, alert senders and pretty much anyone else whose hand touches election night coverage — has rehearsed 16 scenarios of what might happen in Tuesday’s midterms. A red wave, a blue wave, a purple ripple — all have been covered in the run-throughs, which play out hypothetical election nights in real time. Some have stretched six, seven, eight and even nine hours long. -Politico
At the end of the day, CNN's Feist admits "I have no idea what's going to happen," adding "We're ready for every outcome."
The Washington Post's national editor Steven Ginsberg, meanwhile, has encouraged reporters and editors to "embrace not knowing" what's going to happen on Tuesday - while the New York Times is drilling "prepare, prepare, prepare" into their journos according to politics editor Patrick Healy - who has told them to keep their "eyes wide open for a number of scenarios."
As Politico notes, the media's premature celebration at a Hillary Clinton victory was a major embarrassment across the industry - one which outlets are desperately seeking to avoid.
Two years ago, the media was pilloried for giving viewers and readers the impression there was little chance Hillary Clinton could lose and, worse, for “missing” the Trump phenomenon. Conservatives mocked the reactions of television anchors as his victory became apparent. This year, editors and executives from the Times, Post, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News all told POLITICO that they will be prepared for any outcome — and will make sure their readers and viewers are, too.
Marc Burstein, ABC News senior executive producer of special events, acknowledged “there were assumptions made in 2016 by lots of news organizations,” a trap he intends to avoid this time around. “We’re going to be nimble. We’re going to follow the results,” Burstein said. “We’re not going to assume anything.” -Politico
According to Chris Stirewalt, political editor at Fox News, was that many news organizations simply dismissed the notion that Trump could win, even as polls indicated he had a 20% chance of victory. "If somebody told you there was a 1 in 5 chance that an airplane was going to crash, you would not get on the airplane," said Stirewalt - who added that news organizations should take care not to prime their audiences for any outcome.
"I’m sort of like the weatherman," he said. "I’m not in control of the storm. But I can tell you where on the map it’s likely to go."
Rashida Jones, senior VP of specials for NBC News and MSNBC echoed other network executives in their warnings against predictions - telling Politico that the strategy for Tuesday is simply to "guide the viewers through a big night" while "being focused on telling them what’s happening in real time"
"Where we are now is just so different from four, eight years ago," says The Post's Ginsberg regarding the past two midterm elections, adding that the "takeaway from 2016 is that we should be careful about the metrics we use to judge election results."