Thursday, November 17, 2016

How CNN Won and Lost on its Election Coverage

Justin Holbrock

Donald Trump came out on top in the race for president of the United States while CNN led all networks in the number of people that tuned in to watch him do so.
Donald Trump pulls off an upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Stephen Collinson.

The company used a combination of the biggest names in television from Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer to John King and Brooke Baldwin to orchestrate its most watched night in network history.

From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. last Tuesday, CNN averaged an audience of 13.26 million compared to runner-up Fox News, which drew an average of 12.11 viewers in those three hours.

Election night, however, was far from being about the number of viewers CNN drew in. Trump's victory signified something many of the networks' pundits and own poll couldn't predict. And CNN wasn't alone.

The American people have CNN to thank for its successful coverage of election night. But they also have the network partly to blame for Trump's upset win over Hillary Clinton.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

In terms of ratings and content, CNN trumped all. Anderson Cooper guided the conversation with the pundits breaking down the night as it happened, and John King gave the political equivalent of a masterful play-by-play that was both insightful and easy to understand.

Trial and error from past general elections has made CNN's tracking map a must-see for those who want to stay up to date on how states and even particular counties are voting.

CNN's online coverage also satisfied consumers by answering the simplest and yet most important question on people's minds —how? How did Trump pull off the upset? How did Clinton lose this election to him?

And while I commend CNN on its coverage last Tuesday, I can't say the network should be proud of its coverage leading up to the election.

 CNN's Three Biggest Problems

In my first blog, I mentioned how there were too many people on a CNN show at one time resulting in nobody's voice being heard. That was problem number one.

The second problem arises from a confession from CNN president Jeff Zucker.

"We probably did put on too many of the campaign rallies in the early months unedited," Zucker said in a conversation at Harvard University in mid-October. "In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have done that as much."

But he added that he had no regrets on how he directed CNN to cover the election, specifically how the network covered Trump.

I argue, however, CNN should have remorse for a few reasons including too much coverage in the first few months he began campaigning and not taking Trump serious enough at times.

The third problem I'll discuss is the bias of CNN's anchors. Their bias was never said on air, but to me it never had to be.

The feeling that none of CNN's anchors truly believed Trump could win was evident with every new insult he directed at a particular minority group in America because it made it less believable he could win. How the anchors viewed Trump was also evident when they talked to his supporters on any given show.


It's hard for me to type this and not blame CNN's anchors for thinking he didn't have a chance because I didn't either.

The result that emerged from last week's unprecedented election has at least taught CNN and young journalists such as myself an important lesson — use your position and platform to cover politics, especially presidential candidates, with the seriousness it deserves no matter how entertaining, amusing or outlandish the person running may be.

As the "media," we are continuously losing the trust of the American people. A good way to start getting it back is by realizing our role as the final watch dog.

We are the 4th check in the great democratic system of checks and balances and fulfilling that role should be done each and every day, not just during election season.


Must See: Van Jones encapsulates the fear many Americans have now that Trump will be president.

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