MSNBC continually aired graphics that purported to show "POLL CLOSING" times for each state. But in states that cross over time zones, the times listed in the graphics reflected the western-most time zone in the state, in which polls close an hour later than the rest of the state. Thus, people watching MSNBC in the eastern portion of some states could be left with the impression that local polls would be open for an hour after they actually close.
MSNBC continues to run graphics claiming that polls close in Florida at 8 pm EST. In fact, in the vast majority of the state, polls close at 7 pm EST. There are similar problems with MSNBC's closing times for various other states.
Sure, every once in a while an MSNBC reporter reminds viewers that the times listed at the bottom of the screen may not be accurate in all parts of the state, and viewers should check with local officials for their closing times. That's great for the viewers who happen to be listening the one time an hour or so that MSNBC decides to tell the truth.
But anyone who doesn't happen to hear that and relies on the graphics that have been scrolling across the screen non-stop is in danger of showing up to vote after polls have closed.
So here's the question: At what point does the fact that MSNBC is knowingly misinforming voters about their voting hours cross the line from "irresponsible" to "illegal vote supression"?
MSNBC is currently running a graphic along the bottom of the screen listing states in which polls close at a given time.
MSNBC's focus seems to be on when voting in a given state is finished so that they can "call" the winner.
The unfortunate result is that MSNBC is telling viewers that polls close in Florida at 8 pm EST. But for the majority of the state, that isn't true -- in most of the state, polls close at 7 pm EST. So Florida voters who rely on MSNBC could show up to vote after polls have already closed.
There are likely similar problems with MSNBC's listing of closing times for other states, too.
MSNBC should really fix this. And voters should check their local poll closing times with more reliable sources.
UPDATE: Chuck Todd explains MSNBC's graphics: "We encourage you, if you're confused about when your polls close, to go and check with your local officials ... we want to tell our viewers when we'll start seeing vote counts, and that's why we have those final times up on our screen. So if you need to know when your polls close, check with your local officials."
Of course, if you want to know when your polls close, you should check with local officials. But in an ideal world -- a world in which MSNBC recognized that it's a really bad thing to mislead voters about when they can vote -- you could count on news organizations like MSNBC to tell you the truth about such things.
CNN anchor Kyra Phillips presented a report by correspondent Joe Johns on an ad in which Sen. Elizabeth Dole accused Democratic opponent Kay Hagan of taking money from "a leader of the Godless America PAC" at "a secret fundraiser" and that included a woman's voice saying, "There is no God," while a picture of Hagan appeared onscreen. But while Johns and Phillips noted that Hagan has indicated an intention to file a defamation lawsuit, they did not note that in accusing Dole of defamation, Hagan cites the ad's false suggestion that the voice is Hagan's.
In a Politico.com piece, John Fund described "out-of-state" registrants who reportedly cast ballots in Ohio as "fraudulent voters," without noting that a Columbus Dispatch article Fund apparently cited in his piece quoted an Ohio prosecutor saying of the people: "[M]y take is that they haven't come here to deceive anyone. ... They were under the impression they were entitled to vote."
Stories about early voting lines in several states that have extended four, six, and eight hours are remarkable. I've been voting for the better part of two decades and we can't remember seeing anything like the widespread phenomena that's unfolding.
As Rachel Maddow noted in a recent commentary on MSNBC, on the one hand it makes you proud that citizens would endure that kind of hardship (and let's face it, is it) to vote. (Her other point was that the lines constitute a modern day poll tax.)
But what I can't understand is why isn't the press drilling down on the very simple question of why? Why is this happening? Is it simply the popularity of early voting, and does the process of early voting take that much longer?
That would seem to be journalism 101. But so far, all I've read and seen are a lot of can-you-believe-how-long-these-lines-are? reports. What I haven't seen is much insight into how and why this has suddenly became a country where, at least in some sizable pockets, it can take an entire workday to cast a single vote. (Or do political journalists only do horse race and personality-based campaign reporting?)
I'm not suggesting there's any dark conspiracy behind the long lines. Just that the state of voting in this country sorta resembles a joke, and that the press ought to treat that as a serious news story, instead of dismissing it the way today's WSJ did. In a news article about possible snafus that may unfold at the voting place tomorrow, the Journal listed one possibility as, "The lines are long." The next line in the Journal article read, "Tough luck."
Fox News repeatedly allowed Dick Morris to solicit donations for a conservative political action committee to fund an ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama.
Still no news posted on that story by the Strib yet, but the newspaper has quickly written up a story about how Coleman, just like in his previous campaigns, is suing his opponent.
But fear not curious Strib readers who want to learn more about the $75,000 Coleman lawsuit. You can uncover the facts in the comment section of the Strib article, where this reader update was posted:
Breaking News: Coleman pulls a Ted Stevens
Paul McKim, the founder and CEO of Deep Marine Technology, alleges in a civil suit that Nasser Kazeminy -- a longtime Republican donor, friend of Coleman, and DMT shareholder -- directed the company to send $75,000 to the Senator and his wife. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/30/court-docs-gop-donor-secr_n_139366.html
Enough with the town hall talk, already.
We get it. John McCain wanted to have a series of of regularly scheduled town hall forums with Barack Obama. They never happened.
And by now we all know the WaPo's dean of centrism was deeply disappointed by that. But four months later does Broder still need to hitting that point? In today's column, it's literally one of Broder's key take-aways from the entire campaign.
The issue has certainly been weight heavily on his mind:
*"That is why a pair of strategy decisions made in the past two weeks could prove troublesome for him. The first was Obama's turning down McCain's invitation to join him in a series of town hall meetings where they would appear together and answer questions from real voters." [June 22]
*On June 4, McCain proposed 10 town-hall-style debates before screened audiences of uncommitted independent voters across the country. [Aug. 7]
*"The matchup could have come much earlier, but Obama turned down McCain's invitation to join in a series of town hall meetings during the summer." [Sept. 21]
*"He has been condemned for small-minded partisanship, not praised for his generous and important suggestion that the major-party candidates stump the country together, conducting weekly joint town hall meetings -- an innovation Obama urned down." [Oct. 30]
From Time: "How McCain Thinks He Can Win Pennsylvania."
As the article itself notes, McCain is trailing in Pa. by between 7-14 points in the most recent polls. That means there are very few political pro's, including reporters covering the race, who likely think McCain can erase a double-digit deficit in five days, simply because there's no recent White House campaign election precedent for that.
Nonetheless, scribes seemed determine to wring out some drama from the Keystone State. (See yesterday's Boston Globe.) And so Time opts for the mind-reading approach: How McCain thinks he can win Pa.
If Time's campaign reporters doubt McCain can win Pa., why is it news that McCain thinks he can?
One of the things that struck us about the Minneapolis Star Tribune's coverage of the Frank/Norm Coleman race was the Strib's almost complete lack of news coverage surrounding Coleman's embarrassing Suitgate story. That's the one about a wealthy Coleman donor, Nasser Kazeminy, who had allegedly bought expensive suits for the politician at Neiman Marcus.
By our count, the Strib devoted a total of 53 words to straight news coverage to the story, even though it went national on the cable news channels. And yes, there's been all kinds of Twin City buzz that the Strib spiked a news story about Suitgate.
With that in mind, it was interesting to see a couple of Strib reporters trying to get answers from Coleman yesterday about an apparent lawsuit that suggests Coleman's wife received $75,000 wtih the help from the same Kazeminy. See the reporters in action here.
Nothing yet in the pages of the Strib about this breaking development.
UPDATE: The Nation reports on the lawsuit in question.
By the end of this month, FNC will likely have mentioned the community organizing group nearly 1,500 times, according to TVeyes.com. (The tally currently hovers around 1,480, which is about 1,300 more than CNN). The cabler's over-the-top obsession with the group's urban-based voter registration initiative has become something of a running campaign joke.
Yet asked about it in Politico, retiring Fox News anchor Brit Hume took great pride, boasting, "We had a great run on ACORN."
Hume's self-satisfying view really does capture the FNC ethos. Because in truth, Fox News never advanced the ACORN story one inch. It never broke any news. It never contributing anything journalistically to the story. Meaning, news organizations never (I don't think) had to cite Fox News for anything regarding its ACORN coverage. And its reporting certainly had no impact on the overall campaign.
Fox News couldn't stop talking about ACORN, and yet FOX News never managed to uncovering anything newsworthy about ACORN. It just rehashed and speculated, rehashed and speculated.
Still, Hume boasts FNC had a "great run" on the story. Why, because it filled up endless hours of Fox News programming? Is that how Hume determines a Fox News success?
Goes to the Boston Globe: "Obama on defense in Pa. as McCain senses an opening."
Fact from Globe article: "Obama's advisers point out that almost every public poll over the last month shows Obama with a double-digit lead."
Let's just say McCain probably wishes he was on the "defense" in PA. like Obama is.
Morris appears on the opinion pages of the Boston Herald to announce that John McCain can still win this election. And that McCain's climb isn't really that daunting because lots of candidates have pulled off White House comebacks, just like McCain can.
The hitch is that Morris has to reinvent the recent past to make the claim stand up. We know Morris is no stranger to fiction, but this bout of creative writing (i.e. fabricating) seems especially noteworthy.
Yes, McCain's a long shot ,Morris admits, announcing that the Republican is trailing by nearly 7 points in the national polls. But that's okay, he reassures the faithful:
it is not too late for the Republican to pull out a victory. Three times in the past 30 years a presidential race shifted dramatically in the final week.
Wow, really? Three times in the last 30 years somebody has come back from as far back as McCain "in the final week" and won the White House? Well, technically, no. In fact, nobody in the last 30 years has come back from nearly seven points down "in the last week" to win the election. And, I'm guessing nobody ever will.
But let's watch Morris reinvent the past.
*"In 1980, Reagan came from eight points behind to a solid victory by winning his sole debate with Carter in the last week of October."
*"In 1992, Clinton, who had fallen behind in the polls because of the pounding he was taking over his liberalism and propensity to raise taxes, surged ahead of Bush when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced that he was indicting Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, an indication of Bush's possible complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal."
*"And in 2000, Bush's 3 to 4 point lead in the polls was erased over the final weekend when reports surfaced that he had been cited for DWI 20 years before and had not revealed the fact to the public. Bush still won the election, of course, but Gore won the popular vote by half a point."
Just for the record, neither Reagan in 1980, nor Clinton in `92, nor Bush in 2000 were ever behind by nearly seven points with one week to go. Not one of them. Yet that's the proof Morris concocts on the eve of Election Day.
From the latest weekly survey from Pew Research Center's Project For Excellence in Journalism:
In a campaign and media environment now focused strongly on the shape of the race, one staple of weekly coverage is the attention to strategy and tactics. Coverage of swing state battles (10% of the newshole), polls (6%), and fundraising (5%), and some other related storylines accounted for about one-quarter of last week's newshole. Add in the Powell endorsement (at 6%), which was frequently discussed in terms of its political potency, and that broad theme fills almost 30% of the coverage.
And this from Politico [emphasis added]:
Reporters obsess about personalities and process, about whose staff are jerks or whether they seem like decent folks, about who has a great stump speech or is funnier in person than they come off in public, about whether Michigan is in play or off the table.
Notice what campaign reporters are not obsessed with? Issues. Or more specifically, what candidates will do once elected. Seems like that's what campaign reporters are there for; to help educate news consumers. Journalists disagree. They want to know who's funnier and who's a jerk.