Journalists are supposed to be the providers of truth and objectivity. Now that you know the theoretical job of a journalist, forget it. I thought of myself as an objective watcher and informer of the events in Decision 2000. My affiliations with the party structure in this election were merely to get people to vote, no matter what party or person, as long as people had information on their sides. Research is a key and fundamental element needed to present both sides of a story. What the US citizens witnessed in the 2000 elections was anything less than fair and objective reporting.
As we were clinging to the edges of our seats and anticipating the results of wins and losses for Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush, we started a ride on a roller coaster that would not stop.
Heading into the first turn, when the first states were closing the polls, commentators on all networks were saying with remarkable assuredness that the 25 important electoral votes of Florida were secured by Gore. What happened next surprised me, and shouldn’t have. The decision was reversed, and all of the networks retracted the call.
When looking at the returns with interest and anticipation, it is like watching a football game from the 50-yard line. The action is happening right there in front of us, taxing and wrenching our emotions. We get so caught up in the excitement and fever that we became part of the competition. I was guilty of not watching the screen and seeing that a mere 30 to 40 percent of the actual popular vote was registered in the exit polls in Florida. Why then was the projection so believable? It was the drama. It’s not supposed to be that seductive, but its is.
I am not saying that I want Alva “Edison” Gore or George senior’s clone, minus the brain, to win the election. I want to illustrate a point that objectivity can easily be compromised by emotion. We should look upon this as a time to chastise the news commentators for feeding us the drama. We should also scold these same people for not bringing us all the facts of the election returns. Every station, network and broadcaster was receiving information from the same single source. As journalists these people have an obligation to perform their own exit polling. With all of the news networks in existence today, why was there only one source of information reported by all the major names in the news business? I suppose the key to this type of news is business. With an incredible flair, the news people dressed up the facts and figures of the night into stunning graphics, blinking lights and superfluous political techno-babble.
Shame on us for buying into the glamour. Shame on us for letting our emotions carry us away from being informed and being rational in thinking. There, in the midst of the election coverage, was a shining light. Dan Rather, anchor of the CBS Evening News, provided his audience with quite a comedic routine. Rather’s asides and colloquialisms made the evening less tense and kept me glued to CBS coverage for the night.