Royal Oak Tribune

After tense night, election mystery remains for media

- By David Bauder and Lynn Elber

After an extraordin­ary night of shifting vote counts and a rebuke of President Donald Trump, news organizati­ons kept vigil Wednesday as Americans waited to learn who their next president would be.

Methodical vote counting Wednesday left Democrat Joe Biden on the cusp of the presidency. The Associated Press said he has won enough states for 264 electoral votes and a win in one of four uncalled states — Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvan­ia or Nevada — would make him the president-elect.

Cable and broadcast news divisions followed the story closely, even as they learned that election night coverage was a relative dud with viewers.

An estimated 56.9 million people watched coverage over 21 networks during primetime hours Tuesday, down sharply from the 71.4 million viewers on election night 2016, the Nielsen company said.

It was a cable news night, with Fox News Channel leading the way with 13.6 million viewers, followed by CNN (9.1 million) and MSNBC (7.3 million), Nielsen said. The legacy broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox — followed in that order.

For weeks, media outlets had warned that Americans would need patience on election night and beyond, and that turned out to be their most accurate prediction.

After several hours of little movement on Wednesday, news outlets called the Midwestern states of Wisconsin and Michigan for Biden, narrowing Trump’s potential path to reelection.

News organizati­ons didn’t move in lockstep on their calls. By 6 p.m. EST, for example, no one had joined Fox News Channel or the AP in declaring Biden the winner in Arizona, which they had done more than 15 hours earlier.

Since voting has ended, the AP has published several stories explaining to readers its thinking behind calling a state for one candidate or the other. On Wednesday, it gave a detailed accounting for the states where a race call had not been made. For example, the story noted Trump’s lead in Pennsylvan­ia, but said “the vast majority of the votes left to be counted there were cast by mail, a form of voting that Biden has carried by a large margin.”

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