Did conservative media fail its audience election night?

The New York Times | The Atlantic | Mother Jones

When Karl Rove criticized Fox News' decision desk for calling Ohio for President Obama Tuesday, he drew his "complicated and conflicting roles in this presidential campaign" into relief, Jeremy W. Peters writes.

There is no one quite like him in politics today. With a vast treasury at his disposal, he can direct huge sums of money to candidates, while helping shape political perceptions through his roles commenting for Fox News and writing a column for The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president for news, told Peters that Rove's role in the 2000 Florida recount convinced him to put Rove on the air.

“The first thing that came to my mind, the first thing burned in everyone’s mind, is Florida 2000. ... And the minute you hear, ‘Hold the phone,’ you sort of get that oh-my-goodness feeling.”

The decision desk told Fox anchor Megyn Kelly there were just not enough votes left for Romney in Ohio.

Conor Friedersdorf argues conservatives who ignored or even scoffed at the data journalism exemplified by Nate Silver's poll forecasts "were operating at a self-imposed information disadvantage" through election season.

Conservatives were at a disadvantage because Romney supporters like Jennifer Rubin and Hugh Hewitt saw it as their duty to spin constantly for their favored candidate rather than being frank about his strengths and weaknesses. What conservative Washington Post readers got, when they traded in Dave Weigel for Rubin, was a lot more hackery and a lot less informed about the presidential election.

Is that fair? Well, here's Jennifer Rubin on election night:

In the Romney camp, at the RNC and among Republican gubernatorial staffers in key states, I hear several things. Iowa, Colorado and Florida are looking strong for Republicans based on turnout in Republican counties vs. turnout in Democratic counties.

Based again on what she was hearing from Republicans, Rubin also expressed optimism about Virginia and wrote, "Those polls that called states like Ohio and Iowa by a big margin for Obama are almost certainly wrong."

Obama won Iowa by 5.6 percentage points. He won Colorado by 4.7 points. Florida's still counting, but Obama's leading. Virginia went blue by 3 points, Ohio by 1.9. Silver's forecasts for all those states were very close to what actually happened.

Erik Kain argues conservative voters are "being held hostage to a powerful, self-sustaining entertainment industry and that the interests of the party and the interests of Fox News are not one and the same."

Fox News and the talk radio shock-jocks across the country win whether or not conservatives are in power; these purveyors of political entertainment thrive under a Democratic president, perhaps even more so than under their preferred candidates.

Besides the "buckets full of money" conservative outlets make in or out of power, Kain says, conservative media has a "revolving doors" problem: "Failure for Republican politicians doesn't always have to end in tears. Play to the cameras well enough, and you might just land yourself a job at Fox News."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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