November 4, 2020

As predicted, an exponential increase in mail-in voting has forced the election results into their second day, and counting in battleground states is likely to continue for possibly several more days. Poynter is here to document notable media coverage throughout the day.

See something we should know about? Send tips to news@poynter.org. For highlights from yesterday’s coverage, click here.


In praise of Gayle King

In this Oct. 22, 2019 file photo, Gayle King attends the 2019 Women’s Media Awards, hosted by The Women’s Media Center, at the Mandarin Oriental New York in New York. King is facing death threats following a social media backlash caused by an interview with retired WNBA star Lisa Leslie that concerned the late Kobe Bryant. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP, File)

As editor of The Cohort at Poynter, I am keen to follow women in media. Knowing that the on-air broadcasts at CBS and PBS would be led by ladies, I paid special attention to those TV networks throughout the night last night. CBS anchors Norah O’Donnell, Margaret Brennan and Gayle King (joined by John Dickerson and Ed O’Keefe) dominated. And they seem to genuinely get along, which calmed at least this tense viewer.

O’Donnell contributed more intel than enforcing commercial breaks like other lead anchors had to do throughout the night. Brennan reminded viewers of how the coronavirus impacted everything this election. And King asked the questions viewers wanted to be answered: How did Cindy McCain’s and Beyoncé’s Biden endorsements affect voters in Arizona and Texas? Why did certain districts perform differently than expected? Throughout, King steered the narrative into thoughtful conversation that benefitted viewers’ greater understanding.

This is not surprising, because King is an excellent, time-tested journalist who works hard, keeps calm and speaks like a normal person. But when I Googled her today, all I found were articles about how her soup fast led to her fitting into her trademark yellow dress. Sure, King herself posted to Instagram about this yesterday. But she also spent grueling hours informing the American public about this consequential election — along with many other hard-working journalists — and I think that’s more important to shout out.

— MEL GRAU, Poynter senior product specialist (4:33 p.m. Eastern)


Cable networks topped the ratings game

When it came to election coverage, viewers opted for comfort food. What does that mean? According to Nielsen, most viewers opted to watch Tuesday night’s coverage on cable networks news as opposed to the networks. Fox News led all networks during primetime (8 to 11 p.m. Eastern) with an average of 13.63 million viewers. It was followed by CNN (9.08 millon) and MSNBC (7.31 million). The three cable news leaders were followed by the regular networks: ABC (6 million), NBC (5.6 million) and CBS (4.3 million).

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Writer (4:08 p.m. Eastern)


What parents of teens should tell them about the state of the 2020 election

Attention parents of America’s teens: As election misinformation continues to run wild on social media, you might be worried about what your kids come in contact with online. That’s fair. You should be. But you know what’s scarier? Having your teens spend time online without arming them with the tools to be able to discern what’s true and false on their timelines.

Here are some tips for parents to share with their teens today as we await election results.

— ALEXA VOLLAND, Multimedia Reporter for MediaWise (4:04 p.m. Eastern)


TV news anchors are running on fumes … and Diet Coke

NBC News’ Chuck Todd on the air Tuesday night. (Courtesy: NBC News)

Do these folks ever sleep? That’s the question we all had as we tuned into network coverage of this Election Day Continued.

Many saw anchors such as NBC’s Lester Holt and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when they shut off their TVs late Tuesday night and then saw them again when they turned on their TVs Wednesday morning.

On-air personalities on all networks seemed to be going strong, even in the middle of the night, even after 16 or 17 hours of being on the air. Holt told me last week that he was bringing an extra suit, and by Wednesday morning, he had changed into that suit.

We wrote more about how the on-air personalities are keeping up here.

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Media Writer (3:11 p.m. Eastern)


Twitter keeps labeling Trump’s tweets as ‘misleading.’ Here’s why.

It’s been a tough morning for President Donald Trump on Twitter. Between 10 a.m. and noon Eastern, he tweeted five times and had three of his posts labeled by the social media company as potentially “misleading about an election or other civic process.” If you stretch back to last night, the number of labeled tweets goes up to four. In the same time frame, Joe Biden didn’t have any labels enforced. His tweets are running free.

Twitter announced in October it would label “tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results.” It also said that it would tag content that falsely claimed a win for any candidate. The idea was to reduce its distribution.

“Tweets with labels are already de-amplified through our own recommendation systems and these new prompts will give individuals more context on labeled tweets so they can make more informed decisions on whether or not they want to amplify them to their followers,” the company wrote in a post.

We wrote more about Twitter’s actions to combat misinformation during the 2020 election here.

— CRISTINA TARDÁGUILA, International Fact-Checking Network Associate Director (2:09 p.m. Eastern)


What happened with the polls this time around?

Poll workers sort out early and absentee ballots at the Kenosha Municipal building on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

While political pollsters seem to have fixed the problems from 2016 with state-level data that led to misses in Wisconsin and Michigan, they may have created new problems that led to misses in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio.

The blue wave that so many predicted did not materialize.

There will surely be another deep dive into what went wrong with the polling, just like there was in 2016. And it’s way too early to make broad generalizations, since the votes aren’t even counted yet.

But here are some of the questions that pollsters are likely to ask.

— KELLY McBRIDE, Senior Vice President and Chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership (12:25 p.m. Eastern)


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Electronic ballots are effective, fast and used all over the world — so why aren’t used in the U.S.?

People living in at least 25 countries might be reading the news today that the U.S. still hasn’t elected a president and asking themselves, “Why isn’t the United States using electronic ballots like us?”

In those 25 countries, election results come in a few hours because votes are collected electronically rather than on paper. And keep in mind that electronic voting isn’t online voting — it’s simply a faster way of tabulating votes.

Americans have been led to distrust anything electronic in voting. But spending some time learning about international experience might be helpful to change this perception. In India and in Brazil, results have been very positive so far. Read more about how electronic voting works in other countries and how they prevent fraud.

— CRISTINA TARDÁGUILA, International Fact-Checking Network Associate Director (12:22 p.m. Eastern)


Meacham: ‘People have set aside their capacity to change their minds’

Jon Meacham, right, appearing on Wednesday’s “Today” show. (Courtesy: NBC News)

We don’t know who will win this election, but we do know this: We live in a divided country. Whoever wins this election is going to win by a razor-thin margin and the days, weeks, months and years ahead are not going to be easy with such division and polarization.

To be clear, a divided country is nothing new, as presidential historian Jon Meacham explained on this morning’s “Today” show on NBC.

“We’ve always been divided,” Meacham said. “We were divided between patriot and tory, and north and south, and agrarian and industrial, isolationist and interventionist. Division is part of the oxygen of democracy. If we all agreed on everything, it wouldn’t be a democracy.”

But the division now seems deeper than ever.

“The difference is, and it’s a deeply troubling one, is that many people have set aside, it seems, their capacity to change their minds if circumstance suggests they should,” Meacham said. “And we all do this in our own lives. We all live lives, hopefully, where we learn and grow and change. Politically, interestingly, we tend to seem to have suspended that capacity. And it’s our team, right or wrong, come hell or high water. And hell and high water may be coming. My own view is that we should be calm, we should follow the law. Elections don’t end on the night that, when people want to go off the air and go to bed. This is not unusual in that sense. So let’s just follow the evidence of our eyes and use common sense.”

Meacham said that in the coming days, a lot of what happens will depend on how the president’s supporters react to the way the president is going to behave.

“You can’t be for democracy for people you agree with and against it if you disagree,” Meacham said. “But there is a rule of law in the country. There is a process that has served us pretty well for two and a half centuries. And I think that a lot of folks need to use their own conscience here. They need to use their own heart and mind as they watch what’s going to be a close, close election.”

“Today” show host Savannah Guthrie added that every American should take a moment to at least think about those who voted for the other candidate.

“Democracies don’t work without empathy,” Meacham said. “If we can’t see each other as neighbors instead of adversaries, we’re not going to make it.”

— TOM JONES, Poynter Senior Media Writer (11:38 a.m. Eastern)


News organizations have been quick to correct the president

One of the ways fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact and Lead Stories evaluate whether to fact-check is to look at the significance of a statement and whether it has the potential to cause harm. Speed plays a role as well. Joan Donovan, research director for Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said in a September blog post that acting quickly is important to prevent false narratives from taking hold of the public discourse.

That was evident in the wee hours of Wednesday morning when news organizations were quick to rebut the president’s falsehoods about the outcome of the race. NPR’s Steve Inskeep and Rachel Martin quickly and unequivocally said in the morning news roundup podcast “Up First” that claims by the president were false. The New York Times and Washington Post were also hasty in correcting the president. FiveThiryEight’s election podcast was also quick to note that this pronouncement by the president was expected, as the hosts put the remaining undecided contests into context.

We have a long way to go before the winner of the presidential election is decided, and in an effort to prevent harm, news organizations were quick to remind the public of that fact.

— HARRISON MANTAS, International Fact-Checking Network Reporter (10:50a.m. Eastern)


Journalists decry the use of ‘Latino vote’

Last night, as Americans waited anxiously (and continue to wait today) to see if the next U.S. president would be announced, a rumbling began on Twitter over the use of the term “Latino vote.” Latino journalists expressed weariness at TV pundits and tweets that lumped their diverse communities into one category, especially after it became clear that conservative Cuban-American voters and other Latino groups in Miami-Dade County gave a major surge to President Donald Trump. For the record, I also chimed in about this topic because it’s been a point of frustration for me as a reporter who is first-generation American. My parents were both born in the Dominican Republic, and both have been U.S. citizens for decades. Their experiences are vastly different from Latinos who hail from other countries, because each country has its unique and complex history and culture.

The Los Angeles Times’ Esmeralda Bermudez, a narrative storyteller known for her nuanced reporting on the lives of Latinos, shared a long and deeply resonant thread Tuesday night.

“It’s laughable that in 2020, this country still needs to be reminded, Sesame Street style, that Latinos are not a monolith & the Latino vote is a mirage,” the thread began. “This misconception comes from how little u bother knowing us, how superficially u cover us & how absent we are in newsrooms.”

Bermudez, who was born in El Salvador and raised in L.A., broke this down into separate categories, among them geography, religion and skin color. Her thread seemed to really resonate with other Latino journalists:

Other tweets of frustration:

Ricardo Lopez, a senior political reporter for Minnesota Reformer, an independent and nonprofit news organization, tweeted that he heard some “seriously embarrassing poor analysis of Latinos and their voting patterns” last night. “If ya’ll are surprised by the Latino vote, it means you need more Latino journalists,” he tweeted.

— AMARIS CASTILLO, Poynter Contributor (10:20 a.m. Eastern)


Front pages show an anxious nation

Early this week, several local newspaper editors agreed to send me Wednesday front pages once they were complete. A few included a note of caution: Because of early press times and a focus on digital audiences, those fronts might not reflect the results. This morning, they reflect the wait for results and the mood of the country perfectly. Here’s a collection of fronts from the U.S. and the rest of the world.

— KRISTEN HARE, Editor of Locally  (9:30 a.m. Eastern)

Election Day continues — and we shouldn’t be surprised

From this morning’s Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

It’s not like we weren’t warned.

It’s not like we haven’t been told for the past several weeks that Election Day was going to be more like Election Week.

And so as we wake up on this Wednesday morning and we still aren’t sure who will be the next president, we shouldn’t be at all surprised.

And yet here we are: frustrated, anxious, stressed and still uncertain about not only who the president will be, but when he will be named.

“We’re going to be crawling,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd said early this morning.

We wait on votes to be added up in several states, while once again doubting the polls, dismissing the projections and wondering how this is all going to end.

Yet, this is exactly what we expected. Or should have expected.

Just after midnight, CNN’s Jake Tapper said, “I do feel like we’ve been saying for a long time that anything could happen and it’s really going to come down to these three states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — and that we’re probably not going to know who won those states because of all the early voting the night of election night and all of that is happening. And yet it still feels like people out there didn’t hear us when we were telling them that in previous weeks.”

Maybe it’s because we, generally, are an impatient society. Or maybe we really didn’t believe the warnings that it was going to take longer than it usually has. Unfortunately, we still might have a ways to go if this thing ends up going to court.

During his appearance on MSNBC, former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said, “This is going to be a really, really ugly 24 to 72 hours, something we’ve never seen in American history.”

And about President Donald Trump questioning the validity of the election?

“It’s more bark than bite,” Plouffe said, “but it’s still going to be really hard to watch.”

Turns out it was plenty of bite, too, as I will get into below.

Remember how crazy the 2000 election was because of Florida? Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto put the 2020 election this way: “It could be six times that with six states.”

Go here to read the full newsletter.


Don’t forget the other big news today

From this morning’s Covering COVID-19 newsletter from Poynter senior faculty Al Tompkins:

While the nation watches vote totals rolling in, don’t take your eyes off of other big unfolding news.

You can listen in live today to the Supreme Court hearing that could have far-reaching implications, not just for the rights of same-sex couples, but for religious institutions that want to be able to discriminate against others when religious beliefs are involved.

The case before the court today comes from Philadelphia, where the city stopped referring children who need foster care to Catholic Social Services after the city learned that CSS refused to place kids with same-sex couples. Up until the city learned about that practice, Catholic Social Services was — for decades — one of the city’s most reliable contract agencies.

USA Today provides a summary of what is at stake:

The dispute pits the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom against government bans on discrimination. When the court faced a similar case in 2018 involving a Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, it issued a minor ruling that failed to resolve the question.

This time, the addition of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett gives the court’s conservatives a 6-3 majority, putting at risk a 30-year-old Supreme Court precedent that made it difficult for religious groups to avoid neutral laws that apply to everyone. Several justices are eager to overturn the precedent — written, ironically, in 1990 by conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

It is possible that this could have much broader implications if the court’s ruling strays beyond the narrow confines of this case and addresses the issue of religious freedom versus discrimination more broadly.

NBC News explains:

Carlos Ball, a professor at Rutgers Law School and author of “The First Amendment and LGBT Equality: A Contentious History,” said the “potential impact is huge.”

“If the Supreme Court holds that religious organizations have a constitutional right to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws when they receive government money to conduct certain activities — such as placing foster care children with foster parents — that will significantly limit the impact and efficacy of civil rights laws,” Ball said. “It will essentially allow anyone who has a religious basis for discriminating to claim that they are constitutionally exempt from the application of civil rights laws.”

SCOTUSBlog does its usual fantastic job of guiding you through the case.

Go here to read the full newsletter.

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