Networks to Take Coverage to New Heights

Posted November 3, 2008 at 6:58pm

The absence of NBC’s Tim Russert and his dry-erase board brings a somber note to this year’s election coverage. But get ready for some laughs and an all-out gadget arms race in the mix of political analysis on news networks competing for your attention.

Providing instant numbers is old news. Networks are planning to spend the night showcasing all kinds of new technological tools that can slice and dice election returns in more colorful ways.

ABC will broadcast its analysis on three massive television screens in New York’s Times Square: ABC’s Super Sign, the enormous digital facade of Nasdaq and another 23-story-high sign. Across the street, Fox will counter with its iconic Astrovision screen. NBC, meanwhile, will turn Rockefeller Plaza into Election Plaza by projecting an electoral map onto the ice rink and turning states blue or red as they are called for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) or Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

CNN will tout its Magic Wall, a large, touch-screen map for correspondent John King. The network plans to bring in representatives from the Obama and McCain camps to discuss the race — all while standing in a 3-D hologram of the U.S. Capitol.

Other networks are upping their game, too — sort of. On Comedy Central, the nation’s best fake news anchors are teaming up to provide the best in fake news reporting. Or, as stated on their Web site, they hope to provide “something approximating election news with something approximating honesty.”

Another figure, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather will resurface in an unusual venue on Tuesday night. Rather, who covered every major election from 1964 until 2005 when he resigned his CBS post, will broadcast for HDNet at 7 p.m. in front of a live audience at the Newseum.

His guests will include campaign strategists and former political aides, as well as Drew Westin, author of “The Political Brain,” who will discuss the way voters make decisions. Rather said he is excited about offering an alternative to mainstream media coverage. “We’ll go beyond the numbers and sound bites to discuss the projections for the evening and what the results will mean,” he said in a press release.

Here’s the roundup of who’s doing what tonight.

Comedy Central

For the first time, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will co-anchor a live show from the same desk during their hourlong election night coverage: “Indecision 2008: America’s Choice.”

The irreverent hosts of the “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” will begin their coverage at 10 p.m. Correspondents including Samantha Bee and Rob Riggle — both part of the network’s news team, “The Best F*&#ing News Team Ever!” — will provide reports and analysis from the field and candidate headquarters.

The show will repeat at 11 p.m. and again at 1 a.m.

NBC/MSNBC

The dynamic at NBC will be different this year without Russert, who died in June and, along with Tom Brokaw, was the nation’s most popular television anchor during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

This time around, Brian Williams will take the chair as part of a three-person team that includes Brokaw and Andrea Williams. Their coverage kicks off at 7 p.m. Commentators will include Ann Curry of the “Today Show,” who will be feeding live reports on exit polls, and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, who will provide analysis.

Over at MSNBC, David Gregory will host programming at 5 p.m., and be joined along the way by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Eugene Robinson. Chris Jansing will provide continuing live coverage from 2 until 6 a.m. “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough will provide analysis while Norah O’Donnell reports on the challenges facing the incoming administration.

Roundtable discussions featuring Pat Buchanan, Mike Murphy, Harold Ford Jr., chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, and the Rev. T.D. Jakes will be a prominent feature, along with reports from Tamron Hall at Election Plaza and Mara Schiavocampo in Harlem. Howard Fineman will report from the “campaign listening post,” and Lester Holt will report on key Senate, House and gubernatorial races around the country.

ABC

The network will kick off its coverage at 6:30 p.m. with a special edition of “World News With Charles Gibson.” ABC then will switch into full election coverage at 7 p.m., with Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos.

Later, Stephanopoulos will join Terry Moran and Cynthia McFadden to anchor a special edition of “Nightline” at 2:35 a.m. from both of the candidates’ headquarters in Chicago and Phoenix.

Political analysts Cokie Roberts, George Will, Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd will weigh in throughout the night.

Other correspondents include Jim Avila monitoring voting procedures, Jonathan Karl reporting on the next Congress and Martha Raddatz reporting from the White House. Jake Tapper and John Berman will feed updates from Obama headquarters in Chicago, while Ron Claiborne and David Wright will give updates from McCain headquarters in Phoenix. Kate Snow will be with GOP vice presidential hopeful, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

CBS

Katie Couric will host election night coverage from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Couric’s coverage of presidential campaigning has brought some of the election season’s most talked about reporting with her interview series with Palin. Couric will be joined in New York by Bob Schieffer, Jeff Greenfield, Doug Brinkley, former White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers and former White House counsel Dan Bartlett. Sharyl Attkisson will cover the House and gubernatorial races, while Byron Pitts will focus on the Senate races.

Fox News

Brit Hume will team up with Chris Wallace to provide coverage starting at 6 p.m. Panelists weighing in throughout the night will include Fred Barnes and Bill Kristol from “The Weekly Standard,” Juan Williams of National Public Radio and Nina Easton of “Fortune” magazine.

Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes, Bill O’Reilly and Greta Van Susteren will offer their perspectives, with Megyn Kelly analyzing exit-poll information and Bill Hemmer tracking results on his electronic “Bill-board.” In addition, Howard Wolfson and Karl Rove, former strategists to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and President Bush, respectively, will provide analysis.

CNN

Wolf Blitzer will be joined by Anderson Cooper and Campbell Brown to host CNN’s coverage, which kicks off at 6 p.m.

Throughout the night, senior analysts Gloria Borger, David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin and political contributors Paul Begala, Bill Bennett, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Amy Holmes, Roland Martin, Ed Rollins, Hilary Rosen, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Wall will provide analysis and commentary.

Soledad O’Brien and Bill Schneider will, for the first time, showcase exit-polling data simultaneously from all 50 states with demographic comparisons.

C-SPAN

Election night coverage will begin at 7 p.m. with Greta Brawner hosting the first two hours of the program. Correspondents will first concentrate on a handful of key House races and then largely turn their attention to Senate races. Roll Call Editor Charlie Mitchell and the Hill Editor Bob Cusack will be guest anchors, appearing in live feeds from their newsrooms during the first two hours.

At 9 p.m., C-SPAN will begin carrying live feeds from local networks of concessions and victory speeches for Senate candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon.

C-SPAN Political Producer Ben O’Connell said the network likely will cover the Alaska Senate race into Wednesday.

“We don’t know how long this is going to be. It’s anyone’s guess,” O’Connell said.

PBS

“The NewsHour,” hosted by Jim Lehrer, will rely on the same format it has used in previous elections.

The program will air at its usual 9 p.m. time slot to discuss results and analysis, with Lehrer providing further commentary until midnight or until a winner is declared. Lehrer will be joined by syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times’ columnist David Brooks, Hotline’s Amy Walters and Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg.

NPR

“All Things Considered” hosts Michele Norris and Robert Siegel will kick off coverage on public radio at 8 p.m. Scott Simon, host of the “Weekend Edition Saturday,” and Congressional correspondent Debbie Elliot will take over at midnight.

National Public Radio will report from various battleground states, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.