Saturday, November 8, 2008

Election Night Coverage

Part of me wished that I was back in America on election night 2008 to join the celebrations and have a closer encounter with the sense of a new era dawning. Call me a nerd, but I was nevertheless quite content with the situation I found myself in – comparing election night coverage between three major broadcasters: CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera.

I have a friend who works as a journalist, and when I asked him his opinion about Al Jazeera, he was rather harsh and upset about the supposed anti-American slant they bring to their news. I noticed nothing of the sort as I watched their brilliant, yes brilliant, coverage. By the end of the election, my objections with CNN’s approach to media was affirmed. Here is a list of things that struck me about Al Jazeera and CNN’s coverage:

1. Did anyone notice that CNN aired at the Obama rally in Grant Park? I first noticed it when I saw beer ads running on the enormous screens at the rally. Then the unmistakable CNN = Politics slogan flashed on the screen, and I was sure. What is the connection there? And why did CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley get to be among the selected few reporters to ask Barack a question at his first press conference as President Elect?

2. Al Jazeera interviewed Robert Fisk. Fisk’s hallmark is honest and critical dialogue on controversial issues I have never seen Fisk interviewed on any news network. Then they interviewed Jesse Jackson AND JJ Jr. at Obama’s rally. The round table discussion were equally fascinating – notably one with a rapper called “Son of a Nun” from Baltimore, and other interesting roundtables in Kabul and Tehran.

3. No commercials aired during Al Jazeera’s coverage of election night. Absolutely incredible.

4. Al Jazeera stationed reporters throughout the world on election night to capture in real time the world’s reaction to the unfolding election. Correspondents reported from Kabul, Moscow, Kenya, Albania, Germany, Iran, Brazil, China, Zimbabwe, Canada, and many other nations. CNN followed its strict formula of studio, rally, and various city shots. CNN has a tendency to overanalyze the little things and does not strive to capture a global reaction to how events, especially the election, unfold. Al Jazeera did brilliant work in this respect, really capturing honest footage on how regular people around the world were reacting. My favorite piece of info was from the village of Obama’s father in Kenya, where two cows were slaughtered in honor of their native son’s historic victory.

5. What’s up with CNN’s slogan? CNN = Politics?  Are we really such a short-tempered and mathematically inept viewership that we need an A = B formula to tell us why we watch CNN?  I think it has something to do with the increasing impatience we are seeing in our media-frenzied universe, where it is becoming more apparent that if you can’t hook a viewer with a sexy slogan, then you lose them. Quality dissolves as a result, but it’s not CNN’s fault. They just perpetuate the system.  Al Jazeera's election night coverage sans commercial at least indicates to me that it enjoys a reasonable amount of journalistic integrity.

What a silly thing to write about.


beccamess said...

Al Jazeera rocks. They broadcast it in Ghana, so I watched it when I was there. It was really refreshing get real in-depth stories from places you neeever hear from on CNN. Like Asia. And Africa. And it was smart reporting, not sensationalism.

Raffi how are you!? I am enjoying your blog.


kn said...

i agree, raf. cnn is more like a tabloid than a serious news broadcast. i especially get irritated by how they deliver their news in a panic-stricken state of frenzy. ugh!