Shticky: Lawrence O'Donnell reveres Harvard, Chris Matthews reveres America
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If you are anything but a reporter or a main anchor on election night, you've got some prep work to do. Basically, you have to have a shtick, something you're selling that gives you your own storyline for the evening.
You weave it in and out of the narrative that is actually unfolding as the results come in, and you are supposed to be able to bring value to the newscast as a result, despite the fact that nobody on-camera is doing any real reporting on election night.
Lest this be taken as a bad thing, I want to point out that it's sometimes good. I watched MSNBC on election night, for the most part, and so I'll focus on them, though it's by no means a practice restricted to their on-air contributors.
For instance, Steve Schmidt, former McCain campaign adviser, is here to answer questions about what the Romney war room is "probably" doing right now, how they're reacting to incoming data, whether they've got a concession-speech plan lined up, etc. Speculation, but credible speculation. His shtick is good for you!
And Steve Kornacki, a friend and sometime contributor to this site, screaming into his mic from a bar in Manassas, Va., has a bit of a shtick too, only his shtick is just knowing absolutely everything. In the on-air time he was allowed he managed to get out way ahead of everyone else on what happened to Obama in Virginia (or in "NoVa," at any rate, if not "ROVa").
But there are shticks that are less good. Chris Matthews, for instance, has an ill-defined shtick these days about the power of democracy and the augustness of American political life. Its advantage is that it can be inserted anywhere at any time. Its disadvantage is that it is pretty much useless.
But by far the guy who I most wanted to shut up at the MSNBC anchor desk was Lawrence O'Donnell, who lit up whenever Elizabeth Warren came up. See, he has a shtick for this, and it goes something like this: Republicans made a bet that Massachusetts voters would hate her slick, university-honed style, but in fact Massachusetts is "honored" by the presence of Harvard University on it soil.
To her credit, Rachel Maddow spent much of the evening pretty deftly DJing this somewhat gnarly bunch of contributors and pulled out what I thought was one of the less offensively stupid evenings of cable-news election-night coverage I've watched in a while. I mean, every once in a while Twitter told me that Fox News was a hoot right now and I tried to look at Michael Barone saying things but it was just too painful and I switched back.
But, like everyone else I know, my laptop was also open much of the evening, to Nate Silver and the Times.
Oh and by the way: The Karl Rove-Fox News episode? Blame that on Rove's shtick, which was that he was "on the phone" all night with the Romney campaign. With that kind of insider access ... well actually never mind.
Anthony Weiner shares a Sandy video on Twitter [Ed. note: Safe for work]
Front pages, Nor'easter edition:
In other news:
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is edified by the Times' carefulness-slash-lateness in declaring a winner on election night 49 minutes after the president did. [New York Times]
In their cautiousness they mirrored, for perhaps the first and last time, Karl Rove. Behind the scenes at the Fox News election-night scene he caused ... [Gabriel Sherman/Daily Intel]
... and here's the Times' less edifying "me-too" version today. [Jeremy Peters/New York Times
A day late and with no new "evidence," a mainstream outlet picks up the question-mark story, 'Was Diane Sawyer drunk on election night?' [Daily News]
Conservative media puts itself at an "information disadvantage," mostly by believing what it wants to hear instead of what's in front of its face (i.e., Nate Silver). [The Atlantic]
And some of the disadvantaged would like to stay that way: One of Silver's great critics blames the Hurricane for Silver being right. [Jeff Bercovici/Forbes.com]
A reporter stakes out the BuzzFeed newsroom on election night. Highlight: At 9 p.m. community manager Ryan Broderick frets that "there's just no storyline right now" because "there haven't been any great CNN hologram-type moments yet." [Adweek]
Chris Matthews is taken to task for saying he's glad about the storm (though "not in terms of hurting people"); but Rachel Maddow wins best supporting actress in this item, and in the whole evening's coverage, for trying her best to rein in the ridiculous moments of Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews. [Erik Wemple/Washington Post]