Do event outcomes affect how we rate their coverage? CNN IBN and US Elections 2012

Media feeds on elections. Counting and results declaration is when news becomes a “mass audience” genre, and the US Election results night more globally so is such a mass audience event. As I write, Obama has just been declared victorious. Apart from watching the coverage on BBC, I have been following the conversation in India on the topic on Twitter.

Rajdeep Sardesai, (Editor of CNN IBN , an important national cable news network in India) just tweeted that he was thankful to people for liking their coverage , on the basis of unsolicited instant feedback he received on twitter. Sounds very good!

BUT I couldn’t help ‘speculating’ if this enthusiastic support of the coverage had something to do with the outcome ( Obama’s Victory). Let me explain. Although a small fraction of Indians are really interested in US Elections,  many of them talk about it on twitter and also watch English language news. On average, they support Obama (they are young, globally mobile, have US connections mostly in North East and West Coast). So perhaps a Romney victory would not make them jump with joy. Then they (Obama supporters) may have liked the coverage a little less. Or at least not expressed unsolicited admiration.

I am not taking any credit away from Rajdeep or IBN. I am merely fishing for people’s thoughts on a hypothesis:An outcome of an event favorable to us makes us think more favorably of news media’s coverage of that event. So by corollary – On average, Americans who watched the 2012 elections night unfold on CNN (more liberal)  may rate CNN’s coverage more favorably than FOX News’ viewers (more conservative) would rate its coverage . Thoughts, comments?

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Author: harshT

Assistant Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

6 thoughts on “Do event outcomes affect how we rate their coverage? CNN IBN and US Elections 2012”

  1. I would say outcome of the event does matter along with personal bias in the debate. I’d say that a person’s personal choice in the debate would also be a huge factor. So if I were, say a Obama supporter, and CNN IBN declared Romney as a potential winner and based all its coverage on that – then the outcome would decide whether I like the channel or not. Obama’s victory could mean that I believe CNN IBNs coverage to be incomplete.
    And i agree with Erickas remark – people were calling Nate Silver crazy till the election concluded.

  2. For sure — I think it’s the flip side of the hostile media effect. No one was celebrating Nate Silver as a god after he predicted the 2010 Republican landslide.

  3. Well, let me start with the part about the content itself.

    One of the reasons CNN-IBN may have received a better response is because they were the ones with a more Indian set of panelists, who also knew their stuff on US Elections and could bring out the right perspective – be it impact on India, India-US relations, US itself and other issues. Also, Suhasini Haidar is one of the more knowledgeable newscasters in India and her show WorldView is quite good.

    Besides CNN-IBN, I happened to surf all news channels, more to see what was going in India than US, but failed to see anything other than US elections, and that’s another story. Anyways, none of the Indian news channels, Hindi or English, including business and regional Hindi such as Zee UP, ETV Rajasthan, etc., showed anything else. Also, the most annoying bit was they had a pretty bland set of anchors, mostly not up to mark.

    Coming back to the Indian English media, NDTV & TimesNow both had sort of given away their channels to their partner channels, with little discussion from Indians. You’ll know what am talking about if you recall the ‘live’ coverage of the 9/11 attacks and Iraq war.

    Now, about the outcome affecting the rating. Its quite possible. However, even anticipated and expected outcomes need the right kind of coverage. Since this was a US election, the usual biased coverage that has come to be expected of Indian news TV was missing, as would have been the case had it been anything related to Indian politics. So, I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with the hypotheses here.

    But, I wouldn’t disagree too. Because, news consumption goes up when such events take place and in today’s marketing driven world, such news events are hyped up even more. So, the expectations are already being built up for the outcome. As for this particular case, Obama is well known here and mostly popular too, so it turned into a positive for news channels. Had Romney won, it could’ve been quite different.

  4. Good point, Harsh,
    It’s hard to even care about the coverage if your team has lost (it goes for sports too), but I remember a poll that was conducted in the wake of the terrible attacks on Mumbai in which viewers were able to discern which news organisations had covered the story better than others. I’m sure you’re right that CNN viewers will rate their coverage better than Fox viewers because of the result. But then again, CNN’s coverage last night was terrific. I watched the BBC too, and they were fine, but sometimes you want to watch an event along with the locals – it’s more authentic and better resourced.

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