Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media could not contain its glee at Doug Jones’ victory over Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate race. 

In the CNN studio, as results began to come in that would put Jones into the lead for the first time, cheers could be heard from off-camera personnel.

“So, if you’re in the Jones campaign, a little while ago you were biting your nails,” John King of CNN was saying on camera in front of the network’s electoral scoreboard.

“And now, you’re saying OK, this math could work for us, but we’ll see.” Then, as he said, “I’m going to check when the panel gets on the board here, again 72 percent Jefferson County …” whooping can be heard from off camera.

“They’re getting excited across the room there, which tends to happen on election night,” King said.

Moments later, Wolf Blitzer unveiled a new panel that showed Jones taking the lead statewide.

“Look at this,” Blitzer said. “All of a sudden, Doug Jones is taking the lead.”

With that, another whoop went up. The most trusted name in news was cheering election results on air.

The Washington Post devoted most of its front page to four stories on the special election to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General.

“Result scrambles GOP legislative agenda, security in Senate,” one headline read. “Race seen as bellwether for 2018 contests,” read another.

“A lousy night for Republicans and a big defeat for Trump,” ran over Dan Balz’s analysis piece

In the stories, the victory for Jones was called “odds-defying” in one, “stunning” in two others and “seismic” in another. 

Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan wrote that Jones’ victory was caused by the failure of Moore’s fake-news narrative. “The relentless disparagement was as ugly as it was anti-democratic,” she wrote. “And on Tuesday, it failed.”

The more permanent result, she wrote, was that Moore operated from Trump’s playbook when it comes to the media and that, given his failure, Trump’s playbook was rendered impotent.

“The effort to disparage legitimate reporting isn’t over, of course,” she wrote. “But this is an encouraging moment nonetheless. Because what amounted to a test case for relying on the fake news technique failed in Alabama. That might mean candidates running for office all over the nation will be a bit less likely to consult the Trump playbook for their own campaigns. You can be sure that if it had prevailed, the technique would have spread to every state legislature race and sheriff’s campaign in the country.”

The Los Angeles Times left no doubt where it stands in its news pages on Wednesday. “The mobilization of African American support is a routine part of just about any winning Democratic campaign,” the paper stated in a story on how black turnout, especially among women, turned the tide for Jones.

“But the overwhelming black turnout here Tuesday, the staggering support for Jones and the sense that African American women in particular carried him to an upset victory made for a moment of shining pride. Not just here in Alabama, but across the country.

“The fact that the loser was Roy Moore, a Republican with a long history of racially provocative actions and statements, and that the triumph was eked out in a state with long, ugly history of racial oppression made victory all the sweeter.”

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