Many of my friends have interesting things to say about the election. I do not. But in the eleventh hour, I finally got into watching the news. It’s been transfixing to me. Here are my grades for some of the major news anchors on two dimensions: impartiality, and how much I’d like to go on a road trip with them. I offer neither as an ideal to strive for.
Wolf Blitzer. Wolf Blitzer is flawlessly neutral, though his perfect impassivity makes me just slightly less impressed by the achievement. All the same, I would be fascinated about what he would be like in person. I imagine a Wolf Blitzer road trip as a seamless procession of descriptively accurate sentences. “At this moment we are passing what – by all available evidence – appears to be a barn. This is Wolf Blitzer, in North-Central Wisconsin…”
Road Trip: A
John King. John King has to be one of the big winners of this election cycle. His tireless obsession with detail is already taking on its own legend. This parody is spot on, but also reveals the absurd difficulty of his real-life job. With a bizarrely comprehensive knowledge of county-level data seemingly anyplace in the country, John King comes off as half old-school newscaster and half lord of whispers. “I have a contact in Cumberland County – a Republican but just a solid county official – who tells me she’s seeing more support for the President than had been expected.” Could he keep it up all the way across Pennsylvania? I wouldn’t bet against him.
Road Trip: B+
Nora O’Donnell. I’m so impressed by Nora O’Donnell. Her impartiality is extraordinary, down to the smallest nuances of facial expression and intonational contour. She is surrounded by people who don’t go to any great pains to conceal their perspective, which complicates things. On election night, I heard her repeat a colleague’s impassioned comment, but somehow her restatement cancelled its normative valence. Her verbal fluency is near perfect, yet she seems fully human. “The president is maintaining his lead in Georgia, but it’s getting prosciutto thin.” Does she think of this stuff in the moment?
Road Trip: A+
Lester Holt. Lester Holt is the paradigm of respectability. Every sentence, every question, every expression – no mistakes. He could have any personality in the world, and we would never know.
Road Trip: B+
Savannah Guthrie. Savannah Guthrie may be the most endearing human. Any agent that did not find Savannah Guthrie endearing I would suspect of being a zombie, which also would move my credences about whether zombies are possible. In the long hours of election night she broke the monotony by teasing her co-anchors with great affection, highlighting exactly those parts of their performances they seemed to most value about themselves. She’s not especially impartial, as the send up of her town hall with Donald Trump emphasized. But in the end, she just wants Americans to get along, and believes they can. She concludes the night with a kind of civic homily admonishing us to have faith in each other. I don’t even go in for these values, but I’m still kind of inspired by it. She even lent Kate MacKinnon the actual suit she wore for the town hall so that Mackinnon could wear it to make fun of her. Maybe if we were more like Savannah Guthrie, Savannah Guthrie would be right about us?
Road Trip: A+
Chris Cuomo. Chris Cuomo is full of mistakes, misstatements, and bias. Somehow it all makes him seem more relatable and genuine. Plus, his biases aren’t exactly partisan in the Fox/MSNBC way. He’s just against anybody punching down. Chris Cuomo is like the American citizen’s protective brother. “Hey, leave those vote counters alone! Don’t you know they’re doing a civic service?! You got a problem, take it up with your Secretary of State!”
Road Trip: A
Fox News, News Desk. I have to say, I think Fox News did a great job. If anything, they seemed a bit overzealous in making calls for Biden. They may have Republican faces, but the news staff seem committed to getting it right.
Road Trip: B
Remaining Questions: What would the world be like if media outlets were more civil? Mostly that would be good, I think. But it’s surprisingly hard to say, because sometimes in-group incivility in media actually pushes people away from their party. Are rural voters responding differently to media? I would like to know. Would I purchase SG monogramed clothing to match my RF monogramed clothing? Yes. How would Wolf Blitzer respond to Savannah Guthrie on a road trip? No idea.