0

Fox News and NBC call for help - Rob Felt

I'm going to the glasses at this hour just so I can keep everything focused," Tom Brokaw assured me as he wrapped a pair of wire frame specs around his ears at 3:30 a.m. Keep it focused indeed, please do.

Bush had won. It was all but certain that the provisional ballots in Ohio didn't have a chance to tip the state for Kerry, and FOX News and NBC had already declared this as fact, but seemed strangely hesitant to continue wantonly filling in their U.S. coloring book.

These two networks had already pushed President Bush to the fateful 269 electoral vote limit, meaning that calling one more state red would put their viewing audience to sleep.

Anyone who had been following the projections could see the Nevada numbers rolling in and realize that it would fall for Bush, and that making those votes official would force these two networks to call the election for the president.

FOX, in true form, was the first network to call Ohio for Bush. If it had applied the same stringent standards, it should have called New Mexico and Nevada just several hours later, and would have been the first network to call the entire election.

Too afraid to catch the flak it did in 2000 for its Florida catastrophe, FOX, somehow with NBC in tow this year, found excuses to hold out two states that hovered at the 99 percent mark after it had already made the decision to call Ohio when it was at 90 percent.

Newscasters cited geographic regions within the states. They sited the same provisional and absentee ballots that didn't seem to bother them on Ohio. They informed us that someone in the White House was eager to get a decision so Bush could make an early morning appearance, but that calling the election wasn't their job, so they were proceeding with caution.

At this point they weren't really holding out on Nevada as they claimed, but fearing that some fateful provisional ballot blast would force them to reverse their early Ohio call. Missing one state would be a problem; calling the whole election wrong would be a disaster.

CNN, which held off the Ohio decision, called Nevada for Bush, which put the pressure on FOX and NBC to do the same, but they couldn't buckle.

Watching the network race was more exciting than watching the presidential one. It was fairly clear Bush would win, but which network would call it first?

None of them did.

FOX and NBC waited until after Kerry called President Bush to concede before flipping Nevada into the red column and making their call official.

How bold.

I told myself that I wouldn't watch the calling game this time, but I broke my own rule. Little did I know that it would turn out to be it's own source of entertainment – the only one on this election night.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or rfelt@henryherald.com .