Twitter, YouTube pep up election night

by Gail Pennington

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

3 November 2008


Jim Lehrer doesn’t Twitter. At least, not yet.

But Lee Banville has hopes. As editor of the 12-year-old “Online NewsHour,” Banville bridges the gap between traditional PBS viewers and twentysomethings who want news on demand.

On election night, while Lehrer is anchoring coverage on PBS, Banville and his “Online” team will be reaching out to an audience that’s not necessarily anchored to the sofa. That means not just delivering election news to computers and phones and streaming “NewsHour” coverage on the website (www.pbs.org/newshour) but also partnering with YouTube on a video project and embracing Twitter as a reporting tool.

As part of the “Video Your Vote” project, YouTube and “Online NewsHour” put a thousand video cameras into the hands of people around the country. On Election Day, they are charged with reporting on the voting experience as they see it, problems at the polls but also “the full range of things that happen that day.”

Videos will appear on YouTube, linked by “Online NewsHour,” and some may even turn up on the air on PBS, Banville says. “What we’ve seen already is pretty interesting,” he says, including footage of protesters in North Carolina shouting at early voters. “Having so many cameras out there without giant crews provides a much richer pool of content to draw from.”

Twitter, in which users’ short posts appear on their own pages or are delivered automatically to people who have signed up for them, has turned out to be “a really effective reporting tool,” Banville says.

During the presidential debates, for example, correspondents fed quotes via Twitter instead of e-mailing them. “Online NewsHour” could then pick them up, but Twitter users could also read them and “seemed to really respond to the behind-the-scenes aspect of it.”

“Online NewsHour” draws an audience that may be younger (20s, 30s and 40s) than the traditional “NewsHour” viewer, Banville says. “But the point is really to expand the base beyond people who aren’t home (at 7 p.m.) to watch ‘NewsHour’ on TV.”

Here’s more of what to look for election night on TV and online:

NBC will turn New York’s Rockefeller Plaza into “Election Plaza,” with 16-story McCain and Obama banners on the side of 30 Rock, counting up to 270 electoral votes, and a U.S. map with red and blue states projected onto the ice rink.

Brian Williams, joined by Tom Brokaw, will anchor for NBC, with David Gregory for MSNBC. Coverage will run from 7 p.m.-2 a.m. on NBC and 5 p.m. onward on MSNBC. Online, MSNBC.com will showcase its “Decision ‘08 Dashboard,” billed as a one-of-a-kind election destination including interactive maps, blogs and streaming video. A “One Stop” election widget will allow viewers to get live feeds of other Web coverage.

ABC will broadcast live beginning at 7 p.m. and continuing until 2 a.m., anchored by Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. ABC will transform Times Square into “an outdoor global viewing event,” with video on three screens.

ABCNews.com will offer four live streams, including one from each candidate’s headquarters. Interactive features include searchable exit polls and a rollover map giving one-click state-by-state results. Sam Donaldson will host a live, prime-time broadband feed.

CBS will broadcast beginning at 6:30 p.m. with a one-hour edition of “CBS Evening News.” Coverage will run until 2 a.m., anchored by Katie Couric. The election night team will use interactive touch screens to show results in real time, and CBSNews.com will update results every 60 seconds for presidential, congressional and gubernatorial races.

Fox will broadcast from Times Square, with coverage anchored by Brit Hume projected on the Astro Vision monitor. Coverage on the broadcast network is set to run 8-10 p.m., with additional coverage on Fox News Channel, which is unveiling two new high-definition studios at its main office on Avenue of the Americas in New York.

Fox News Channel will webcast “The Strategy Room” from outside the channel’s New York headquarters beginning at 5 p.m., anchored by Brian Wilson and Martha McCallum. The Web site will also offer streaming live video and mobile alerts.

At 9 p.m., “NewsHour” coverage begins on PBS, anchored by Jim Lehrer and running until 11 p.m.

CNN begins coverage at 6 p.m., led by Wolf Blitzer with Campbell Brown, Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien. Chief national correspondent John King will operate interactive, touch-screen “Magic Wall,” breaking down data by states and counties. CNN.com will stream live coverage and deliver results to mobile phones.

CNN “has built sets powered by hologram technology making it possible to project three-dimensional images.” Anchors will talk with 3-D virtual images of correspondents in the field.

CNN.com will offer real-time results for national and state races and exit-polling data. Users can select the races they most care about and view results by state and county and live streams of speeches.

The BBC will join forces with BBC America for coverage, anchored by Ted Koppel, that will be broadcast to more than 200 countries worldwide.

Comedy Central’s “Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “Colbert Report” will team up for a live election special at 10 p.m. Tuesday that will be simulcast on MTV’s JumboTron in Times Square. In addition, Indecision2008.com will offer day-long live blogging and a live chat at 7:30 p.m. with comedian Patton Oswalt.

//Mixed media