For the media, 13 burning questions that the election may start to answer

Wolf Blitzer said, “and a nation in crisis is at a crossroads.” When the special coverage will end, nobody knows. Anchors and reporters have been communicating all of the uncertainty that comes with a high turnout election and a huge increase in mail-in balloting.

More than anything else, this is an Election Night that needs transparency. “What is critical is a transparency with the audience — letting viewers know this is what we know and how we know it, but that this is information right now and could change,” CBS News president Susan Zirinsky said on Tuesday. “It’s like being at a baseball game: You’re in the 3rd inning, they give you the score, but you know there are other dynamics that could change the game. We want to be careful, not timid.”
Will the press hit it out of the proverbial park?
What we’re about to find out
In the coming hours and days, we may have answers to these questions:

  1. Did the American people set a modern-day record for registered voter turnout?
  2. Did journalists and local election officials sufficiently prepare the public for red shifts, blue shifts and potential delays?
  3. Were the major networks and The Associated Press able to practice what they preached, a/k/a patience?
  4. Did the pollsters and forecasters get it right? If not, is the polling industry dead for good?
  5. Did “shy Trump” voters materialize?
  6. Can this election help the American media restore a little bit of the trust that’s been eroded in recent years?
  7. Did the press overcorrect from 2016, and if so in what ways?
  8. Will QAnon adherents realize they were fooled when Trump does not win all 50 states, as a recent Q world narrative has claimed?
  9. Will Fox News viewers feel misled if Biden wins?
  10. Will Trump make a premature claim of victory, and if so how will the major networks handle it?
  11. What will the election results mean for the future of the right-wing media economy?
  12. If Biden wins, for how long after the election will the media uncover more wrongdoing from the Trump admin?
  13. Will the Trump presidency go down in history as a one-term, one-off fluke or a fundamental realignment of American politics? (Or maybe both?)

Time to count the votes
My impression, as a reporter who covers the media industry every day, is that some journalists feel like they are limping to the finish line. They are exhausted and just want this year to be over. Others are feeling newly energized by the impending end of the election. In Slack channels and text message chains on Tuesday, motivational messages bounced back and forth: “Here we go.” “Good luck everyone.” “Don’t forget to eat.” “Stay hydrated.” And, more ominously, “stay safe.” There’s nothing left to say except: Let’s count the votes.
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