It was the blogs that called Obama victory

An historic election and a welcome historic victory for Barack Obama that was called online by some of the big political blogs and news sites before the US TV networks, which having been burned by exit polls in 2000 and 2004 took the cautious route.

There’s already been an avalanche written about how this election was one like no others in terms of its online impact through digital media – it being dubbed the social media election by some. The much written about uses of services like Twitter, YouTube, blogs all played a role so it is satisfying to see websites come out on top as the victory was called.

“Obama Wins the Presidency” Slate reported at 9:27 p.m a solid 90 minutes before the first of the networks called it. Right after Slate came The Page with “The Networks Won’t Tell You, but The Page Will: Barack Obama Will Be the 44th President of the United States”.

On its homepage Slate, said: “In proud Slate tradition, we bring you the exit polls bouncing around that they won’t talk about on TV.”

Although there was a hedging proviso: “They are not the real thing, nor are they guaranteed to bear any semblance to the real thing”.

It then showed all the data showing Obama ahead in Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

While the web called it at 9:30, the TV networks did not call it for another one and a half hours at 11pm after the polls had closed in the West and Barack Obama had the 270 electoral college votes he needed.

Charles Gibson on ABC News told everyone how it was going to be fore the networks early on when he said “We are not going to project a winner in this election until one candidate has reached the 270 number.”

You can understand why. Remember 2000? The networks called Florida for the Democrats and Al – loser – Gore before 8 pm based on exit polls and we all know how that turned. Ouch.

Same again in 2004 as John Kerry (who?) was shown to have a commanding lead over George W Bush. Exit for the exit polls. This time it was definitely going to be different.

The networks loss was the web’s gain. The Huffington Post as well called it early and in the process the sties racked up hundreds and hundreds of comments as people debate and engaged. In the UK, Harry’s Place where I blog racked up more than 500 comments as people debated throughout the night.

Despite all their supper splashy graphics the US networks held back and were restrained not following the lead of the web rivals, which must have been galling for many network TV journalists and presenters.

As the New York Times put it they held back “saying that exit surveys and actual vote counts did not permit them to proclaim a victor”.

“The headline is, well, there’s still no call in a number of key battleground states,” Katie Couric said on CBS News at 8 p.m., before ticking off a list that included Florida and Virginia.

An hour and a half later as CBS and others gave McCain the must win state of Ohio to Obama Couric’s on screen partner Bob Schieffer said, “I don’t see how John McCain can win now. I think Barack Obama is going to be the president of the United States. That’s just the shortest way I can put it.”

Couric replied “The cake is baked, in your view?”


Even with that, with the cake being baked CBS and its television rivals waited another one and a half hours, and did not officially call the race until 11 pm when polls closed in California and Obama’s electoral college tally passed 270.

It’s maybe then that you need a network to sum it up as Brian Williams on NBC drew the parallels with the Kennedy generation:

“There will be young children in the White House for the first time since the Kennedy generation. An African-American has broken the barrier as old as the Republic.”


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