News Nets outline Election Night revamps

The five news networks and the Associated Press will no longer project statewide election results until all state polls have closed, they support legislation that would require all polls nationwide to close at the same time, and they will continue using Voter News Service, although they plan to substantially improve it between now and the next presidential election, newsw executives told House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) last Wednesday.

While the heads of ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN and Fox News clearly took responsibility for two wrong calls on Election Night 2000 (AP only made one wrong call that night, calling Florida for Gore at 7:53 pm), they took some offense at allegations made by Tauzin last November that their election coverage was politically biased toward Democratic candidate Al Gore.

"I am absolutely certain that political bias played no role in NBC's election night reporting," said NBC News President Andrew Lack.

Tauzin effectively took back that statement at a press conference held a week before the hearing, but the executives apparently were still stinging from the suggestion.

Moreover, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes took issue with Tauzin choosing to hold an oversight hearing rather than a legislative hearing, which required every witness to be sworn in.

"While I honor and respect this committee's role in searching for legislative solutions, Mr. Chairman, I am deeply disappointed that this is being handled as an investigative and not as a legislative fact-finding matter," Ailes said. "I am further disappointed that this Committee views its role as adversarial requiring us to take an oath as if we have something to hide. We do not. With or without a swearing-in photo op, we will hide nothing."

- Paige Albiniak