Paid political pundits are not immune to the same emotions the rest of humanity experiences. When their candidates win unexpectedly, their jubilation often enters into their otherwise placid and calm professional personas.
And then there’s Rachel Maddow. The MSNBC host isn’t known for her balanced approach to partisan political issues, and her shock as the Clinton campaign began to crumble was visible for everyone to see.
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As the end looked certain, Maddow interrupted her commentary on the lopsided contest and spoke candidly to her viewers. Maddow was visibly upset. The night wasn’t going as she’d hoped, obviously, and she knew that her viewers must be feeling the same emotions she was.
In this spirit of empathy, she dropped her professional candor and spoke directly to her audience. “You’re awake by the way,” she said. “You’re not having a terrible, terrible dream. Also, you’re not dead and you haven’t gone to hell.”
As the election is over, both camps are now looking for analysis. The democrats–who everyone favored in this contest–are desperately reaching for meaning. Some are placing blame squarely on the media. Bias is apparent, and easy to see in the words of commentators like Maddow.
Yet it isn’t opinion that’s getting the brunt of the analysis, but the way that each outlet chose to handle stories for their chosen candidates. In a year when many publications openly endorsed Clinton, many were left looking for some impartiality in reporting that might have expressed the views of those voters who were truly undecided.
Such reporting was almost impossible to find. As individual precincts reported in on election night, the two major cable outlets sifted through the results in real time. Fox News began calling contests for Trump early, and the relaxed demeanor of the anchors only hinted at the elation that must have been felt in Trump’s campaign headquarters.
Others, like MSNBC and CNN, had a much more complicated night.