NBC Leaves Viewers Just as “Undecided” as Voters

On Oct. 3, Republican nominee Donald Trump launched a series of attacks in the battleground state of Colorado.

Trump blasted Hillary Clinton on her stamina and marriage saying, “She can’t make it 15 feet to her car, give me a break,” and “I don’t even think she’s loyal to Bill if you want to know the truth, and really, folks, why should she be?”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported she talked to undecided voters in Ohio about Trump’s comments.

Two potential voters appeared on the screen, but viewers only heard from one “undecided” voter.

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NBC Graphic

“If he were to become president, it would not look very well for our country,” the one “undecided” voter said.

NBC’s coverage on what of the electorate thinks stopped there.

According to reporting from The New York Times, 2 to 12 percent of the electorate is still undecided between Trump and Clinton.

Former NBC correspondent and anchor Connie Chung had this to say:

“Andrea Mitchell, who is an experienced, superb political reporter likely spent the day gathering important substantive information for her story.  She probably did not  conduct interviews with undecided voters for her story—a producer probably did.  No doubt, the producer questioned as many voters he/she could in a half hour or so–but only one quote was used in Andrea’s story.  This is common with broadcast stories.  Broadcast news can be quite superficial in that respect.”

But, this is not the first time the networks have claimed to speak to the undecided voter.

On Sept. 27, CBS aired a segment after the first presidential debate that tried to show what the electorate was thinking, but missed the mark.

CNS Election Watch’s Jake Britton reported about how CBS’s segment titled “Voices of the Voters” had an unbalanced ratio of Trump to Clinton supporters when trying to connect to groups of voters.

But just what is the purpose of including an “undecided” voter in an evening newscast?

For Vivian Schiller, former executive at The New York Times and NPR, the “undecided” voter gained a new meaning for this election.

“This year the negatives for both candidates are unprecedented. I’d submit the undecided voter in 2016 is one who dislikes both candidates and is deciding whether to vote at all,” Schiller said. “Conversely, I doubt you can find a single person who is undecided because they see the merits of both candidates and can’t decide which of the two they like more.”

In an Oct. 3 interview for CNS Election Watch, former anchor of CNN’s State of the Union and presidential debate moderator Candy Crowley said:

“The instinct to try to get an immediate public pulse on a major news event is good; get outside the studio, find out what “real” people think, bring different voices and a different look to the screen. Unfortunately, the result is usually meaningless and uninformative.”

Matthew Storin, former editor of the Boston Globe, agreed with Crowley’s assessment.

“There is no way a network program could adequately examine the thinking of undecided voters,” he said. “So they show a little video to give a nod in their direction, so to speak, without in any way informing the viewer in a meaningful way.”

Poynter Institute’s chief media writer, Jim Warren, pointed out that even statisticians get it wrong when identifying undecided voters for use in polls.

“Obviously, there is no perfect random sample. There is no perfect way to get those voters,” Warren said. “As [Nate] Silver himself said at an appearance at Northwestern the other day, many of his ilk have been off the mark this year.”

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Alex Theriot

Alex Theriot

Alex Theriot is a senior multi-platform journalism major, minoring in global terrorism studies. Previously, Alex served as staff writer, style editor and webmaster for Unwind Magazine, the campus arts and entertainment publication. Alex has held communications internships at the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Homeland Security. She completed her journalism internship at CNN. Upon graduation, Alex hopes to attend graduate school in the Washington, D.C. area, continuing to pursue a career in national security.

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