More Messages: There's Got to Be a Morning After

Yesterday's election debacle in the Denver metro area was a story custom-made for television -- yet somehow, at least a couple of local stations failed to adequately report it. Based on what I was able to catch between watching national matters on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, TV types in these parts stuck so rigidly to their plans that they gave unexpected developments short shrift.

They certainly didn't lack the personnel to offer more balance. The outlets made sure all their talent was on deck -- particularly channels 4 and 9, which had arranged to offer wall-to-wall updates and analysis on channels 12 and 20, respectively, beginning at 7 p.m. By then, it was abundantly clear that breakdowns at voting centers and polling stations in Denver and beyond constituted big news, and because of these problems, tallies would be arriving much later than previously anticipated. Nevertheless, correspondents with 4 and 9 generally stayed at election celebrations, where they filled the hours it took for meaningful results to trickle in with redundant interviews starring party hacks, who mainly delivered the same boilerplate rhetoric we've all grown to hate in recent weeks. That left the main coverage of the systemic collapse to helicopter jockeys, who essentially treated the lengthy lines like accidents. Which they were, to a large degree -- but there was much more to them than that.

A significant exception to this rule was Channel 7, whose Mitch Jelniker (pictured) stayed at a troubled Douglas County voting site for hour upon hour. The footage of devoted citizens whiling away a significant chunk of their lives waiting for their turn at the ballot helped put everything else that happened yesterday in context. In this case, being flexible allowed the station to personalize the chaos, instead of merely flying over it. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts