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An unexpected thrill ride on TV

Reuters

Trump supporters watch election returns come in on televisions in New York on Tuesday.

The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s stunning showing against Hillary Clinton in the presidential election Tuesday was a final twist in a made-for TV thrill ride — and a stern lesson to journalists to avoid leaping to conclusions.

Relying on polls and group think, television networks began the evening with a barely concealed assumption that Clinton would win, only to see the actual results suggest something quite different. Tens of millions of Americans followed the drama on all manner of screens.

As midnight passed, the final results were still not known. But many covering the event on television had switched to saying that it was extremely likely that Trump would win.

The results offered a stern rebuke to pollsters — few of whom predicted a Trump victory — newspaper editorial boards and the Hollywood establishment, which lined up nearly unanimously behind Clinton. The post-election period will include soul-searching for those institutions as well as politicians.

“I am sitting here surprised by the fact that we were surprised by this, in a campaign full of surprises,” said ABC News’ Cecilia Vega.

The much-followed Upshot blog on The New York Times website had a meter predicting the chances of each candidate winning. It began Tuesday with an 85 percent certainty that Clinton would win, and flipped as the evening went on to a near certainty of a Trump win.

Television networks, concentrating on the electoral college and paths to victory for each of the candidates, also spent virtually no time discussing the possibility that Clinton could win the popular vote and lose the election.

Analysts spoke of Trump’s unexpected strength in rural areas, with CNN’s David Axelrod calling it a “primal scream on behalf of voters who are disenfranchised with the status quo.” MSNBC’s Brian Williams called it a failure of prognosticators to take into account how many lawn signs Trump inspired as opposed to Clinton.

“This is a revolt of the unprotected class against the protected elite class,” said Fox News Channel’s Monica Crowley.

A chorus of told-you-so’s is also likely in coming days. NBC News’ Kasie Hunt noted as she traveled with Clinton during the last week of the campaign that it went from small staged events to other small staged events. She said it did not feel like she was covering a winning campaign. “And I took some criticism for that, from some sources,” she said.

CNN’s Van Jones grew emotional when talking about how many Americans are going to struggle waking up on Wednesday and tell their children what happened. “This was a whitelash against a changing country,” Jones said, and many newer Americans will feel threatened by it.

It was a far different mood while the polls were still open. Vice Media and Slate collaborated on a system that combined exit polling with early voting profiles to project candidate vote totals in seven battleground states and posted the material throughout the day on Tuesday. Clinton was leading Tuesday afternoon in all seven of the states, according to the VoteCastr model.

Television networks vowed to stick with tradition and not reveal that information. But it was hard to miss some foreshadowing.Speech

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