King’s spotlight on CNN was constant. While other networks cut to commercial and brought in panels of talking heads to discuss the results, CNN rarely broke away from the wall. King’s coverage, though it arguably did not provide the specificity with which some viewers were hoping to assess vote counts, was nonetheless measured. He frequently asked for viewers’ patience, telling them there was still much they didn’t know, even as the votes streamed in. And CNN, holding true to its word, was reluctant to call any states until it was virtually certain the races there were over.

The political analyst was almost an auctioneer, rattling off numbers all through the night, hardly taking a breath, trying desperately to stay ahead of the action. He exhibited an almost unfathomable memory of US counties in every swing state, no doubt formed over his 12 years as the magic wall maestro.

Led by analysts like King, this kind of county-by-county analysis—made possible by advancements in technology—is where TV network political coverage is headed. It is a fusion of the talking-head punditry of old, with the more data-oriented techniques of digital outlets like FiveThirtyEight, which prefer to let the numbers do the talking without much editorialization.

Years from now, long after the dust settles, the confusion clears, and a winner is determined, King’s marathon election-night analysis will be definitive picture of how the US news media navigated what was a chaotic election.

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