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The Good, the Bad and the Thirsty: How News Anchors Became the Breakout Stars of Election Week 2020


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The Good, the Bad and the Thirsty: How News Anchors Became the Breakout Stars of Election Week 2020

The Good, the Bad and the Thirsty: How News Anchors Became the Breakout Stars of Election Week 2020

As the results of the 2020 presidential election slowly rolled in over the course of election week, Americans seemed to be glued to cable news like never before. And now, with the benefit of hindsight and the declaration of a winner, it seems like the right time to take stock of how news anchors shaped one of the longest weeks in a very long year.

Ahead of President-elect Joe Biden winning the election on Saturday, the main reason for many people’s network news obsession was, of course, to get minute-by-minute updates on the race between Biden and President Donald Trump. But there was an additional draw that came as a surprise to some viewers: the reassuring presence of some of the election news anchors themselves.

From CNN’s John King to MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, news anchors spent the week tirelessly breaking down votes in battleground states on huge touchscreens. As multiple states remained uncalled for days on end, many anchors became the surprise stars, both famously and infamously, of the election.

On social media sites like Twitter and TikTok, memes, criticism and even so-called “thirst” posts about these anchors’ commitment to delivering viewers the most up-to-date election information began inundating people’s feeds. And while cable news favorites like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had their moments, it was the “chartthrobs” like King and Kornacki who kept viewers coming back for more data-driven analysis of the electoral map.

But the week wasn’t a home run for every cable network host. Over on Fox News, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo’s attempts to elevate baseless claims about voter fraud being pushed by the Trump campaign were at odds with comments made by some of her own colleagues. And Cooper received pushback for a comment he made about Trump following the President’s Nov. 5 TV appearance.

Through it all, from comedy to controversy, America kept watching. News media was the one place that showed most people where the race stood, day or night. Even if anchors had no new results, for five days viewers could see their own anxieties and impatience reflected on the people having to fill time on news programs. And during this pandemic, when in-person socialization is rare, the news anchors, combined with the internet, became America’s pop-up watch party for election week 2020.

King and Kornacki get meme’d

Seeing the votes laid out by the numbers in every state, city and county across the country seemed to be a comfort to some viewers tuning in to watch election news —which is why data experts John King and Steve Kornacki became the anchors of the hour (er, week). As the tide turned in favor of Biden over the course of several days, King and Kornacki were there to explain not only why, but also what was likely to be the ultimate result in a number of key swing states.

And so the people of the internet did what they usually do: turned to comedy to process their newfound reverence for the pair.

No rest for data experts

Both King and Kornacki were near constant features of their respective network’s election coverage, prompting people to wonder if they ever took breaks, let alone slept. On Thursday, King told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that he had slept 6.5 hours since Tuesday. “I’ve been on air 12-14 hours both Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said. “Tuesday night I got 2.5 hours sleep; Wednesday night 4. Happy to do as much as I can.”

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