Date: 13th December 2000
All of the major television networks interrupted their regular programming Tuesday night as word was sent down that the U.S. Supreme Court was about to render a decision in the Florida election contest.
When it finally was delivered, broadcast correspondents, scrambling to get on the air quickly after skimming through the lengthy, complex text, appeared to be struggling nervously to find pertinent passages (their shaky voices were likely attributable to the bitter Washington cold). Many of them initially interpreted the judges' decision to remand the case back to the Florida Supreme Court as a qualified victory for Al Gore. (They were later to alter that interpretation to a "Pyrrhic victory" for Gore.) As Time magazine reporter James Poniewozik commented on the magazine's Web site, "We learned the limitations of instant information: The information's only instant if you understand what it means."
Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media critic called it "another extraordinary, ultimately riveting evening of television" but described the initial attempt at instant analysis as a "group grope so tentative that the networks weren't quite sure what headline to throw on the screen." Not for nearly an hour did the newsmen reach a consensus that the Supreme Court had ultimately decided the presidential election and that George W. Bush had won.
Meanwhile, New York Post columnist Neil Travis, citing a source that he said he would trust with his firstborn, wrote today that late on Monday, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court called "a very prominent member of the media" to ask what the public reaction would be "to the exercise of any of the various options available to the court in the Gore vs. Bush matter." Travis did not name either the justice or the media member.
Source: Studio Briefing