In the Center On Primary Night

By SteveK 

Last night, TVNewser spent about an hour in the CNN Election Center and control room, from just before 8pmET until Sen. John McCain was declared the Republican nominee at 9pmET.

On the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center, the large newsroom is essentially one big studio. Although the Election Center studio is at the far end of the room, the rows of analysts for this night reached deep into the newsroom.

The atmosphere in the studio, which is filled with more than 70 monitors, 40 people and splashes of red and blue everywhere else, is fairly relaxed. Anchor Wolf Blitzer calmly navigated the reports from correspondents including Jessica Yellin and Dana Bash.


In another part of the studio, while not on the air, Lou Dobbs chatted with CNN’s newest analyst Alex Castellanos while Campbell Brown talked with her panel, including Carl Bernstein. Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper, who would pick up anchoring later in the night, was being interviewed by The Insider.

On the far end of the studio, Abbi Tatton was running through her script for her segment, and the accompanying work she’d have to do with CNN’s newest sensation, the “Magic Wall.” Standing a few feet away, was the Wall’s creator Jeff Han. Not its technical name, we learned what it’s actually called and what the Magic Wall can do.

Han is the founder and CEO of Perceptive Pixel, which manufactures the technology for the Multi-touch Collaboration Wall. It is more prominently used in other areas, like defense, finance and health care.

“Everybody knows about the wall now,” Han says. “People are scrambling to come up with something similar.”

He also credits John King, the master of the Wall, as a great demonstrator of his product. Han was on hand for primary coverage in case there were any problems. Before King’s segment about the Texas counties in play, he works with Han to see how closely the map can zoom in, and how quickly it can zoom back out.

In the control room one floor below, CNN Political Director Sam Feist coordinates the possible call of Sen. John McCain as the Republican nominee. Just minutes before 9pmET, the decision is made by Feist to use the graphic that declares McCain the nominee, rather than the graphic that shows his Texas win, which put him over the top.

Feist communicates the news to David Bohrman, SVP and Washington Bureau Chief, who relays it to anchor Wolf Blitzer. Feist lets the CNN bureaus and wires know they are going to make the call, and at 9pmET, CNN reports the nomination and Texas win.

(TVNewser extended the invitation to report on primary night coverage at FNC and MSNBC. With more important primaries forthcoming, perhaps next time.)