Why did an Arizona TV station say Hobbs won?

On Thursday, shortly after Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake held a news conference excoriating the local press for going heavy with her opponent Katie Hobbs's ludicrous attempt to tie Lake to a break-in at her campaign, the television station Lake used to work for aired a graphic saying Hobbs won the election with 53% of the vote.

This has led to certain questions.

The station, KSAZ Fox10 in Phoenix, explained that the graphic was only on air for about 30 seconds, that it was a simple mistake made during a testing effort, and that the graphic was generated by the Associated Press.

Suffice it to say that Lake was miffed by the episode and, considering her appropriately brutal dominance of a press corps she was once a member of, wondered out loud how, um, coincidental the event was.

During her run, Lake has used her skills as ex–local anchor to incredible effect, a fact the local media have not at all taken kindly to — hence the raised eyebrows.

But exactly how did this happen?  Here are a few media background nuggets that could have played a role:

Media organizations create a surprising amount of "not yet" news.  For example, the obituaries of famous people are pre-written so they are ready to go the instant the person, well, goes.  They are filled with "B-material," like when they got their Nobel Prize, that time they got drunk and threw a drink at Gore Vidal, how many kids they admitted to having, etc.

They are then quickly "topped" with date and time and manner of demise and published.  If they are really famous, a follow-up piece usually appears with quotes from family and friends and enemies talking about their time with the person, like "I told her years ago when she got them that those monkeys were bad news, but I never thought they would actually eat her," and so on.

And then there are other types of stories being held, some for rather nefarious reasons, like timing the release to have the maximum political impact against an opponent or having something ready to go to make sure the other side doesn't get any traction in the on-going debate — see here.

So, back to the Lake situation — yes, the AP has created sample graphics and chyrons and such and does need to test them before the election, as that night is exceedingly hectic.  It's like when you walk into a wedding and a zillion champagne glasses are already filled and on the table at the entrance to the tent — you know you've got that covered (at least until drunken Uncle Desmond shows up and throws the count waaaaay off).

Not only does the AP do this, but government agencies do it as well.  Your local Registrar of Voters (or clerk or secretary or whatever) is right now making sure his computer systems work by loading fake results into templates.

But unlike the AP, registrars and any responsible news outlet don't use actual numbers that look like real results.  They use asterisks or ampersands or zeroes or, for example, they put a single vote in a precinct if the system input interface requires a number, or, worst-case scenario, they use larger numbers but make sure every contest is a tie.

They also are very, very, very careful, when testing, to, well, not hit "send."  Or they firewall the test.  Or they run the whole thing through a beta protocol.  Or really worst-case scenario, they do at 3 in the morning, after putting a giant red "TESTING" warning at the top of the website and leave it up for 11 seconds.  Or whatever they can do to make sure that what happened in Phoenix never, ever happens at all.

It would, though, be fascinating to get a gander of the entire national AP "test" list and see exactly how many of the races are "tested" using wishful thinking numbers, as was done in the Hobbs/Lake race, because Kari is going to win, and it's not going to be even that close.

If every other race is 53-47 and has the same voter turnout number, then maybe the AP has an excuse — a bad one, but an excuse.  If the numbers vary from race to race, though, at the very least, the AP staff are almost assuredly projecting their hopes and dreams and wishes and their personal political viewpoint into their work.  This, of course, we all know already, but it's always nice to have another chunk of objective fact when people try to claim that the media are not biased or manipulative or dismissive or collaborationist.

Or I could be wrong, and the AP is very very up to something very very bad.  Imagine for a moment if Hobbs does in fact "win" 53% to 47%.

Oh, my God.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Cal. and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at planbuckley@gmail.com. You can read more of his work at https://thomas699.substack.com.



Graphic credit: Twitter video screen grab (cropped).

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