CNN ‘Magic Wall’ Goes Deeper on Super Tuesday
February 8, 2008
CNN introduced its giant seven-foot touchscreen, the “Magic Wall”—reminiscent of something out of “Minority Report”—in time for the Iowa Caucuses in January.
On Super Tuesday, the most data-rich night of election coverage before November, CNN used the wall to explain some of the complexities of America’s Byzantine nominating process.
With the wall, anchors were able to drill down to individual counties and use it to explain what was happening and why the network called, or didn’t call, particular contests, said CNN Executive Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman. For example, CNN reporter John King, armed with his own deep knowledge of state-by-state politics, dug deep and held off on calling the Democratic battle in Missouri even after the Associated Press and others called it, wrongly, for Hillary Clinton.
“John didn’t, and was able to explain why we didn’t,” Bohrman said. “We were able to really use the map as reporting.”
With multiple races and multiple candidates, CNN realized pie charts were the way to go. The network put 18 to 27 pie charts on the wall, and the anchors could touch and enlarge the pies.
“It gave us a wonderful dynamic sense of the race and where it’s going,” said Bohrman. “On a night like this, you want to be able to explain lots of complicated data—not just a sea of numbers.”
King manipulated the individual pie wedges according to certain possible outcomes, trying to explain various possible strategies and outcomes that will bring either Barack Obama or Clinton the nomination.
As the evening went on CNN turned on the sidepanels of its HD feed so viewers had a continuous feed on delegate counts for the entire evening.
Bohrman said King took to manipulating the screen naturally after just about five minutes of practice.
“It’s a very natural extension of your mind and hand,” Bohrman said.