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Since CNN introduced its “magic wall” earlier in the presidential campaign, King has become synonymous with the device. Standing at the giant map wall, he can pinpoint voting patterns, demographics and anything else election-related.
“I was skeptical at first,” King said. “I’m an old AP wire guy. I’m very skeptical about the bells and whistles of television.”
He wanted the map to be a tool for telling the story, not something that seemed like a toy. So far, he said, it has been a good tool.
“It allows me to do things with information,” he said. “As I like to joke, it’s the perfect marriage of an old man with new technology.”
His use of the map was even honored with a skit in the “Weekend Update” of last week’s prime-time version of “Saturday Night Live” on NBC. Cast member Fred Armisen, playing a news anchor, drew a cat on the map and then shrank the map into his pocket.
“It was hilarious – it was flattering, in a way,” King said. He also thought it was a demonstration on “how not to use” the map.
King has been at CNN since 1999, and its chief national correspondent since 2005. During this campaign, he has emerged as a political expert and the key go-to guy for the wall.
The map gives him (and others at CNN), a way to dig deep, even at the neighborhood level, to show how areas have voted in the past.
As national correspondent, and before that as CNN’s chief White House correspondent, King has spent a lot of time on the road, so he’s often looking for ways to use the electronic map to back up or enhance what he’s learned on the field.
“Context and history are important, but they’re old by definition,” King said. For him, the goal is to add something new to the discussion.
“Can I use it to convey something that is either new or that is important?” he asked. Otherwise, it’s not worth using, he said.
“If I shrink the country and put it in my pocket, like Fred did, if I do that, the viewer has every right to say this is a toy,” he said.
King, who is married to CNN reporter/anchor Dana Bash, is not sure what will happen for him after Tuesday. For the immediate future, “I’m going to sleep and find a beach,” he said.
His contract is up at the end of the year. He and the CNN brass have had – and will have – conversations after the election about what comes next.
“My general attitude is, we have a pretty big story here, let’s do this story,” King said. “Will I stay, primarily with a Washington focus, whichever [candidate] is in? I certainly expect that I will. I covered the White House for 8-1/2 years, but it would take a lot of weaponry to get me back there.”
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