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A plea to Tim Russert: Please don't wipe!

If you're a political junkie like I am, today is a great day. It is Super Tuesday, when 24 states hold a primary for at least one of the political parties. By late tonight, at least one party's nomination could be wrapped up, or the stage could be set for quite a showdown. Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I'll have to pass on most of the news coverage. And while that is certainly disappointing, at least I won't have to watch NBC's Tim Russert. Look, I like Tim. He's a very experienced, talented and capable journalist and political analyst. But I worry that some form of his dry-erase board will make a return to the air. To say it's a tired gimmick is an understatement.

You may recall the dry-erase board first appeared on Election Night 2000. It was a crazy evening as the news networks kept flip-flopping on their projection of whether George W. Bush or Al Gore won the presidency before finally deeming the race too close to call. Having just moved to California a couple weeks before, I was able to stay up until 6 a.m. Eastern Time (3 a.m. out west) to watch the political chaos develop. At some point in the evening, Russert joined Tom Brokaw on the NBC set with dry-erase board and markers in hand.

At the time, it was genius. Russert figured out using the board was the quickest and easiest way to show viewers the electoral math possibilities for each candidate. The schtick worked, and the public and media critics seized on it. TV Guide and TV Land later ranked it 68th on their list of the "100 Most Memorable TV Moments." But it all seemed to go to Russert's head. The next night, he was back on-set with Brokaw again using the dry-erase board, even though he and NBC had all day to prepare graphics. For a long time, it seemed every time you saw Russert on-air after that, he had his dry-erase board. Eventually, the election was settled, and the old wipe board went away.

Then came the mid-term elections of 2002 and the Presidential race in 2004. The dry-erase board was back, eventually in a digital form as Russert penned his chicken scratch on a telestrator. He might as well have been scratching his fingernails on a black board for how annoying and trite the gimmick had become.

With all those states and the nominations up for grabs tonight, I fear that Russert will be back with some version of the dry-erase board. CNN has been using its so-called Magic Wall during election coverage this year. And just this morning on Good Morning America, ABC's George Stephanopoulos used a telestrator to highlight key states on a map. So you know NBC will find a way to keep up.

Oh, how I long for the days of the old flip boards that tallied votes on a wall as they came in. More proof that sometimes technology is not an improvement.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo


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