Move over, chartthrobs King, Kornacki. We're watching these 10 election 2020 standouts

Los Angeles Times Staff
·10 min read
MSNBC - ELECTION COVERAGE -- Election Night 2020 -- Pictured: (l-r) Steve Kornacki in Studio 3A at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NYC on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/MSNBC)
Steve Kornacki during election night coverage on MSNBC. (Virginia Sherwood / MSNBC)

As election day — ahem, election week — marches on, all eyes remain glued to cable networks and Twitter feeds, watching the vote count in key swing states trickle in. And unless you've avoided the coverage altogether, this long period of election purgatory has likely introduced you to at least one podcaster, TV anchor, journalist, political analyst, organizer or elected official who's helped you make sense of the process, the outcome or both.

We've written about CNN's John King and his "magic wall," and the internet is already abuzz over his fellow chartthrob, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki. Then there's Arnon Mishkin, the director of the Fox News decision desk, who has stood by his team's work in the face of criticism from the Trump camp. But our appreciation for those bringing us the news, around the clock and from around the country, doesn't stop there. Here are 10 more election week media darlings who deserve your attention.

Bree Newsome Bass

Five years ago, activist Bree Newsome Bass made headlines for scaling a flagpole outside the South Carolina state capitol to take down a Confederate flag. In the years since, she's focused her time fighting for housing rights and traveling the U.S. to help communities organize. During the election, Newsome Bass has been vocal about the power of Black women within the Democratic party and Black-led grassroots organizations helping to deliver victories to the Democratic party. —Makeda Easter

Molly Beck

On Thursday — a day after the Associated Press announced former Vice President Joe Biden would swing Wisconsin blue — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Molly Beck tweeted, “I am going to have some wine now.” Cheers, Molly. On Wednesday, an hour before the AP called the Dairy State: “I may eat ice cream for lunch.” Same, girl. Between ice cream and wine, Beck covered Gov. Tony Evers' response to Trump’s accusations (lacking any evidence) of “irregularities” in Tuesday’s vote, clarified for the nation that “It's Wisconsin not wesconsin,” and asked her audience to “Tell your friends, enemies, and strangers: Wisconsin did not 'find' 100K ballots around 4 a.m. the morning after the election.” To Molly I say: forward. —Laura Zornosa

Daniel Dale

Fact-checker Daniel Dale on CNN.
Fact-checker Daniel Dale on CNN. (CNN)

In an election season when the disinformation flowed like sewage from a burst septic tank, few have stood out to me more than Daniel Dale. Long a star on political Twitter, thanks to his no-nonsense debunking of President Trump’s lies, the CNN fact-checker became a breakout cable news personality this year (and left Anderson Cooper speechless) thanks to his breathless, politely outraged and deeply Canadian appearances on CNN. While I wish his work wasn't quite so necessary, I’m sure glad we have him. —Meredith Blake

Akilah Hughes and Gideon Resnick

Hughes is a comedian with some viral videos ("Meet Your First Black Girlfriend," "On Intersectionality in Feminism and Pizza") in her professional carpetbag; Resnick is a political reporter with the Daily Beast on his CV. Like Regis and Kathie Lee, like Stiller and Meara, like Slim and Slam, they are a team, two players trading eights, to use the jazz term — she’s the funnier one, he’s the more businesslike. Launched last October, their "What a Day" podcast is a daily news report from Crooked Media (the "Pod Save America" outfit); much of it is scripted, but there is space carved out for informal banter, personal business and pop-cultural obsessions. Just as I was drawn to "Pod Save America" in no small part because host Jon Favreau's laugh reminded me of my friend Brigid, there is something I find appealing in Hughes' own sunny sound, a musicality that's uplifting; and I do especially love the way she sings "headlines" to introduce the headlines. (No knock against Resnick, who is essential to the mix, but he is the lesser draw on this account.) There is a lightness to the podcast, from the theme music onward, that makes it a perfect listen when I am awake but not ready to get out of bed and, whatever the news was yesterday, makes the new day easier to face. —Robert Lloyd

Robin Kemp

Long live local journalists. Like many others who should know better, I’ve spent most of this week doomscrolling into the early morning hours even though it doesn’t help anyone or anything. Late Thursday night, when it seemed like no new information would be coming out of Georgia and this period of uncertainty would drag on even longer, I stumbled upon the Twitter account of Clayton Crescent reporter Robin Kemp, who appeared to be the only person sharing updates from the counting center in Clayton County. I was among those who followed her reporting into the wee Friday hours when the Clayton County results flipped the leader in Georgia. Kemp’s onsite dispatches were informative and reassuring in a way that hitting “refresh” all night on a county results page or an election map could never be. —Tracy Brown

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta

When it comes to speaking truth to power, on air, in the heat of the moment, democracy has a new star: Malcolm Kenyatta. MSNBC took notice of the Pennsylvania state representative in September after his impassioned arguments during a house state government committee meeting went viral. Kenyatta, who’s Black, refused to be silenced as he called out voter suppression in front of a predominantly white panel of elected officials, most of whom appeared to be twice his age. Since, the 30-year-old has wowed the progressive media and its star personalities such as Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid and Lawrence O’Donnell with authentic, energized commentary about protecting the will of the American people. This week, as Joe Biden surged ahead in the vote count and the president sought to delegitimize the election process, Kenyatta cut through the noise on MSNBC: “We cannot, in this moment, allow Trump to have our joy,” he said. —Lorraine Ali

Phil Mattingly

There’s nothing more simultaneously stressful and soothing than CNN’s Phil Mattingly talking percentages while tapping, gliding and pinching his fingers across the magic wall. The congressional correspondent, who has been rotating touchscreen analysis duties with John King, has been the ideal election week insomnia companion. His ability to write legibly on a screen, do math quickly and provide in-depth information on the election process is hypnotic to watch. Even the magic wall’s heart skipped a beat — finding itself temporarily on the fritz while he was on duty. Watching Mattingly, I can’t help but wonder how he deals with touchscreens in the wild: Does he speed through the process at a Target self-checkout? How elaborate does he make his Insta stories? Is he passing on these skills to his children? —Yvonne Villarreal

Jennifer Medina

It seems unfair to single out one Latino political reporter (more on that in a moment), but no single journalist's coverage seemed better tailored to explaining the Florida vote as it came in on Tuesday than New York Times national correspondent Jennifer Medina. And as the week wore on, Medina's Twitter account — as well as those of invaluable Los Angeles Times colleagues like Melissa Gomez, Brittny Mejia, Cindy Carcamo and countless others — introduced us to more and more Latino journalists doing the work of highlighting the diversity and complexity of the Latino experience in America.

Long before pundits expressed shock at the divergent outcomes of the Latino vote in Miami, south Texas, Maricopa County, Ariz., and the environs of Las Vegas, these reporters were helping readers understand an array of communities from the ground up: See also The New York Times' Patricia Mazzei, the Miami Herald's Ana Ceballos and Bianca Padró Ocasio, the Washington Post's Jose A. Del Real and Arelis R. Hernández, Politico's Sabrina Rodríguez, the Boston Globe's Jazmine Ulloa, Texas Monthly's Cecilia Ballí and Arizona Republic's Rafael Carranza, among too many others to name. They put the lie to the notion that Latinos have been undercovered. Instead, it seems that too few of us have been listening. Tip for the TV networks: These voices would be a useful addition to your politics panels, not just during campaign season but year round.

Abby D. Phillip

Starting back in January when she moderated a contentious Democratic debate, CNN political correspondent Abby D. Phillip has been consistently impressive throughout this surreal year. And throughout the “election night” that turned into three days (and counting), she has been a freakishly poised front of clear-eyed analysis, particularly when it comes to the racial and gender dynamics of this election. Case in point, on Friday, as Joe Biden took the lead in Pennsylvania, she noted the “historical poetry” of his likely victory and the pivotal role Black women played in making it happen. “Donald Trump’s political career began with the racist birther lie,” she said. “It may very well end with a Black woman in the White House.” —Meredith Blake

Dave Wasserman

Is there a better mantra for this extended presidential removal process than “I’ve seen enough”? That happens to be the motto of Dave Wasserman, the House editor for the Cook Political Report, who achieved internet cult status during the 2018 midterms. While anchors were declaring the blue wave DOA, he proved otherwise, knocking out his calls one “I’ve seen enough” at a time. The data journalist’s data journalist, he feeds the district fetish of 2020. (As of this writing, he was reporting Lehigh County returns.) And unlike certain numbers gurus, he shuns the spotlight. On election night, he felt it was his duty to avoid punditry: “Tonight, I’ll be in my usual preferred setting: crunching data in the ‘back of house.’” —Boris Kachka

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.