For decades now CBS, ABC, and NBC have pretended on election night to be in hot competition to project the "winner" and "loser." We know the act well: Dan, Peter, or Tom comes on the air and solemnly intones, "We can now project that President X is the winner in Florida."
As a viewer, I imagined bespectacled analysts sweating in back rooms, perhaps 30 accountants nervously crunching numbers—all in an attempt to get their anchorman on the air first with the projected winner. But now we know it was all a hoax. For all of the networks (CNN included) have been getting the exact same numbers, at the exact same time, from the exact same source—from a company that the networks appear to own jointly; Voter News Service (VNS).
How reliable is VNS? In the Iowa Caucuses, VNS worked with lightning speed, ostensibly assembling the results of over 2,000 caucus gatherings, analyzing the data, and turning them over to the Associated Press, which announced the winner exactly one minute after the caucuses had opened and clearly before even one vote had been cast! VNS employees are either prophets, or the whole process smells like the anchovies on last week's pizza.
Though VNS has changed its name regularly, its headquarters are still at 225 W. 34th St., New York City, and it has been the exit polling arm of the big TV networks since at least 1972. One of the few mentions...