Ahh, election night. The pulses of reporters across the country quicken at the very prospect.
Don’t get me wrong. I love working on election night, and on those rare occasions when I’m not, I feel totally disoriented as I sit at home and watch the returns on TV. The rush of being a reporter, for me anyway, is cranking out a story on a tight deadline — knowing you got it right and got it filed on time — and that’s what happens each election night.
But. It’s not all action-packed. In fact, with the exception of the last hour or so before deadline, using the word “action” to describe election night is a gross overstatement. Today, so far:
- Arrive at 4. Do a quick Newsbreak.
- Make sure I had cell numbers for the candidates in the two races I’ll be writing stories about.
- Find a cell number for another reporter.
- Reply to comments on Uncle Crappy.
- Discover we’re no longer carrying on our election-night pizza tradition.
- Go to Giant Eagle for snacks. And pick up my own damn pizza.
- Twitter while eating.
- Hey, I could write a blog post about this!
That’s the night so far, and it’s only 9. The polls closed about a half hour ago, but we won’t start seeing results on the county’s web site for probably another hour. Once they start rolling in, the rest of the night is potentially a game of chicken — how long do you wait for results before deciding whether you have to write a story based on incomplete returns?
If things go smoothly, we’ll have complete results by 10:30 or 11. For me, that means I’ll have as little as 60 minutes to reach as many candidates as possible — the loser generally don’t answer their phones — and file two stories. If there’s an upset in another race, or if something quirky happens elsewhere, I might have to write another.
That’s the fun part — getting interviews done and getting stories filed in a hurry. It doesn’t always work that way, though — returns can be delayed by a variety of malfunctions, and that’s when you start calculating time versus deadline versus who to try to talk to (even when they’re reluctant to do so), based in incomplete results.
It involves a lot of waiting and it carries the potential for massive aggravation, but election night is still one of my favorite nights of the year. Here’s hoping the rest of the evening — the part when I’ll actually be working — goes well.
UPDATE, 11:30 p.m. Tuesday: It did. Final results were in by 10:15, and my stories were filed an hour later. I am edited, and I am heading home for my own victory beer. See y’all tomorrow.