Waiting for election returns
Election night was always the best night to work at the newspaper.
It was like the Super Bowl or the Olympics for government reporters. The executive editor would order pizza and we’d dig in for a late night of dodging deadline. Typing in poll results from little towns in Missouri and Kansas made me feel part of the big picture of democracy. I had such a good run predicting election outcomes that one of the editors gave me a ribbon for “Grand Prognosticator.”
Election reporting was more exciting in the days before the internet. You could count on a equipment breakdown in some rural county and the whole newspaper would be held up waiting for them to get the machine firing again. I once called a county commissioner at home to get results from Holt County. On the night of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, we worked extra late waiting for results. We printed two copies of the newspaper while I was there and the one that arrived on my doorstep the next morning was different yet.
After that election, Missouri decided it didn’t want to be Florida next go-round, so the state invested in election upgrades. There hasn’t been a breakdown since. County clerks now post results on their web site and the general public knows about the same time the press does who came out victorious in the Clarksdale mayoral contest.
The last three presidential elections I covered live from the newsroom and I’ve been feeling left out this election season. I went to a local event two weeks ago where Mike Huckabee was speaking. He gave a great speech, but I was kind of jealous as I watched some my buddies from the media conduct interviews.
This Tuesday night, I’ll be at a writers retreat. It won’t have the hum of a newsroom, with last minute shouts to double-check agate, but it will be fun to be with friends. I’ll be checking results on the internet, just like the rest of the country.
No matter the results, I’m thankful we live in a nation so blessed that we get to the go to the polls without armed guards, that we face a barrage of campaign materials instead of a barrage of bombs, that our leaders duel in timed debates instead of street riots and the press is free to report it all.
God bless America.