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Election Night in the Newsroom

By Melinda Mawdsley

Election Night in the Newsroom. It deserves to be capitalized.

Although I took no college classes to prepare for the anticipation, excitement and importance of a newsroom on Election Day, I have learned the ropes.

First, there is free pizza. Always pizza.

After that, there is furious typing, calling on phones and pouring over results.

It sounds so cliché, but everyone is part of a team, and our job is to get the people the results as accurately and quickly as possible.
Few things in this country are as important as our right to vote, and the First Amendment right to a free press.
Newspapers are watchdogs of the election process and elected officials. We take that job seriously, not because we are waiting for sensationalistic, controversial stories to happen, but because we are part of a government for the people.

You deserve to know who your elected officials are, what they stand for, how they vote and how they spend your money.

Election Night in the Newsroom is the first part of a process that, for the winners, continues.

Every one in this newsroom is invested in Election Day because, ultimately, we cherish the right to vote, and the right to know, just like you.


Get a reporter talking – and it's not hard, though we're generally the ones listening – and ask her why she went into journalism.

First come the Noble Reasons: the First Amendment and the public's right to know and the Fourth Estate and, of course, the one about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. These are excellent reasons for choosing a career path, especially one that involves terrible hours and generally lousy pay.

But keep the reporter talking. Eventually it'll spill out: Journalism is exciting. Not always, and not in the middle of a city council filibuster, say, but Big News is a thrill – chasing it, finding the right people to talk to, being right in the middle of it as history unfurls.

It can be a solitary thing a lot of the time, the reporter and a photographer off chasing the news, in the crowd but separated from it by objectivity and the responsibilities of observation.
Sometimes, though, the surrounding crowd is one that understands. Sometimes, it's election night in a newsroom, and everyone around you is standing on the same precipice, feeling the same electric buzz in every molecule of air. It's exactly the right place to be as the world changes.

Of course, elections are exciting in the campaign headquarters, at the party offices, at the gatherings that could veer toward celebration or consolation. For the first election I ever covered, I spent hours sitting at the courthouse in Ozark, Ark., well into the night as hand-counted tallies trickled in. I loved it.

But the newsroom: I love being here, surrounded by my colleagues who've doggedly followed the issues and races from by very beginning. This is their reward, one night of seeing the bow tied before it's quickly untied on a whole new road.

Election night is frantic. It's hard work. CNN blares on at least one newsroom TV. Everybody is here – all the page designers and photographers and graphic artists and reporters and editors. It's casual dress, and there's pizza. There's a vibe. There's an electricity because these are people who know that history is being writ large. It's got to be in the paper tomorrow. It's got to be right.

Readers count on that, on us.

Plus, it bears repeating, there's pizza.


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What isn’t written here is that, besides the hard work, pizza and jokes, there is someone who is in charge of predicting the results of the election based on analytical data, using the latest technology available, big data analytics which significantly improves the earlier methods.

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