There is nothing quite like election night at a daily newspaper.
Newsrooms at daily newspapers buzz with activity on a normal day. There is a lot of bantering back and forth. There is plenty of questioning and second guessing: Do you need that third paragraph? Is that source biased? Where are we going for a beer after work?
You know, the important stuff.
Newsrooms are generally also not for the easily offended. People in the business have seen and heard it all – and have been called every name in the book. Yes, I have personally been called every horrible name you can imagine. It was a shock at first, but now I barely notice. That is their problem, not mine.
I will say that police reporters as a group are the most foul-mouthed reporters I have ever known. They also never fail to make me laugh.
Newsrooms on deadline are frantic, loud and fun. People shouting out for last-minute revisions. Late stories getting put in. Copy editors yelling out for help to find the perfect word for a headline. The publisher walking through on his way to the golf course.
But there is nothing like a newsroom on election night. I have worked quite a few and they never fail to be exciting. I remember my first election night well. It was in the early 1990s, and not a presidential election year. I covered county, city, state and federal governments for my Arizona paper, so I was very busy that night.
My day started at about 7 a.m. I finally made it home the next day at about 6 a.m. And this was before the days of posting things on a Website. There was no Facebook or Twitter, of course. There was only print, and that meant writing stories – a lot of stories.
You prepped all day – finding out what the editor was looking for, tracking down where all the candidates would be that night, making sure the photographers knew where to go.
The evening was a blur of talking with candidates, interviewing election officials and getting some color from local events.
That first year I worked with another reporter, Tony. Tony was as sharp as they come but not exactly a people person. Weird for a reporter, I know. But he was very good at his job.
Tony and I made it back to the newsroom about 10 p.m. The photographers were there processing film – yes, film! – so the editors would have the photos for the morning news meeting.
I set about writing. If memory serves, I wrote six or seven stories that night. I also had to call in periodic updates to a news organization that tabulated results. I got an extra $50 for that, which was a lot of money for a dude making $7.25 an hour.
We worked through the night, getting comments from losing candidates – never a fun call to make – and gathering up final election numbers. We had everything done and in when the city editor came in about 4 a.m. He gave everything a read, and then it was home to bed.
And what a glorious two hours of sleep it was! Then, back to the newsroom for a day of follow-up stories.
Sound like fun? Seriously, it was a lot of fun. The big bonus was the paper actually bought us all pizza on election night. Free food! Again, we were all pretty poor, so that was awesome.
I worked many elections as an editor too, coordinating team coverage. That was fun and professionally fulfilling, but there is nothing like being a reporter at a daily newspaper on election night. Those are memories I will always cherish.