What's Election Night like for a journalist?

Christopher Harris

Have you ever wondered what the life of a journalist is like on Election Night?


All right. Well, I'll tell you anyway.

Election Night, obviously, is one of the biggest occasions on the journalist's calendar. Probably the most hectic, frantic, cram-lots-of-phone-calls-and-stories-into-a-short-amount-of-time period.

This year doesn't look to be so crazy. There are no local races, only state ones. We'll be working to get local reaction to the outcomes of Bevin vs. Beshear -- the heavyweight fight on this ticket -- as well the performance of the respective parties. But that shouldn't turn into an all-night affair, the witching hour when only vampires, ravenous beasts and journalists are out on the streets (or on the phone).

But when there are local races ... oh boy. Pulaski County is a big county, and they love their politics. Lots of people vote, lots of people run. You've got a full slate, everything from mayors and judge-executives down to the county dog catcher. (Actually, I can't remember ever covering a dog catcher race. But I bet it would be interesting. Hotly-contested debates over the ethics of muzzles and whatnot. Actually, now that I mention it, muzzles would be handy for a lot of human politicians ...)

So here's how that process goes:

• We probably want to come to work a little later in the day than we otherwise might. After all, we're likely gonna be here until 2 a.m. or so. (I think I was at my desk even later than that the night Trump was elected, as we waited to make sure everything was sorted out so there were no "Dewey Defeats Truman" headlines on the front. Poor Dewey.) So roll out of bed a little slower, take a little more time to enjoy your breakfast, go pay a bill or two. Stop and smell the roses. Or whatever it is you like to smell.

• Get to work and make sure there aren't any other pressing issues that day, and if there are, hopefully they can be dealt with before 6 p.m. or so. The crazy Election Days are the ones where you also have a big fire or somebody gets fired or Earth, Wind and Fire is coming to, say, Master Musicians Festival (hint, hint ... please).

• Pancakes! The best part about Election Day is always the food, and the first part of this twofold feast is the Somerset Noon Rotary Club's Election Day Pancake Fry at First United Methodist Church. I know I may look like your friendly neighborhood journalist, but pancakes are serious business. If you see me and attempt to talk shop, biting may occur. I cannot guarantee your safety. Best to keep a safe distance away from me and the pancakes.

• At some point, we typically vote just like everyone else. (I like to write in my own name for any races I don't care about -- I'm a much better write-in choice than, say, "Mickey Mouse.") We might also get some shots of polling places if possible, following proper guidelines of course. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers is often happy to allow us to photograph him standing behind the little booth as he votes. There isn't much suspense about who he's voting for, after all. Rogers voting Democratic would be a bigger shock than discovering the Energy Center had a secret front door all along.

• Come back to the office and do whatever you need to do as you wait for the election results to come rolling in. Election Days thankfully tend to be slow days, so you can possibly spend some time preparing for the maelstrom that lies ahead. Meditate. Listen to serene music. Get a massage (unfortunately, "in-office masseuse" is not covered on our company health plan. One of these days, hopefully ...).

• Once the sun starts to set, get out your nearest radio -- or you can use your phone these days, but I'm old school -- and turn on your favorite station that's giving results live from the courthouse. Meanwhile, our intrepid Editor Emeritus Bill Mardis is waiting down there for the official results on paper, something he's done for years and years and shows no sign of stopping. I am convinced Bill will still be covering elections well after I'm retired. We are extremely grateful for his wisdom, dedication and expertise around this office.

• As the results come in, write them down. When you inevitably miss a number you were trying to catch, ask someone else if they got it. If not, cuss profusely.

• Providing live updates online is a relatively new function of Election Night. When I started at the newspaper, we still existed in a world where Skynet -- er, I mean Facebook -- had not completely taken over. But it's always interesting to see how many likes, loves, angry faces, and comments these updates get. Before Facebook, we had to make our own happy/sad/angry/laughing faces here in the office. Man, our face muscles got tired after a while.

• Once we're reasonably sure who's going to win, start making phone calls. It helps to gather all the numbers you'll need the day before, or earlier on Tuesday. One of us will go out to get shots of the winners hugging their family members and smiling (clearly having not yet discovered the efficiency of simply allowing the emoticon to smile for them). The rest of us will try to contact the winners and the los -- um, the people who did not win (yes, that sounds more polite). It's much more fun to talk to the former than the latter, as those who came up short tend to be sad about it, understandably so. We often look at elections as just a matter of "my person vs. your person, my beliefs vs. your beliefs," but there is a real human element to this too. When you spend that much time, effort, and energy putting yourself out there in the hopes that people will like you and what you stand for, you're really sticking your neck out, and it legit hurts to get knocked on the head. We forget that sometimes.

• Pizza! The other half of the Election Day feeding frenzy. Vote for your favorite toppings! Make pepperoni great again! I'm with ham! Are pineapple voters disenfranchised? Then designate someone to go pick it up (and don't forget the plates and napkins). The pizza ordering and pick-up jobs are every bit as important as making calls and taking photos, believe me.

• Once all the results are in and quotes have been uttered, get your stories to the news editor and they go on the page. Election Night papers tend to be dramatic affairs, with eye-catching graphics and artwork celebrating the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat (well, mostly the thrill of victory -- again, defeated people are kind of a bummer to see).

• Get the paper all put together and to the printer sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., depending on how the races go. Amazingly, none of us up here are big coffee drinkers, so we're not particularly wired with caffeine. We are, however, fried in the brain. And ready to go home and chill before bed.

It's a big day, for voters, candidates, and the dedicated reporters of your hometown Commonwealth Journal. Please remember the local folks who bring you the news on days like this. We're just part of the community, doing our part for it -- and we're happy to bring you the sights and sound bites of Election Day in Pulaski County.

See you at the Pancake Fry!

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