Thursday, November 15, 2012
Election coverage is always exciting but tiresome, too.
My first induction into the process really came when I moved to Mississippi back in 1986 to work at The Itawamba County Times in Fulton – “The Only Newspaper in the World That Cares Anything About Itawamba County.”
And the process was much different back then – no voting machines and quick tabulations.
At the newspaper, we hosted a huge election night party. We blocked off the side street, just across from the courthouse. People came from all across the county, with lawn chairs, to get the “best seat in the house” for election returns. Some would even get there before the polls closed.
Just outside the side door of The Itawamba County Times was a huge chalkboard.
If the onlookers couldn’t get close to the chalkboard to see, they’d stand up in the back.
Members of the newspaper staff ran back and forth, from the courthouse to the blackboard, throughout the night – putting up the latest results.
Most of the folks in the audience had their pencils and paper, jotting down the numbers.
There were no cell phones. They couldn’t call family members and friends. Most likely, their family members and friends were in their lawn chairs in the side street beside the newspaper office, too.
It was hectic for the newspaper staff. But it was tons of fun, too.
We held the printing of the newspaper for the returns. In the early morning hours, we’d go to press, and when the newspaper hit the streets, it was a hot commodity.
There was no sleep on election nights back then.
Since then, I’ve worked elections from Aberdeen and Monroe County to Laurel and Jones County.
And since then, I’ve been at The South Reporter, working on election nights in Marshall County since moving here in 2001.
The process has changed – not as stressful and no all-nighters.
That’s a credit to technology, the circuit clerk and her staff, the election commission and poll workers and all others involved in the process.
For example, last Tuesday, Nov. 6, election night hit a snag or two at the courthouse, but with the help of staff members Sue Watson and Beth Breithaupt, we had sent the newspaper to press by about 12:30 a.m.
I contacted Eddie at The Oxford Eagle to make sure the pages were OK on his end, and I was home by 1 a.m. And of course, I couldn’t go immediately to sleep.
This election ballot was a lot smaller than a county election. That typically takes longer. But some elections in the past, I’ve made it home before midnight.
And there’s no need for election night parties in the streets anymore. Results are made available almost immediately via media websites or other Internet sources. Or someone at the courthouse is calling someone else via a cell phone and then that person is calling another and so on and so forth. Word travels much faster these days.
I definitely prefer the tabulating process as it is today.
But at the same time, those memories, of staying up all night with co-workers and people anxiously awaiting us to put a new total on the chalkboard, are special. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.
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