Covering election returns

Election night was a big night for radio station news departments. Or, they were back in the 70’s in the little town where I worked.

The candidates would crowd into the county clerk’s office and watch as the votes were written on a big chalk board. The radio station news guy would setup a small transmitter and send back updates that were broadcast live. You were either there… listened to us… or heard the results the next morning at the local coffee shop.

When I started working with The Missourinet (a statewide radio network) in the mid-80’s, it wasn’t that different. One of our reporters would set up at the Secretary of State’s office with a dedicated land-line (before cell phones). Maybe they used one of the state’s phones, I don’t recall. But the reporter would phone in regular updates to the network newsroom where they’d go out to affiliate stations around the state.

Sometime in the 90’s technology improved to the point where we could Telnet into the the state computers (via very slow modem’s) and access the numbers directly. And then report them over the network.

Fast forward to the Web. No more Telnet but those early websites were very glitchy. And slow. But they got better every election. It was a wonderful thing. Anyone with internet access could see the returns as they were tabulated. But it was still easier for radio stations (and their listeners) to take our reports than produce their own.

Last week one of our news directors stopped by my office to talk about what we would do online for the upcoming election. Missouri’s Senate race is the Main Event and we’ll have reporters at both candidates venue. They’ll do interviews and feed those back to the network where reporters will be working the Secretary of State’s website.

One the other end of the information pipe, people will still be listening to the radio and watching TV but I expect Twitter and Facbook to be where many get their first information. (Does the Secretary of State have a Twitter feed?). And most of it will be mobile.

Eventually we’ll all vote electronically, without standing in line. And we’ll see the results in near real time.

Will this elections more susceptible to fraud? Girl, please! Is the TSA making flying safer?

One thought on “Covering election returns

  1. I work at the Secretary of State’s office in the Missouri State Library. We keep the library open for the press to come in if they want to and give them a place to setup shop and communications comes down and gives them small updates.

    I’ve done two election nights and there has only been a few reporters. I attribute that to the ENR site that the Elections Division does. No need to come to the office, just sit in your office (or home) and watch the events unfold.

    I’ll be there a week for Tuesday again keeping the library open, we’ll see if that number changes or not.

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