Elections exciting in newsroom
Last week I reminisced to a younger colleague — all my colleagues are younger now — about how much I used to enjoy covering elections.
Excitement as thick as the copy desk chief’s cigar smoke filled the newsroom on the night of big races.
Reporters came in earlier than necessary to discuss why a challenger might unseat an official or why an incumbent would win re-election despite scandal, stupid mistakes or a federal investigation.
Somebody in the newsroom would run a pool to see who could pick the most winners.
Nobody wanted to get sent to the courthouse to gather and call in returns. Being in the newsroom was too much fun.
Levity disappeared and tension mounted as numbers trickled in on the races each of us was covering.
We glanced from the numbers to the clock to see how much time we had before our deadlines.
We weighed time, the percentage of returns, margins of lead and verboseness of candidates as we each determined when to start calling leaders and laggards for comments on what they planned to do in their next four years or on why voters had been so misled.
Based on the information we had, we typed what we thought was going to happen.
Often precincts from the stronghold of a candidate who had been losing would come in late tipping the seesaw.
We’d yank the paper from our typewriters and either start again or tear out a few paragraphs with a ruler, pull out a paste pot and glue in a revision.
We wrote the leads of the stories last. They gave the winners or leaders at our deadline and the vote totals.
We pasted our leads to the tops of our stories, gave them a last read while penciling in corrections and hustled them to editors who already were yelling for them.
Copy boys or girls ran our prose from the editors to the typesetters one floor below. From their fingers flowed leaden lines of type.
Printers matched it with headlines and clicked it all into metal frames that sat atop the rolling “turtles.”
Meanwhile, if we hadn’t gotten final returns, we continued to gather information for a “re-plate,” sometimes even “a re-plate on the fly” if the presses in the basement had started to rumble.
Our work done, we took our senses of satisfaction to a watering hole across the street. There we rehashed what we had written, catching each other up on the races we hadn’t been able to watch, because we had been too busy pounding our manual Smith Coronas.
The equipment and means of recording and gathering votes has changed a lot in 40 years.
Still, Saturday night I once again felt adrenalin rush through my veins as seconds ticked toward deadline and one precinct remained out.
Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@