By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It is the morning after one of the longest nights of the year for those of us in the newsroom. Most of us are feeling a little tired, may appear a little grumpy and are in need of some extra caffeine this morning. We were all up late last night, and we didn’t get a lot of sleep this morning.
Even when you get home after a big presidential election, it is often a little hard to wind down and fall asleep. In most instances, we are normally tempted to turn on the tube, and watch more of the ongoing election coverage. We elected a president last night after all. It’s one of the most important decisions we will make over the next four years.
So after months of non-stop mudslinging, increasingly bizarre campaign television commercials and promises that are sure to be broken by politicians once they take office, it’s all finally over. Unless, of course, there are still a few hanging chads in Ohio, Florida or even Virginia. Let’s hope that isn’t the case this morning. If it is we could be in for yet another very long day in the newsroom.
At the moment, I’ll just assume it’s all over. That life will slowly return to normal today. No more fighting. No more finger pointing. No more stories about how candidate A or candidate B will ruin America, Virginia and West Virginia if elected or re-elected. Just a chance to sit back, breath a bit easier and relax. Christmas is near! I can already hear those Salvation Army bells ringing at the local department stores and malls.
Those of us in the newspaper business are used to unusual schedules. The journalism business isn’t a 9-to-5 job — not even close. In fact, I think the last time I worked a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule was probably my first day on the job. However, election night takes unusual scheduling a step further. It’s a work day that doesn’t normally start until 3 p.m. or later, and usually isn’t over until 1 a.m. or later. It is without question the longest night of the year for those of us in the newspaper — as well as the broadcast media — business. And it continues to evolve. In year’s past it was simply a long wait and rush to get final election results to have in the morning newspaper. Nowadays it is a rush to not only get the most up-to-date numbers for the newspaper, but also for our website, which is updated throughout the evening on election night. We also tweet, blast and post election results as they come in on Facebook. So much has changed in such a short period of time. It really is a brave new world in the newspaper business.
The day begins with a rush of excitement followed by a period of a prolonged calm until polls are closed and results start coming in.
The long wait for results can often be an excruciating experience. It actually begins early in the morning. For those who choose to get a little bit of rest and relaxation, the November general election is a day to sleep in. No need for the alarm clock to go off at 6:30 a.m. We can even bypass the snooze button if we so choose. When the work day doesn’t start until 3 p.m., there isn’t a frantic rush to get out of bed, eat a quick breakfast and get out of the house without being attacked by the cat.
Those of us who didn’t cast an early ballot also have to remember to actually vote on election day. That’s a very important task, and one that I have never missed. When we do finally start arriving at the office around 3 p.m. or so on election night, things are normally pretty slow at first.
By 6 p.m., everyone in the newsroom is ready for pizza — an election night tradition that continued last night — as we wait for the polls to close. By 8:30 p.m. or so, we slowly begin checking in with our voter registration offices across the region to see if any results have trickled in yet, as we finish off the remaining slices of pizza. By 9 p.m., anxiety begins to build in the newsroom as the long wait for election results continues. By 10 p.m. or so, the anxiety is replaced by a sense of urgency as we race to collect results, crunch numbers, tabulate vote totals and begin the slow process of projecting winners. It can be as late as 11:30 p.m., midnight, or 12:30 a.m. before those final numbers roll in.
But that was last night. This is today. It’s a new day in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. And it’s a new day for America. Regardless of whether our preferred candidate won or lost last night, we must now begin the slow process of coming together once again as a region and a nation. A divided America is a weakened America. We must put our anger, and our hatred aside. We must work toward a more common good.
And we need to stop, and enjoy, this well-deserved break from the seemingly never-ending election cycle. And remember, if the candidates we voted into office last night don’t end up working, we can always vote the rascals out in another two years or so. That’s the beauty of America.
Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him at BDTOwens.