A peek behind the curtain at election coverage

Published 5:35 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Election day in a newsroom can be one of the craziest, exhilarating times of the entire year, and Tuesday can certainly be described in that way here in LaGrange.

After weeks of preparation, the LaGrange Daily News staff covered its first election together Tuesday night.

I had covered elections before and had an idea what to expect, but every city is different.

So, how does it all come together? It’s complicated and simple. It starts with a lot of teamwork and preparation.

We started preparing for the election more than a week ago by listing out all of the voting precincts in Troup County. We drew maps, figured out which reporter would go where, and assigned each election to a person.

The staff called every candidate in Troup County to ensure we had contact information for each and to find out where they’d be Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, we did our best to get the rest of the newspaper finished before polls closed.

With four pages to finish and eight election stories to write once results were in, we knew it would be a late night, so we prepared for it.

Fourteen of the 15 precincts were in by around 9 p.m. last night, and we were updating those results as fast as we could on our website and on Facebook.

Results from the final precinct in West Point came in more than an hour and a half later, but we knew that was a curveball that could happen.

Our normal deadline for the newspaper is 11 p.m., but with results still trickling in at 10:30, there was no way we were going to be done that quickly. Reporters went to as many precincts as possible to get results as they were posted outside, and I was at the Troup County Government Center getting those results. By the time the results came in at the government center and I got back to the paper, it was nearly 11 p.m. At that point, we started adding up the totals, doing our best to double check the numbers.

Undoubtedly something probably still managed to be transposed — such as the mayor numbers from Hogansville on our front page (Stankiewicz won, as our story said).

We aim for perfection, but I think our overall coverage was good, given the majority of our work took place from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. We wrote eight stories in that time, went through photos, designed four news pages and posted every story we had online and on social media as they were completed.

Every newspaper in the country manages to do something similar on election night, so we’re not special in any way.

However, I think it’s insightful to let readers peek behind the curtain every now and then and get a look at how our staff handles coverage of special events.

Election night is obviously one of our busiest days of the year.

Of course, the best part about the newspaper business is that we get to do it all over again the next day.