*Or, a post mostly about pizza.
Nothing could have prepared me for the intensity that is campaign season in Ohio during a presidential election.
I covered many elections in my dozen years as a Michigan reporter, but the Wolverine State is rarely in play on a presidential scale. I moved to Toledo five weeks before the 2012 presidential election. I had no idea what journalism in a swing state meant.
It means wall-to-wall politics: Ads, stump speeches, rallies, polls, yard signs, and so many stories. It means all-hands-on-deck. It means driving to Cleveland and Detroit to catch up with Hillary Clinton. It’s a fantastic, hectic time to be a reporter.
Everything culminates on Election Night, always one of my favorite newsroom shifts. Today at 7:30 p.m., Ohio’s primary polls will close, and that’s when the real hustle begins.
Here’s five things that will happen tonight:
1. I will tell myself to eat *only* three slices of Election Night pizza.
Remember how we talked earlier about newsroom cake? Several people have since pointed out that Election Night pizza is the only thing that comes close to rivaling newsroom cake. Agreed. It checks off all the big boxes: Free, delicious, carby, and plentiful. In every newsroom across the land, editors stack boxes full of cheesy slices onto long conference tables-turned-buffets, and the line of journalists quickly forms.
2. I will actually eat many, many more than that.
It’s impossible to resist going back for a second and third plate of Election Night pizza. Bored during those 15 minutes before polls close? Have some pizza. Feeling frantic because a county is struggling to count ballots and print deadline looms minutes away? More pizza.
3. I will pizza-brag on Twitter and Facebook.
If a reporter eats a slice (or five) of pizza on Election Night and tells no one, did it actually happen? I think not. I will use a few seconds of down-time before results start coming in to remind my friends how awesome it is to be a reporter on Election Night.
Like this Tweet from the 2010 general election, when I was working in Michigan:
Or this Facebook post from a Michigan election in 2012:
And this call-to-pizza cry uniting reporters across the country in 2014:
4. I will refresh local election results websites several million times.
Here’s my typical Election Night schedule: Wake up around 10 a.m., go vote, barrage the poll worker with questions about how many people voted before me.
4 p.m. arrive at work, 6 p.m. finish my shell stories (the boilerplate paragraphs about who is running or what the tax increase proposal is about that can be written before you know results). 6:30-7:30 p.m. eat pizza, polish shell stories, make predictions for newsroom poll.
7:31 p.m. Tweet that polls are now closed, 7:32 p.m. check county websites to see if absentee votes are available, 7:45 p.m. start to feel silly for proclaiming “this year we’ll get the results early!”
8:30 p.m. get first final vote count; 8:35 p.m. write brief for web. 8:40 p.m. call winner and loser for quick interviews. 8:50 p.m. refresh election sites to check for new results.
9 p.m.-deadline refresh, write, make a call, refresh, beg an election clerk for results, refresh, call, write final print version.
Then, if anyone’s still standing, stop at the closest bar for one quick brown pop before falling into bed.
5. I will leave the newsroom pumped up and dead tired
Election Night bursts with drama — internally and externally — and that’s a big reason I love working it. Inside the newsroom, the stakes and stress are high. Outside, the stakes are even higher. Voters are deciding the future of our city, how and if we should spend taxpayer money, and who can best lead the nation. That tired adage that journalism is history’s first draft seems especially appropriate on Election Night — when the entire country waits to find out the will of the people. If you’re a reporter, you just may be the first to tell everyone what that decision is and what it means for all of us.