by JULIE KRIENKE
Citizens around the United States recognize November 2 as Election Day year after year, and on this day, many eager residents pile into the closest precincts to cast their vote. For Duluth citizens, many precincts were available throughout the city to cast votes for Minnesota governor and local positions within Duluth. Not only is Election Day a huge event in the political arena, but it is an exceptionally significant happening in the media world. For local broadcasting stations like Northland's Newscenter, the election means a long and hectic day not only the reporters at the station but also everyone else coordinating the newscast. Home to several news channels, Northland's Newscenter is relied on by many people throughout Duluth for up-to-date and instantaneous coverage of the election. As a volunteer at the station on Election Day, I was a part of the frenzy and hysteria that takes at not only broadcasting stations but also other media outlets when it comes to covering the election. What's more, I learned a great deal about both what happens on Election Day and how reporters at broadcasting stations cover these events.
When I first arrived at Northland's Newscenter, I was excited to actually see the inside of a broadcasting station, and I was eager to take part in such an important event. Allison Wade, , welcomed us to the station and told us a little bit about what we would be doing as volunteers. Wade explained that Election Day is always a long day for everyone at the station, and when it comes to putting together the actual newscast material, everyone gets pretty frantic. Because there is so much material to cover regarding the election, weather and sports often get cut short on time in the newscast. Wade also gave volunteers some background information on what the reporters have been doing on Election Day. Apparently, reporters at Northland's Newscenter traveled around the city throughout the day and collected footage from different precincts. By the time the volunteers arrived at the station, reporters were starting to head out to the celebrations hosted by the candidates. Wade explained that they currently did not know how long the newscast would be because it all depends upon the footage collected by the reporters. Thus, the newscast could range from a 30-minute show to an hour if more information was brought in. One of the engineers at the station was with Wade while she was speaking to us, and Wade discussed how this was difficult for him because he sets up everything to match the time of the newscast. Clearly, it is difficult to know what to expect in their newscast until they get more information come into the station.
Northland's Newscenter had already done their advance coverage to the election in the previous newscasts for the day by the time the volunteers arrived. For the later newscast, the station now needed information on the outcome of the election in order to inform citizens of the results. As volunteers, it was our job to go to various precincts around Duluth and collect the information that was needed. Numbers needed to be collected for U.S. Representative, State Senator, State Representative, Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, Attorney General, County Attorney, and 6th District Court-Judge. Additionally, the station wanted to collect results for the bond issue for the public schools. Wade instructed the volunteers to call one of several phone numbers after gathering all of the results. When calling these numbers, volunteers would get another volunteer who would then enter the data into a system that was designed by an employee at the station. Once all of the data was entered, reporters would be able to use the information in the nightly newscast. Hence, it was important that volunteers get accurate results as soon as possible so that the overall results could be tabulated and then shared.
I was assigned precinct 13, which was Mount Olive Lutheran Church on Superior Street. After leaving the news station, I felt some of the pressure that a reporter probably felt throughout all of Election Day. If I did not get the results from this particular precinct, the overall results presented by the station for the city of Duluth may not be completely accurate. Once I reached the polling station, I was able to learn more about how precincts count votes and deal with voters who come in. I was told to speak with the woman in charge of the precinct, and she told me that the results would be in shortly, as the polls close at eight. As a result, I sat and waited for the results to come in, and I observed the people working at the precinct. It was interesting to see how the volunteers at the polling station organized the ballots and other paperwork as they were preparing to close the precinct. As other volunteers from local media stations began to arrive, I was notified that workers were printing the results. The results were printed on a long sheet of paper, and the woman in charge read the numbers for each division. As she read the numbers, I filled out the sheet that Allison had given me at Northland's Newscenter. It was exciting to be a part of this because I was able to see the overall results at one of the precincts. It was also interesting to compare the results that I saw at this precinct to the results as they came in later in the night. After reading the paper the day after the election, I was surprised to see how close the results of the race for governor were. At the precinct I collected results from, Mark Dayton had a large lead over Tom Emmer. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and exciting to be a part of the vote collection and be able to help Northland's Newscenter collect information to actually be used within their newscast. I feel that I learned a great deal about how voting takes place at precincts and how volunteers there collect and tally the votes to get results to media stations.
After volunteering with Northland's Newscenter, I have gained a bit more insight into the world of broadcast journalism. It was really interesting to volunteer with Northland's Newscenter and apply what we just read in class about broadcast journalism to real life. Even on days as not as hectic as Election Day, I feel like working at a station such as this one would never get boring. I was able to see just how many people are needed to make an operation like Election Day coverage possible. Working at a broadcast station is clearly a collaborative effort among many different people with knowledge in a variety of areas. It takes a great deal of knowledge for a newscast to even be possible. What's more, reporters must be ready to cover anything that may happen and be dedicated to working long days in order to get information for newscasts like on Election Day. I think that it would be interesting to actually tour a broadcast station and see the newsroom. Nevertheless, volunteering at Northland's Newscenter was a great learning experience that gave me a better understanding of how much work it really takes to create even a half-hour newscast. I appreciate the work of reporters at broadcast stations much more because it takes them so much time to get the information delivered to the public.