More than 20 years ago, election coverage in Vinton and Jackson was a bit more personal than it is these days because the Internet has changed everything.
Back then, reporters wrote a rough draft of their Election Day stories in advance and then waited outside at the county Board Elections for the results to be posted and updated because there was no magic state or local website in the sky reporting the latest numbers after hitting the “refresh” button.
While waiting for precincts from near and far to have their paper ballots counted, reporters would talk to candidates and supporters, poll workers and county officials.
Then they would return to the office to finish their stories after it became abundantly clear who won the election or, if it was a tight race, when the last precinct was counted.
Kudos goes to folks who served on the front lines during many, many stressful election days like former Times-Journal Editor Pete Wilson, who is still going strong after 50 years, and Ed Clark (RIP) who served as the Jackson-based editor between 1952 and 1986 but continued to contribute and write his famous “Sun Spots” columns until 2002.
Before the Internet, candidates were usually nearby as the results were posted hour to hour. That meant you could see in real time how they were accepting the win or loss — and be there for a statement from them after the votes were counted. Face to face interviews with losing candidates could be tricky.
Some county election boards served food for the folks who worked the polls, so there was sort of a community feel to the night with everyone talking, eating and waiting for the results.
Then and now, many newspapers buy pizza for the staff who work late.
One particularly late night was the 2000 presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush because the outcome was not exactly clear most of the night and into the next morning. Printing press was held as long as it could be held with seasoned editors opting for caution by telling readers that these are the results as of press time but not truly declaring any candidate the winner.
Election Day coverage has changed because of the Internet. Rather than go to the courthouse, the voters, candidates and reporters can easily pull the information they need from our website at www.vintonjacksoncourier.com or the county BOE’s website.
Another change that sort of loses the personal touch — instead of being in the same room as the candidates as they learn who won or lost, these days a candidate’s statement can be texted or emailed to a reporter.
For decades, newspapers opted for a late press time so as to publish the most up-to-date results in Wednesday’s edition. Nowadays, we post Election Day stories instantly in real time to the web and social media Tuesday evening. Stories scheduled for a later print and web editions may be longer because there is more time to develop data and seek comments from candidates.
And video is a component that’s new. Reporters can post video snippets of Election Day like we do with some of our sports coverage. Twitter and email alerts can alert thousands of readers of the results in an instant.
As much as I like how technology has advanced, I’m still nostalgic for the days when we were sitting at the county courthouse waiting for returns to be posted.
Vinton-Jackson Courier Editor Miles Layton may be reached at email@example.com