So… it’s been a while.
The reasons for that on my end are all good – busy with the new job, busy with travel and family over the summer, and busy with all the chores that come with living in the country.
But I haven’t been anywhere near as busy as I was a year ago.
Yup, it was Oct. 19, 2015 that the Liberals won a majority federal government here in Canada, spawning 12 months of “Hot PM” social media posts.
There’s something very special about the frenetic pace, stress, and sense of accomplishment that comes with putting together a good election night broadcast. I’ve found that’s just as true for the small scale efforts I coordinated at CKAY as it was for the big productions I took part in with the CBC. (Although, lets face it, there are few things as cool as working at the decision desk in the rotunda in the House of Commons while a full-on national TV special unfolds around you.)
For radio, especially in a small market with limited resources, my number one rule was “get the winners on the air as soon as possible, and don’t wrap up for the night until you’ve bagged those interviews!” (Number two was no beer until you’ve signed off for the night.)
When there were staff available to have reporters in the field it wasn’t just random. As news director I put a lot of time into mapping out the night so the reporters hit all the major campaign headquarters, but timed things so they were at the winning campaign’s HQ when we were ready to call it.
Declaring a winner isn’t done haphazardly either. Big news outlets have algorithms to help their decision desk staff make the best possible judgements. At CKAY we had to make do with raw data, and local knowledge of the riding’s history and voting trends to make the call. Because we didn’t cover what the networks considered to be key ridings (most of the time, anyway) we didn’t always have the luxury of piggy-backing on their calls.
While all that was playing out I was usually in the studio anchoring, recording field reports and interviews, editing and burning through reserves of caffeine and adrenaline. By the time we wrapped up our 2015 election specials we were all pretty exhausted (and, I’m afraid, kinda sounded it too). Here’s what my last report sounded like:
It won’t be until May of 2017 that I find out if it’s going to be even close to the same vibe in a print newsroom. Sure we’ll be pushing stuff to the web and Twitter, and I expect we’ll even manage a special episode of the podcast, but I wonder if that first beer after the results are in and the last update has aired will taste as sweet.