Seeing Ourselves

We need to get something on the record and it’s more for us than it is for any general readership these entries have.  It’s inside baseball stuff for the Missourinet but it’s important for us to write it down.

More than a week has pased since the Missourinet did something completely new for us on election coverage. We dabbled with it in the August primary but technical problems at the Secretary of State’s office that night and our own difficulties in managing the mechanics of the process  rendered the exercise mostly unworkable.  But we did learn a lot of lessons and last Tuesday, November 6th, we did a lot more planning and a lot more testing and the system worked very well.

We like to think here at the Missourinet that we have done some stretching of our capabilities in bringing election results to our listeners.  We won’t go back through the last 40 years or the last 25 to recount all of that (although if you twist our arms we will, assuming you can grab hold of our arm while we are patting ourselves on the back).

Four years ago we did radio on the internet.  About five hours of continuous talk and updates of numbers with reports from our reporters in the field.  But the technology wasn’t available to us to do what we did last week.\

We’ve wanted for some time to be able to take our consumers to the post-election parties so they could see what was going on in those places and so we could show them the victory/concession speeches.  The advent of Google Plus hangouts let us do it this year.

We went on the net with a webcam in our studio and we had reporters in various post-election events using the cameras in their computers so we could do interviews on the scene or talk back and forth from our studio to their venues to add additional information or texture to the reporting of numbers.

In the studio we tapped into the Secretary of State’s webpage and various pages within that system that we could use to illustrate the places where votes were in and where votes were incomplete or still out. We went to the map page early in the evening and then it disappeared–the internet giveth and the internet taketh away–so we couldn’t access it later.  But we went on with various other elements of our coverage that we’ve never been able to use before.

We had Mike Lear at the Akin party. Jessica Machetta was at the Mccaskill event.  Mary Farucci was with the Nixon get-together.  Matt Evans, one of our weekend people, was covering Dave Spence, and Karl Michael was with Chris Koster’s event.  Karl is one of our affiliate relations people who works on “Living the Country Life,” a show we syndicate on hundreds of stations in numerous states.  He covered a state auditor candidate several years ago and enjoyed it so much that we involved him in our coverage again this year.  Jessica had worked for several days getting contact information for other candidates and spokespeople for ballot issues so that we could do non-visual telephone interviews with them as the opportunity allowed.

Our Missourinet General Manager, Scott Brandon, was our executive producer.  He was in the other room pushing this or that button, recording this or that piece of audio, and making sure that the various remote participants got on the air (to use an old phrase) during the evening.  Jonathan Shelby, who does a lot of affiliate relations work for us and for some of our other state networks, worked with Scott on some technical issues and the two of them worked out some bugs as we went along.

In the newsroom we had Mary Furness, our other weekend person, who handled the reports we fed to our sixty-or-so affiliated stations for their broadcast coverage.  We pressed Sports Director Bill Pollock into duty as a producer and coordinator for things we put on our webcast and things that Mary put into her broadcast reports.  Amy Winder and Chantelle Smith did a lot of twittering and facebooking and other stuff that was impossible for the rest of us to do while we were focusing on the webcast or the broadcasts.

We also called our engineering and IT departments for help getting things set up and getting us through the multi-faceted night. And Learfield’s web godfather, Steve Mays, was here to solve any problems that only he knows how to solve.

Sure, we could have done some things better.  We can always do things better.  But last election night was a big leap into new possibilities for us and it was exciting to sit down this afternoon and look at how it looked.

Some of our coverage has been posted on YouTube and this correspondent just took a look at it for the first time.  And it was good.  If you want to see it, just go there and type in “Missourinet” and there we’ll be.  The first segment has several minutes of pre-show preparations before we started our on-web coverage at 7:30 that night.   But it’s pretty exciting to see how we used this new technology that opened up a lot of opportunities for us.  Well, exciting to us because we can remember days when election coverage on nights like that consisted of ripping something off the wire machine and reading it on the air without a lot of context.

We’ve covered a lot of elections.  We love elections.  Hate campaigns. Love elections.  In the last 25 years, with a lot of help from various Secretaries of State and their staffs, and various people who have worked for us at the Missourinet, and changing technology, we’re able to do things with elections we could not have imagined at one time.  It’s not fancy stuff like the national networks do or sophisticated visual stuff that our local TV stations do.  But we keep adding dimensions to the Missourinet’s capabilities for covering the decisions voters make.  It’s important that we keep doing that as technology changes the way people get their information and as technology gives us more effective ways to deliver it.

One other major change in our coverage happened last week.  We went out earlier that day and bought a cot.  For all these years and in all of these elections, we have never had a couch or a cot where we could stretch out for a couple of hours, roughly between 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. the morning after election day and get enough rest to keep us going during the regular newscast day until our reporters get back from wherever they had gone to cover post-election parties. Trying to snatch a nap in our chair at our desk or trying to get comfortable on the owner’s couch that was long enough for everything but our legs didn’t do much to recharge the batteries.  We got home about noon on Wednesday feeling better than we’ve felt after most elections—didn’t come close to dozing off at a traffic light for a change.

Google Plus hangouts and a nice long, sturdy camping cot.  Two major technological advances that will make the 2012 Missourinet election coverage memorable for the news director.

We’re kind of excited about the 2014 elections (but God spare us from campaigns!) because we want to see what new things will help us better serve the people who come to us for information on election night.

Okay.  That’s enough self-administered back-patting.  We just had to get this all on the record, especially the parts about all of the people who helped make our election coverage better than it has ever been before.  It was a good night.

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