My day began at 5:30 a.m. It started with a boom and a news report.
The boom came from thunder and the subsequent rattling of the window near my bed. The news report came from my alarm clock as it turned on, telling me that it was time to wake up.
Before 6:30 a.m., I was carefully running through rain drops to avoid getting wet as I made my way to my car. I then drove to my own polling place where I voted, and then I drove, again through the rain drops, south to Ashland to speak to voters.
The next hour of my life consisted of standing in the rain being turned down by voter after voter when I asked to speak to them about today’s election. The election judges were very friendly, but not one of the nearly two dozen voters I spoke to agreed to talk to me.
By 8 a.m. I was wet, disappointed and more than 20 minutes away from the newsroom with nothing to show for it. I retreated to the newsroom.
It was not the greatest start to my first election day as a reporter.
The late morning and early afternoon were quiet. Much of the election team went to complete other items before returning to the newsroom that night for election coverage. I did the same as I went to work for several hours.
I returned later that evening to prepare for the election night coverage.
Polls closed at 7 p.m., and I was very excited to see the first numbers start to trickle in as absentee results were published.
The next three hours of my life were spent at three different downtown bars, speaking to voters who were, shockingly, much more willing to speak to me than those I had encountered in the rain more than 12 hours earlier.
The longest period of time was spent at the rooftop of the Broadway Hotel as we waited for the crowd to react to the passing of the hotel tax to fund the new airport terminal. After a wet, dreary morning, and a sunny, hot afternoon, I found myself enjoying the cool outside air of an August evening in mid-Missouri.
I then went back to the newsroom to compile my information into a story. My story was slightly different from the other election stories in that it wasn’t a strictly local race. This special situation combined with the separated leadership of three different editors over the course of this election coverage made it difficult to understand exactly what I needed to prepare.
While other reporters had pre-written stories to run after the results came in, I did not as I understood I would simply contribute a few local quotes to an AP story on the attorney general election. In reality, the AP didn’t write a story about the attorney general election by itself, and we really needed a full attorney general story about the two Republican candidates from Columbia. I had done plenty of background work about the race for a previous article, but it was still impossible to put together a story of that magnitude at 11 p.m., especially on a day I had been on the go since 6:30 a.m.
Now, this also does not mean that I did the best I could given the circumstances. I could have made even more of an effort to find people with an insight about the attorney general race. I could have asked the people I did speak to to elaborate on their points more to create better quotes. I could have left to gather quotes earlier so I could return to the newsroom earlier. I could have pre-written a story anyway just in case something were to happen. I could have even spoken to political science professors at MU to have an expert in my story.
There is so much more I could have done, and I’m disappointed in myself now that I’m looking back and realizing this.
I made the fatal mistake of exclusively focusing on trying to get something done.
My story ended up being a combination of a wire story about multiple state races mixed with some of my past reporting and a few quotes I gathered this evening.
The day came to an end about 11:30 p.m. when I stumbled out of the newsroom and into my car. I watched lightning in the distance as I waited for a red light at a desolate intersection.
Just as it was when I first left my apartment in the morning, it was dark and stormy.
My day had come full circle.
Would it be fair to call it a success? I don’t think so.
Would it be fair to call it a learning experience? Certainly.
Now I can’t wait for the November election so that I can do this again, but this time do it right.
The strangest part is that, even with the failures, I absolutely loved my first election day in (and out of) the newsroom.