Sunday, January 16, 2022
Jan. 16, 2022

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From the Newsroom: Vote is in: Staff rocked the election

By , Columbian Editor

We made it through another election night! That is no surprise to me; we always do. And I’ve been covering elections since Ronald Reagan was re-elected.

Our coverage actually started about three weeks ago when A1 page designer Romana Wood started building the results boxes, which we call rails, that contain the election night vote totals. Romana also mocked up some patriotic treatments for the “flag,” or nameplate, at the top of the page. We ended up choosing a stars-and-stripes banner that she wove through the letters in “The Columbian.”

The next thing was to come up with the election night coverage plan. We treat elections as a “swarm,” where we get a lot of reporters involved and write a lot of stories, rather than just one or two “roundup” stories that hit the highlights of key races. This year, we wrote 11 local stories. We added four pages to the Wednesday paper to hold them all.

Election night got started at 4 p.m. when we crowded our swarm team of 17 reporters, editors, designers and photographers into a conference room to go over the final plan. We probably could have done it with fewer people, but this gave us options in case another big story popped up.

Deadlines were discussed: We needed stories for the Clark County section first, with a final deadline of about 10:15 p.m. Front-page stories could come in as late as 11 or 11:15 p.m., with the last story being the top story of the night, the congressional race between Jaime Herrera Beutler and Carolyn Long. Our final “off the floor” deadline was midnight for a 12:30 a.m. press start.

The highlight of the evening — the pizza — arrived about 6:15 p.m., followed by an hour of nervous waiting. I spent part of that time writing a draft story that we could throw online when the results came out. We know our online readers want the results right away, when our reporters are busy making calls and talking to candidates. This quick roundup story does the trick until the better-reported stories are ready.

At 7:30 p.m., reporters and photographers headed to their assignments. The results arrived around 8:10 p.m. Romana went to work filling out the election rails, I posted and polished the roundup story, and Metro Editor Mark Bowder edited the first couple of stories for inside the C section.

By about 9 p.m., most of the reporters were back in the newsroom, and the next hour just flew by as they wrote, and we edited stories and dealt with the usual little issues.

Photographs were ready by 10 p.m. We chose the best picture of Herrera Beutler for A1 lead because she was ahead in the race. Had Long been ahead, she would have received the larger photo.

We changed our plan for the Clark County cover photo. We had planned to feature the Vancouver City Council winner, but Alisha Jucevic got a dynamic photo of three county office winners — Alishia Topper, Peter Van Nortwick and Julie Olson — so we quickly swapped the position of those stories.

Now, it was up to our copy editors to quickly and expertly finish the job. Unlike some papers, our copy editors double as our web editors so they posted stories as soon as they had been edited. They did a great job under a lot of deadline pressure.

A couple of computer crashes later, we got the paper to the press, and I hope, on your doorstep when you woke up Wednesday morning.