‘Meltdown’ in newsroom, not at Elections
I now know what a “meltdown” feels like. Even with the power out.
Three days after Election 2002 failed to produce a winner in the District 3 Nevada County supervisors race between incumbent Bruce Conklin and Drew Bedwell (it’s still too close to call), Lorraine Jewett-Burdick sat across from me in a power-deprived Nevada City restaurant Friday afternoon, frying my fanny.
Jewett-Burdick is the county clerk-recorder, the one responsible for ensuring that elections in these parts are conducted better than they are in, say, Florida or Nicaragua. She takes her job very seriously.
As you can imagine, she wasn’t thrilled to wake up Wednesday morning to a headline in this newspaper that read “Election meltdown.”
Armed with plenty of firepower, Jewett-Burdick proceeded to take me step by step through the events of election night to show that in spite of a double-whammy voter ballot, her election crew performed heroically and professionally.
In fact, she showed that we got results much faster than we did in 1994, the last time we had a two-page ballot.
Halfway through our discussion (or woodshed whupping), I realized that I was wrong.
If there was a “meltdown” Tuesday night, it was in our newsroom. And for that I take full responsibility.
What you realize early in this business is the term “deadline.” Without deadlines, we can’t deliver to the thousands of blue tubes and porches and driveways (and, yes, bushes and sprinkler systems from time to time) by 6 a.m. each day.
Oftentimes we struggle with the need to make press, mailroom and delivery deadlines while providing up-to-the-minute news (such as election results).
So on election night, we waited for updates on the county’s two most important races: the two contested supervisor seats. We assumed that the totals for those two races would change with every update, and that we’d have some pretty solid numbers by the time we were supposed to start the press.
Unfortunately, those numbers weren’t changing much, and it was getting late. Recognizing that, Jewett-Burdick moved the counting for those two races to the front of the line. The last thing she wanted was to have to answer 5,000 calls in the morning. At exactly 12:29 a.m., we learned that Robin Sutherland had beaten incumbent Izzy Martin in District 4. We also knew that the race between Conklin and Bedwell would be too close to call.
Earlier in the evening, we knew that Measure D, the private property rights initiative, probably would not pass, but that the library measure would. And we had a pretty good idea that the two incumbents for the Grass Valley City Council would be re-elected.
But not recognizing or really even understanding the process, we allowed our frustration to get the best of us and implied that the Elections Office hadn’t performed well.
That’s what you call a meltdown.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union.
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