I read the papers
And I got the blues
I’m so sad to hear the news.
— the prophet lowell george
My first presidential election night as a journalist was Nov. 4, 1980. A peanut farmer was running against a B-list movie actor. I figured it was the weirdest election I would ever work. I was the news editor on a small West Texas newspaper, having no idea what I was doing.
But the election happened, the sun came up the next day, and life went on.
I’ve been through every election night since that first one. Cliffhangers and blowouts. Crushing disappointments and glorious results that left me weeping like a baby. Hanging chads and that excruciating wait into the night to make the call. Or not. Dewey Deafeats Truman, you know.
Newspapers are funny. The biggest days tend to be unexpected. Wars, bombings, natural disasters, calamity. But every four years, Election Day is special. The country gathers in the metaphorical town square to pick a leader. It seems like such an easy concept.
I no longer am in the hot seat for elections, content to sit up in the cheap seats and do my small part as my career winds down. Will I miss it?
I will miss the old days. The endless Election Night Pizza. Crowding around a small television watching results come in. A horde of editors crammed around one computer monitor trying to come up with The Perfect Headline. Stumbling out into the early hours of morning, sharing beers in the parking lot with True Believer journalists you’d take a bullet for in a heartbeat, only to go in the next day to do it all over again.
I’m OK with bowing out. The internet has made newspapers an afterthought anyhow. And I look forward to being free of my Sacred Vow of Neutrality, leading me to the next chapter in which I will take on the persona of Grampa Simpson shaking his fist at the clouds. But my life will never be quite the same.
My last presidential election night as a journalist is on Nov. 3, 2020. A guy in aviator glasses is running against a B-list TV actor. It’s the weirdest election I will ever work. I’m a long-distance copy editor operating out of a bomb shelter on a couple of medium-size newspapers 2,000 miles away. I still have no idea what I’m doing.
The election will happen, the sun will come up the next day, and life will go on.
I’m ordering a pizza for sure.
One AP Stylebook for sale. Slightly used.