Us news types get awfully worked up about election night. The newsroom becomes awash in planning memos, late-arriving stories, staffing adjustments and enough pizza to see you through Armageddon.
— Inside Pages (@insidepages) November 7, 2012<script src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
My former colleagues in the sports department look at all of this and just shake their heads: “We do this every Friday night for high school football.” Heck, I even reverted to such cynicism this year, telling a news desker at the end of the night: “Now, do this three more days in a row, and you have yourself a Heritage.”
But, of course, a lot more rides on the outcome of elections than on golf tournaments and football games. Thus the high dudgeon.
This general election was my second since moving from sports to news, and the workflow for the two were markedly dissimilar. In 2008, we ran a story or two about how novel it was that then-candidate Barack Obama reached out to young voters with this thing called Facebook. We tried to post results to our website as fast as we could, but there were no email blasts, no posting to social media and only a few regular updates on our site before polls closed.
This past week, we fully integrated social media and set up protocols for tweeting, posting to Facebook, sending email blasts and reporting continuously from the field. We spent much more time setting a schedule for the appearance and demotion of various home-page modules than we did with print. Twitter was but a curiosity to us in 2008; by 2012, it was essential to our reporting.
My guess is that by the time the nation determines Obama’s replacement in 2016, election night will again look far different, with functional mobile applications being as crucial by then as social media is now.
Here are some molecular-level changes we saw in just the past four years:
• Twitter, as mentioned, went from bud to bloom between 2008 and 2012, and politics is a reflection of that — there were a record 30 million tweets associated with the election.
Users were tweeting 11,000 election-related posts per minute, the service reported. Even before most polls closed, , the hashtag “#election2012” surpassed 11 million tweets, according to a story by USA Today’s Marisol Bello.
• Many celebrities got in on the Twitter action. Among them was Donald Trump, who toyed with the idea of his own presidential run before deciding not to pursue the White House. (He probably would have installed a casino next to the bowling alley.) He didn’t exactly sit on the sidelines, though — in the run-up to the election, Trump offered a $5 million reward if Obama would release his college transcripts.
And when Obama was declared the winner on election night, Trump pitched a hissy fit with a littany of tweets denouncing not only the president, but the Electoral College, erroneously contending Obama won a majority of electors while losing the popular vote and suggesting an end to the institution. (Which, ahem, sounds somewhat like the folks who wanted to do away with the Electoral College after George W. Bush’s narrow victory in 2000.)
• The Donald wasn’t the only one having a meltdown on election night, however, and thanks to some older social media, we can view it again. First, was Diane Sawyer’s bizarre behavior from the ABC anchor chair ...
... then came Karl Rove’s protestations on FOX when his network called Ohio for Obama. Rove was in such a bad way, anchor Megyn Kelly marched into the decision room seeking an explanation of the call ... and a repudiation of Rove’s assertion that it came too early.
Shortly thereafter, “Karl Rove” began trending on Twitter.
• Of course, to hear people talk, all of the chatter went unheard. I cannot tell you how many people in my Facebook news feed claimed that they were disheartened by political discourse and vowed to stop reading — and, egads! un-friend folks! — on the social medium.
I’m not unsympathetic to the sentiment. Frankly, I think most anybody who can record their political thoughts in something as brief as a tweet or Facebook post simply hasn’t thought long enough. I’ve yet to change a single political view because of anything I read on Facebook.
But if I haven’t been swayed by Facebook, I have been informed by it and links to longer articles posted there. And, although it’s sad that social media “discourse” consists mostly of disses and coarseness, it wins the popular vote, nonetheless.
I’m sure 2016 will be different from 2012, but I’m just as sure attention to social media and mobile platforms will be incumbent.