My first election in the newsroom

After weeks of debates, campaign mailers and new polls being released practically every day, Election Day is finally here. I’m incredibly excited, because it will be the first time I’ve worked in a newsroom for a general election.

And it’s going to be a big one. I don’t need to tell you that the presidential race appears to be in a dead heat, and either candidate could be declared the winner by the end of tonight (or tomorrow, or the next day…although hopefully not!). But in Minnesota, we also have two controversial amendments that could go either way (voter ID and gay marriage), and in the Willmar area, several key legislative races could also be close.

I’ll be following all of these races and more tonight as I run the social media accounts for the West Central Tribune. We had a staff meeting yesterday to go over last-minute details, and I’ll be in charge of updating our live blog (which we’ll be launching later this afternoon), tweeting from the Tribune account and posting updates and interacting with readers on Facebook. I’m also hoping to create a Storify about local people voting in the region. (Storify, by the way, is one of my new favorite social media tools. I’m hoping we can continue to use this more at the Tribune.)

Since the last presidential election in 2008, social media – particularly Twitter – has skyrocketed, not only in users but also in user interaction. It’s become a daily, integral part of many people’s lives. It’s an incredibly important tool that we’ll be using at the Tribune to keep our readers informed and as up-to-date throughout the night as possible.

Our social media effort is a team one: many of our reporters and editors will be tweeting from their own accounts throughout the night (you can find a list of everyone in the newsroom on Twitter here). In case you were wondering, the Tribune doesn’t have an official social media policy, but it’s our general policy not to show bias toward any specific candidate or issue on any level: local, state or national.  We’re all careful to exercise that same neutrality on our own social media accounts.

It’s going to be a loooong night. I fully expect to be here well into the early hours of the morning. And even then, we may not will probably not have full results to print in the paper! But I’m also anticipating an adrenaline rush of energy – possibly fueled by obscene amounts of coffee and Red Bull – and an evening full of nail biters, intense deadlines and, of course, lots and lots of food. But then, that’s pretty much why any of us go into journalism in the first place.

PS – I know I also don’t need to tell you this, but please make sure you vote today. Many, many people before us fought incredibly hard to make sure we have this right. And if you are out voting today, make sure you tweet or Instagram a picture with the hashtag #wct2012.

I’ll be back in the next day or so with a full recap of our election coverage from behind the scenes. In the meantime, do you have any questions about the Tribune’s election coverage? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

–Ashley White, community content coordinator   

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