Jennifer D. Wade Journal

Welcome to my online diary, enjoy your stay!

Blog posts November 2010

I'm Glad that's Over

Whether your candidate(s) won or lost last night, I think we can all at least be happy that this mid-term election cycle is over. The political ads were some of the nastiest I can remember, and the robocalls never seemed to stop. Hopefully, it's now safe to answer the phone.

I, for one, couldn't wait for November 2nd. Because of my job coordinating election coverage for the TV station where I work, it seems like the election - and how we were going to cover it - is all I thought about for the past month. By my count, I've coordinated coverage for more than 20 primary and general elections over the years. But, this past one ranks as one of the most challenging.

First of all, it was hard to get a fix on most of the major races. The only one I was reasonably sure about was the governor's race. Tom Corbett seemed like a lock from the get go. But, in the other big races - Sestak/Toomey for Senate and Kanjorski/Barletta and Carney/Marino for Congress, it was really difficult to tell. Which candidate had the advantage often depended on which poll you looked at or which expert you talked to. What that meant for me was that I needed to have people at each candidate's HQ on Election Night. I couldn't really afford to guess and go to one candidate but not the other.

The problem with THAT was that the candidates were scattered in locations that were not always very convenient. For example, both candidates for governor were from the Pittsburgh area, so you knew one crew was going there. You figured that Corbett would win, and he had his Election Night event planned for the 17th floor of a hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. In other words, it had very limited parking for big satellite trucks and an impossible cable run. Do you know what that means to a TV station from Scranton, on the other side of the state? It means send a crew and hope that you can hook up with some other TV station willing to deal with the technical challenges.

I figured Sestak would be in suburban Philly and Toomey would be somewhere in the Lehigh Valley. Do you know what that means for a TV station from Scranton? It means if you want to be live at either location, it's going to have to be with a satellite truck. My station has two, so, I could have sent one to Toomey and one to Sestak.

Oh, but wait, I couldn't do that because I had two hot congressional races and each race featured a potential winning candidate who would be spending Election Night in a location where it would be better to have a satellite truck than a microwave truck. I knew Barletta would be in Hazleton. He's the mayor, after all. In terms of microwave signals, Hazleton is hit and miss for us - mostly miss. When I found out where Barletta would be, we tested a microwave shot just for kicks, but didn't have any luck. So, I knew that one of my satellite trucks would have to go to Hazleton.

Initially, I planned to send the other satellite truck to Williamsport, where Tom Marino would be on Election Night. Williamsport is another one of those hit and miss - mostly miss - locations. But, as the Toomey/Sestak race tightened and it became clear that we would need help from other stations to adequately cover that race, I opted to send our second satellite truck to Sestak, partner with another station at Toomey, and risk a microwave shot from Williamsport (I'm not sure how my photogs managed it, but they did manage to get a very solid microwave signal out of Billtown!)

Knowing that I would be using both satellite trucks, I knew I would need satellite time and lots of it. One truck is often difficult to book time for, so I actually booked the time I needed in early September. The other truck, I didn't worry too much about and waited until two weeks before the election to contact the provider. Turns out, I waited too long and they didn't have the time I needed. The following seven days were very stressful as I called anyone I could think of in an effort to get time. Finally, about a week before the election, I got what I needed, but it was on satellites that we don't normally hit. That situation made for another week of stress as I waited for our engineers and truck operators to determine if we could actually hit them. I mean, it's nice to have satellite time on Election Night, but it's not worth much if you can't actually hit the bird.

In the end, we hit the funky satellites, we hit the tricky microwave shots, and the TV stations we worked with held up their end of the bargain. Long story short, everything worked out as well - if not better - than I could have hoped.

My plan now is to spend the next six months thinking about something other than satellites.

Go Back

1 blog post