Election night is a big deal in TV news stations across the country. At KCRA in Sacramento, California, it is an institution.
Once our prime news hours begin at 5 o’clock in the afternoon our local election news coverage, combined with the NBC network coverage of the national scene, goes wall-to-wall until 11:30 or later, depending on how close elections maybe going.
I’ve been covering election night every two years since first coming into the TV news business in 1983 and it is always a fun day to work. Sometimes your day starts at nine in the morning and goes past midnight. But that;s fine, it goes with the territory and is the nature of the beast. Besides, it’s just one day every two years! (It’s also a good day for overtime!)
There have been many election nights where I have been camped out in a live truck or operating a remote camera at a campaign office where they’re awaiting returns, either for their candidate or for a proposition or measure on the ballot. We’ll be in standby mode for the station to take us live, then be called abruptly by a producer pulling their hair out and saying, “We’re coming to you in five minutes! Be ready!!!!”
We’ll scramble to our places to go live and then–just as we’re about to go live on-air, the producers will cut away to the Governor or a Senator who are making a concession or acceptance speech and we’ll be told to standby, perhaps for half an hour, perhaps for an hour!
Even before I got into the new side of television, when I was working and my first TV job in the mail room at KTVI, the ABC station (at that time) in St. Louis, Missouri, I would be drafted to keep an eye on the teletypes for incoming returns and run them into the anchors in the studio. Always a fun night.
Jumping ahead to election night, November 4, 2014
I was drafted to do something completely unlike any other election night. My assignment was not to be in a remote live truck but to be in the newsroom running a Live camera and providing “something different and cool.”
The concept was called “The Buzz Room.” A group from the KQCA MyTeam 58, who represent the station at various events and provide publicity about the station, Would be helping us out by manning laptops and tracking the Internet buzz on what people are posting about various topics on election night.
The rest of the evening’s coverage would be traditional coverage on the governor’s race, legislative races, local races, measures, etc., but “The Buzz Room” would be different and they wanted it to look different. They wanted heightened lighting and colored gels and a cool, moving camera, and, something I added, a wide-angle lens effect to give it a semi-Go Pro camera vibe.
The reporter anchoring this segment was Ryan Heap, a new arrival to KCRA who is a weekday reporter and weekend anchor, along with Kathy Park. Then interesting aside about Brian is that he just came from KWCH-TV in Wichita, Kansas, the station where I started shooting news that in 1983. At the time it was the 4th-rated station in a 3-station market. Shortly after I left in 1989 KWCH skyrocketed to become the dominant number one station in Wichita.
The nice advantage about this assignment for me was that I gOt more on-air time on this election night then any other election night in the past 30 years.
Attached is a compilation of our live shots and some pictures of Ryan and the 58 Team.
It was an interesting evening, different, fun, and completely improvisational.
In filmmaking planning and preparation is essential and is like orchestrating a symphony. TV News, on the other hand, is much closer to jazz in that it is about improvising, going with the flow, following your instincts.
The KCRA “Buzz Room” was like a fun evening and a jazz club.
Also worth noting you, KCRA was the only Sacramento television station to have wall-to-wall election night coverage that preempted network entertainment program. And we got huge ratings numbers!