Getting the News
On Election Night,
By Edward Shanahan
So that night with the Northampton polls closed, the question was who won and who lost?
The choices were: trek down to City Hall and be on hand as the precinct returns were announced, which would be the most fun.
Or watch the irritating “crawl” on the television screen while trying not to listen to or watch some inane network “entertainment” program.
Or go downstairs to the computer terminal and try to get some local election results that way.
Having settled in at home for the evening, I elected not to travel to City Hall, and despairing of the long and amateurish track record of Springfield television news gatherers, I chose to try the Internet. It was to be a sort of a test.
So with the polls having been closed for nearly an hour and a half, I logged on to Gazettenet.com, but found only a chaotic version that day’s front-page news competing with all manner of advertising visuals and graphics. So I tried Masslive.com (the Springfield Republican site) and found that Charlie Ryan had been re-elected mayor of Springfield and fragmentary returns from Westfield, Holyoke and Chicopee. Nothing from Northampton.
Then, I went to Boston.com (the Globe’s web site) and it was all eastern in its coverage – Boston’s Tom Menino was headed for a fourth term, along with reports from Lawrence, New Bedford and the Boston suburbs.
Back to Gazettenet.com, still the same news from earlier in the day, only now it was getting a little older. Nothing from Northampton on Masslive.com or Boston.com was still mired in East Coast contests and returns.
Back through the cycle again, and still again, until finallythere was some real news: As if from the Plains of Marathon, a messenger from upstairs: Ann arrived from her listening post, where she had been tuned to WHMP – radio, that is.
Clare Higgins had been re-elected easily in what had looked like a close race, and the voters had narrowly approved the question dealing with the Community Preservation Act, which was a surprise winner.
Returning upstairs for Chris Collins’ fresh updates, Ann returned quickly with news about the winners for the contested City Council seats, as well as the highly competitive elections for trustees of Forbes Library.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to revisit the website of Gazettenet.com, Masslive.com and Boston.com, only to be disappointed by the lack of news about Northampton voting.
It was Ann, who had the results first, because of her commitment to a very old fashioned technology – radio.
CNBC’s poll might be right about newspapers but at the local level the Internet—dependent as it is on the posting of reporting by the newspapers—is still not an important factor in breaking news. And local television coverage, which is very slow and has to compete for time and space with “The Biggest Loser,” “House,” “Commander in Chief,” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” is not a player either.
When you want timely election returns, switch on the radio. It gets the job done. And I could not help but think of Ron Hall and how over the years he conditioned us to rely on him and the local radio station to bring promptly to the community, hardly momentous, but extremely important breaking news. Something of the Ron Hall tradition continues.
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