They Also Serve who Only Stand and Wait
(For Election Results)
By Edward Shanahan
Bring back Ron Hall.
That was my gut reaction after tapping many election night sources to find up-to-date, reliable information about the outcome of various races in the Northampton municipal election.
Ron Hall, of course, was the legendary WHMP newsman who was a fixture, albeit something of an eccentric one, at the radio station for several decades. That is until he was shoved out the door a few years back by the Michigan conglomerate that owned the station at the time. Ron staked out the city clerk’s office for scores and scores of elections and when the returns began to dribble in, he was there mike in hand, and quickly the word was out. On the other end, at home, we knew the vote tallies almost as soon as Ron did.
Still having had good luck previously with the current news director Chris Collins, we turned on HMP about 8:30 p.m. and tried to stick with it until the windy and pointless Montel show from Air America drove us to other media sometime after 9 when we had expected a local news break.
Ann rushed upstairs to her computer to check Gazettenet, which we assumed had Gazette staff reporters at City Hall who were probably was feeding results virtually instantaneously to the paper’s on-line site. No luck, only the 14- hour-old front page news from the morning newspaper.
I urged her to try the new on-line aggregator of local news Northampton Media, but its site directed her to coverage at the local cable access station, Channel 15 , where Mary Serreze was either interviewing or being interviewed by someone who appeared to possess little knowledge of the local community, and during our viewing no returns were passed along.
After months of build-up to the election and weeks of intensive media and community obsession with this particular election, we were hungry for closure, for an end to the hype and the sometimes angry dialogue that characterized the mayoral contest especially.
So I switched on Springfield’s Channel 22, an unlikely place to look for actual news, but there, by God was the ubiquitous “crawl” at the bottom of the screen which was broadcasting the intensely sad network program fixated on obese people trying to lose weight Finally, some returns from Western Massachusetts communities – partial, but there they were. Except you had to wait until your community came around, and then the returns popped up so quickly you missed the details. But if you waited long enough after getting the returns from Agawam, Holyoke, Palmer, Westfield, West Springfield, Springfield, Northampton to came around one more time and then again, you got the picture. Deb Jacobs was losing and Mayor Higgins looked like a likely winner, as did David Narkewicz, who was running for City Councilor at large.
Back to Gazettenet for another look, Ann found that this time there was a link that directed her to Twitter for election returns, so to Twitter she went, but again only the scantiest of information (that’s Twitter for you—not something you’d ordinarily use to cover an election, we thought) and even at that as often as we refreshed the site nothing new was added for long periods of time.
I suppose by then - at 10 - we could have gone back to HMP, but I guess we learned enough - new faces were going to the City Council from Ward 3 and 7, Mayor Higgins was headed for a sixth term, although the vote from one precinct were still out, and by that time, so was our patience. It was time to call it a wrap for election 2009.
As I rested my head my the pillow, I recall that my final words to Ann were “where’s Ron Hall,” and she knew exactly what I meant because we both have been around for a lot of local elections.
downstreet.net©2001. All rights reserved.