The best advice for young reporters this election night is to be patient.
While some national networks might want to start making calls and announcing winners in state, local, and, of course, the presidential election early on the night of Nov. 3, it’s probably much smarter to resist that urge, says Ryan Whalen, a Buffalo-based reporter with Spectrum News and the network’s Capital Tonight nightly political show.
“The worst thing you can do as a journalist is say something definitively that ends up not being true,” Whalen says. “Election Night, you tend to want to make those calls. Even if someone is saying they won an election, you might want to hedge that. Know the scenario. This election is going to be so much different than anyone’s dealt with before. If you plan on saying something definitive on election night, you’re probably wrong.”
It’s anticipated that more people will be voting by mail, given the concerns about COVID-19 and the long lines likely at polling locations. Votes cast by mail won’t be counted in time to be verified and factored in for the general election, meaning it is very unlikely we’ll know with any certainty who will win the presidential race on Election Day.
“I think this will be the strangest election night of my lifetime,” Whalen says. “Generally, we’re sitting there, hoping that the ballots will come in quick enough that we’re not there until 1 a.m. We’re going in knowing that’s not going to be the case this year.”
This week, It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell is joined by Spectrum News reporter Ryan Whalen to discuss the wild lead-up to this year’s election and why smart reporters should resist calling races on Election Night.