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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: What's yummier: Elections or Halloween candy?

By Tom Warhover
November 9, 2012 | 4:14 p.m. CST

Some election week postscripts:

A billion here, a billion there: Much has been said about the record spending on campaigns this year. For good reason: $6 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

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Most of the talk was framed as a comparison to other worthy spending, like food for the poor or books for schoolchildren. The Fiscal Times said $6 billion would buy 4 billion AA batteries for hurricane victims or resurfacing for 120,000 miles of U.S. roads.

It also noted that Americans spent $8 billion on an annual event celebrated less than a week before Election Day:

Halloween.

Missourian by the numbers:

For the print edition, the most important number was a time: 1:30 a.m. While it was a full hour later than the normal deadline for the last page to be sent to the press, many election prognosticators predicted a late night nail-biter, so I worried the paper would be forced to go with a “too close to call” headline.

Fortunately, the results came in with alacrity. The last page sent to the press was 1:25 a.m.

Most election news is planned and packaged before results arrive. Articles on individual races were written and edited by Tuesday afternoon, with spots left open for reaction and scenes from victory parties. Sometimes, alternative lead paragraphs are written in advance. The reporter simply deletes the lead featuring the loser.

There were several versions of the front-page design even before polls closed in Columbia. The print team early on decided not to do a “poster” front page like the one from 2008, when Barack Obama became the first black man elected president. So the designers fiddled and tweaked and talked and sketched. They prioritized the two biggest races (president and Senate). The design they settled on was non-traditional and dynamic while reflecting the most important moments of the night. The headline was perfect: “Early wins, familiar faces.”

Missing but not forgotten: I love the precinct-by-precinct numbers. It tells me how my neighbors voted and often points to trends that otherwise would be missed. Graphics staff waited until 2:30 a.m. election night, but results weren’t available until about 12 hours later. The data is in the newsroom but still not available to you as of Friday afternoon. Those numbers will get published, although I can’t say when.

Seen and heard: We are often way too serious when it comes to elections. Was it just me, or did you also hear the phrase “there’s no hope if (Obama/Romney) is elected” more than ever before? Donald Trump calling for a revolution aside, I think we’ll find something between the cataclysm and nirvana.

Perhaps that’s why I loved the collection of pictures and tweets put together by the outreach team. Smiling faces, exclamation points (“I voted!”) and flat-out cheerleading for the act of voting, reflecting the excitement and optimism around this overt act of democracy. Some even said it was (gasp) fun.