Put Another Election in the Books

2014 Election Coverage

Behind-the-scenes in the WRAL newsroom on Election Night 2014.

There is no doubt that WRAL covers elections like no other media outlet, but sometimes we even surpass ourselves.  On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in an important mid-term election.  One of the races on the ballot was the most expensive congressional race in the country.  Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis ousted Democrat Senator Kay Hagan and his victory helped give Republicans control of the U.S. Senate. That race, and other state and local contests including a Constitutional Amendment, made our state’s election day one of the most watched in the country.

A big election calls for big coverage and we were ready.  An 11-page coverage plan outlined the intricacies of our mammoth effort on multiple platforms.  Using two control rooms, two studios, double crews in-house, and eight crews in the field, it took great precision to pull off on-air coverage from 8PM to Midnight on WRAL-TV, WRAZ-TV, WILM-TV, and WRAL2.  In the news business, everyone works on Election Day and it takes people from almost every department to make our coverage excel.

WRAL Control Room

In the control room: WRAL’s 2014 Election Night Coverage.

“Months of preparation and the coordinated efforts of about 100 people (literally) contributed to a successful night of serving the public like only we can,” said WRAL-TV News Director Rick Gall.  “From results to breaking news to analysis, we distinguished our coverage across multiple platforms.”

We also provide extensive coverage online and on mobile, platforms that have increased traffic on Election Day.  In addition to “My Ballot”, candidate profiles, and election returns, WRAL.com introduced a new feature this year that gives voters precinct level maps for 2700 precincts state-wide:

The WRAL.com technical team worked all summer on this big project. Connecting directly with the  State Board of Elections to make it easier than ever to study local trends in election returns.

And speaking of the State Board of Elections, our direct source for returns, their results website encountered intermittent outages and updating lags throughout the night.  The Agency worked with the State Office of Information Technology to increase bandwidth and resolve the display errors, but the resolution didn’t come until early the next morning.  But we couldn’t wait.  So, fortunately, we had a Plan B which involved taking a feed from AP and also manually inputting results for over 200 races.  If not for the efforts of WRAL’s Paul Lowell, Pam White, Kristen Hight, and Matt Donegan on the front end and Rusty Kroboth, Jason Priebe, and Alex Phillips on the back end, we would not have been able to provide timely results throughout the night.

“Our weeks of preparation and testing paid off once again,” said WRAL.com General Manager WRAL.com John Conway.  “When the state’s results feed failed, we were able to switch quickly to a back-up source and supplement it with manual data entry. And when the state did deliver us a results file Wednesday morning, we were the only media outlet in the state to offer precinct-level results for all statewide and DMA races.”

Melissa Haefele & Sarah Vina

WRAL Traffic staffers Melissa Haefele (left) & Sarah Vina cheer that their election season and keeping track of political advertising is over for another year.

As with any major project, there is always room for improvement and we are our harshest critics.  We solicit feedback and hold critique meetings and file notes in an effort to improve our coverage on every platform.  But just for a moment, we’ll enjoy the satisfaction of putting another election in the books as a job well done.

“Every Department had a role in this year’s election—both from a coverage standpoint as well as a revenue standpoint,” said WRAL-TV Vice President & General Manager.  “The planning that took place on the News side as well as with Engineering, Accounting, IT and Sales took a lot of effort and coordination.  That effort and coordination paid off. Our viewers got the best coverage with the best analysis.  The viewers rewarded us with having double the ratings compared to our nearest competitor.  I am proud of everyone who played a role in our success.”

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Leesa Moore for this capcom story.  Thanks to the following WRAL folks for these capcom photos:  Steve Hammel, Pam Allen, Aysu Basaran, Jay Yovanovich, Jim Rothschild, Laura Stillman & Jodi Glusco.

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