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The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

Posts Tagged ‘Michigan

Calling the election early made upset some, but it’s better than going back in time

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The Five Thirty Eight blog on the New York Times site captivated a lot of people this election cycle. And for good reason.

You can’t always get what you want. Whether it be in politics, life, work, nothing seems like it will always go our way.

The same goes with voting for president via the electoral college. It’s one of the strangest concoctions our Founding Fathers put into place: State by state, votes are counted, and state votes determine who is the executive of the land.

No matter what your take is on the system to elect the president, it’s not going anywhere right now (although there are movements to institute the popular vote as the deciding factor). Neither is the technology, knowledge and skills of those who cover the race and can predict with great precision how the race will go.

I saw at least one post from someone on Facebook Tuesday night decrying the decision to call the race for Barack Obama before all votes were in, especially in states like Alaska. The argument was that no American should feel like their vote doesn’t count, and by the calling of the election at 11:12 p.m. at night, those Americans feel left out of the democratic process because of the call.

I say: get over it. The press is doing their job.

Political number geeks found their savior this year in Nate Silver, who has attracted more attention than any other reporter at the New York Times than perhaps Judith Miller or Jayson Blair. Unlike those two, the attention was positive: Silver and his Five Thirty Eight blog used numbers and polling data to accurately predict the outcome in every single state for the presidential election. He became an election rock star, doing media tours and becoming the target of attacks from conservative pollsters who decried his prediction of a second Obama term. Silver details the results in the TimesCast below:

 

And it’s popular. Nate Silver’s blog accounted for 20 percent of all traffic to Monday, an enormous indicator that those looking at national websites for pre-election news believed his data and invested their time in reading it. That’s pretty powerful stuff. And with an indicator like that, doesn’t that show that the reader and several others want to know what the best scenario is for the presidential race?

The abilities of many media companies to accurately predict election results in the presidential race is amazing. States were being called left and right shortly after the polls closed. My home state, Michigan, was called as the final precincts in the Upper Peninsula were closed at 9 p.m. Eastern time. Barely any results had trickled in before the decision was made by predictors to award our 16 electoral votes to Barack Obama. And it stuck, with the president winning the state with almost 54 percent of the vote.

Which brings me back to my original statement: why would we want to go back in time when election results weren’t determined until the early morning the next day? The technology and knowledge is available, why shouldn’t we use it? We live in an age where people want to know what’s going on faster and delivered as quickly and accurately as possible. Why shouldn’t we exercise our First Amendment rights to gauge the election as it’s happening?

Of course issues such as Florida in 2000 do come up. There’s no doubt about it. But issues have come up again in Florida this election cycle, and it hasn’t affected the election. That’s how the Electoral College works.

Yes,  it usually means states like Alaska and Hawaii won’t play as large of a role in the election during the night, but they could if the race is tight enough further into the night. They have a combined 7 electoral votes, which could decide an election later into the night. But more than likely, the decision has been made by then. That’s how the system works. Alaska has only voted Democratic once in its state history, and Hawaii has only voted Republican twice since 1960. All three times were in landslide elections where the winner won by a large margin.

I equate it similar to a baseball game: if the home team is leading after 8.5 innings, do you play the bottom of the 9th? No, the game is over. The same concept applies to our current presidential electoral system, except the votes are officially counted when the election is said and done.

I understand the concept of making sure everyone’s vote counts. It’s an important part of our republic. But it’s also important to allow the press in all its forms do its job. Nobody wants another repeat of this to happen.

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Written by David Veselenak

November 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Branching out: I’m blogging other places, too

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It’s difficult to update this blog when you’ve got several other things running, both journalism and non-journalism

A screenshot of another blog I host, entitled "Lacing up my hiking boots," a look at the Michigan outdoors from my perspective.

related.

In the last seven months, I’ve gone from starting at a chain of weeklies as a timid fresh ex-intern, and have grow significantly since in my online and community reporting habits.

I’ve also spent my time blogging at other places, which explains the diminished amount of posts here. Here’s a look at where my blogging skills have been utilized elsewhere:

  • The Wire, the staff blog for The Manchester Enterprise, has been my main blogging home. Since my former copy editor left in early March, I’ve made it a goal of mine to keep the blog fresh and updated routinely, a goal I’m happy to say I’ve done. At least one post a week on this blog, and it’s mostly dedicated to the Greater Manchester area and events there. I venture to state issues sometimes, including this post about the redistricting plans for Michigan, and this one about a bill proposing banning pit bulls in the state of Michigan.
  • Less frequently, I’ve blogged at the Idealab blog for Heritage Media, my current place of employment. Mostly, this is blogging in regards to our experimentation with online reporting tools, and my boss uses it to keep track of her Idealab project, a project being run by Journal Register Company. So far, the only post I’ve got on there is a detailed explanation of using UMapper, although I plan on doing another one on Storify, the fantastic storytelling service through social media.
  • I’ve recently launched a more specialized blog to a non-journalistic interest I’ve had since I was young: the Michigan outdoors. The last few years, I’ve really noticed how beautiful and wonderful the State of Michigan is, so I’ve decided to dedicate some of my skills to writing about the Wolverine State. It’s my first “niche” blog writing, so I’d gladly take any advice from bloggers out there!
  • Finally, I’ve been enlisted by my former boss and roommate Brian Manzullo to guest blog at a website he has recently launched called JournU. It’s a site he has envisioned as a place for young and student journalists to share advice, stories, tips and other tidbits. It’s something that hopefully will inspire some younger journalists, since it can be such a scary time to be interested in the media right now.
I do plan to utilize this blog more, and I apologize to any loyal readers (do I have those?). I plan to update my story list, as well as multimedia posts soon as well. In the meantime, check out some of the other places I’m penning my work.

Written by David Veselenak

August 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm

The Michigan primary, from the Kent County building

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Election nights can be considered by some to be the worst night to be a journalist. Long hours, short deadlines, and pressure to produce content that is accurate and compelling is difficult.

A Justin Amash for Congress sign in the trash outside the Kent County Building. Funny thing is, Amash won the GOP primary for the 3rd District in Congress by a landslide.

That being said, I love election nights.

There’s something about the shift in power that the people select that gets me excited. The fate of an area, whether it be a city or the nation, comes down to those 12-13 hours the people go to the polls. It’s something we as Americans can share and talk about, because it affects us all.

Ever since the 2008 elections when I was at Central Michigan Life, I eagerly await election nights in the newsroom. That’s why I was ecstatic to partake in the primary Tuesday night in Grand Rapids.

Going to the Kent County building was my task, and I was assigned to e-mail in results as they came. Usually, they were up in the clerk’s office before posted online, so relaying info that could already be online is difficult. The building had very few people in it, consisting of a few Steve Heacock supporters, one Pat Miles supporter and a man from the Associated Press to collect numbers.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. and results began pouring in soon after. With the advent of precincts using electronic pollbooks, many precincts had issues with counting ballots, delaying the final vote total to just past 1 a.m. Strange thing is, the last municipality to turn in their votes was Grattan Township, a small township in eastern Kent County with 3,551 people residing in. It was one precinct, and it was using an e-pollbook. When I approached the township clerk to ask him what took so long (not those exact words, obviously), he said “no” and walked out. Not sure why an elected official wouldn’t talk about election information, unless there was some sort of problem.

The scene inside the Kent County Administrative Building during election night on August 3, 2010.

Politically, the election in Michigan has some interesting twists than couldn’t have been foreseen a year ago. Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder was unknown in Michigan until he announced his candidacy for governor last year. Running on a ticket focused almost completely on the economy and jobs, he beat out four other Republicans focusing more on the right on most issues, including abortion and stem cell research. Snyder didn’t talk too much on social issues, and might’ve been the reason he won. Besides calling on Democrats to vote for him, labeling himself a moderate Republican, Snyder did not partake in as many debates as other candidates, saying “voters are sick of sound bites” (which Snyder still says to this day, which I would classify as a sound bite, but that’s me). He managed to win by more than 90,000 votes.

On the Democratic side, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, the farthest left of the candidates. He beat out Andy Dillon, despite spending very little in campaign dollars.

It has been widely speculated that the winner of the GOP primary would take the gubernatorial race in November. The New York Times has Michigan “leaning Republican” in the governor’s race, a sentiment mostly from the anti-Jennifer Granholm feel many have gathered in this state.

One noteworthy observation: With Snyder putting less emphasis on social issues, the traditional pro-life voter won’t have a candidate in the November election that conforms to the traditional, social viewpoint most are used to. Snyder is anti-abortion, but has no problem with stem cell research, a topic that social conservatives are highly against. Earlier this week, I heard a radio ad from Michigan Right to Life, denouncing Snyder and promoting Attorney General Mike Cox, who the group endorsed (the ad is now gone from their site). The vote shows that social issues took a back seat in Michigan, when previously, they had played in the forefront.

Written by David Veselenak

August 4, 2010 at 11:12 pm