Yesterday’s most interesting robo-call: The voice of a young African American woman tells me Jennifer Granholm “takes our money and gives it to the suburbs.” She doesn’t care about “us.” “We” can’t trust her.
It’s like the old punchline of the Lone Ranger joke: What do you mean “we,” white man?
This is interesting on several levels, starting with the assumption that, because I live in the 313 area code, I’m black. If you saw “8 Mile,” you remember that last rap battle scene, where Rabbit asks everyone in the crowd to th’ow it up for the 313. Like everything here, it’s a racial code, as well as telephonic. Wayne County, where Detroit is located, is the 313. Oakland and Macomb Counties, where most of the suburban communities known as “metro Detroit” are located, are the 248 and 586, respectively, although there may be some 734s over there in western Oakland. However, Grosse Pointe, overwhelmingly white, is in Wayne County, too, so if I’d been at that rap battle in a pink cashmere cardigan, pearls and a cute madras headband, I’d have been entitled to th’ow my hands in the air for the 313, too. (I’ve always found this image amusing, yo.)
However, if you robo-bomb 313 phone numbers with a coded message aimed at African Americans, chances are you’ll get more hits than misses. Detroit is something like 82 percent black, after all.
The other level upon which this is interesting? Um, consider the alternative.
Ah, but it all ends today. Election Day. I was a newspaper reporter long enough that I feel like its rhythms are part of me. Reporters get to sleep in on Election Day; traditionally, if you’re covering a race, you don’t come to work until polls close. So it’s a day to catch up on your errands and watch “The View” or whatever. If you’re not covering the race, your job is to vote on your way in to work and ask the poll workers how early turnout looks, then report it to the city desk when you arrive. Either way, the long stretch of voting is, shall we say, down time.
If you’re a copy editor, at least for a p.m. newspaper — and I may be the last journalist left in American who never worked for an a.m., and how the hell did that happen — you come to work extra early on Wednesday. Frequently you greet the reporters leaving in the wee small hours of the morning.
The reward for both shifts is food, which the company springs for. Reporters get pizza, editors get donuts. If you like salty things for breakfast, there’s usually a cold pizza left to chew on.
(If this sounds pathetic, it is. Small-market journalism is a study in self-debasement. Hey, free pizza!)
In between, though, my but it’s fun. You go to campaign headquarters, where someone writes the incoming results on a blackboard. There’s liquor, which means some of your interviews will be with people half in the bag, which means you have half a chance of getting a quote that doesn’t sound like it came from a robot. Although don’t count on it, because there’s always spinning galore.
I was never a political writer, but I did my share. Two vivid memories:
In 1984, shortly after I’d been hired in Fort Wayne but before my column started, I was drafted to cover the election-night festivities of the third parties — at the time the Libertarians and a weird splinter called (I think) the American Party. Both were wan, cheerless affairs, but the American Party vigil was the Island of Misfit Toys. I think they were meeting in an Eagles hall or something, with a few 2-liter bottles of pop and potluck snacks. The folks were right out of Diane Arbus, and the official spokesman was turned out in a vivid polyester leisure suit with contrasting topstitching, the sort of thing that Herb Tarlek used to wear on “WKRP in Cincinnati.” I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I remember that evening as my first exposure to the can’t-catch-a-break, pissed-off, paranoid demographic that would fuel the crazier frequencies on talk radio. And that leisure suit. It belonged in a museum.
The other was one night in Columbus. The publisher’s dad liked to go over to GOP headquarters and tip a few, then come back to the newsroom to soak up the atmosphere. What the hell, he owned the place. One election night, late, he was trying to leave the parking lot, only couldn’t get out of his parking space. He would pull forward and tap the bumper of the car ahead, then back up and tap the bumper of the car behind, up and back, up and back, tap tap tap, never making any progress. A reporter was leaving work at the same time and saw this, and said, “Sir, why don’t you let me help you? Step out a minute and I’ll get you out of this spot.” So he did, and the reporter had his car out in half a minute, and even though the old man was probably too drunk to drive, the reporter let him get back behind the wheel.
As he climbed back in, the ex-publisher pressed a fiver into his hand. The reporter still believes, I’m sure, that the old man thought he was the parking attendant.
Go vote if you haven’t. I’m headed for the showers and the polls, in that order.
Jim said on November 7, 2006 at 11:42 am
“Small-market journalism is a study in self-debasement.”
Truer words were never written. I will be keeping this one. How many places will let you work 80 hours a week and pay you barely enough to feed yourself for the privilege of stroking your ego with an occasional byline?
Marcia said on November 7, 2006 at 12:12 pm
Speaking of drinking and/or voting, Nance, have you seen this?
Kind of funny, kind of sad.
ashley said on November 7, 2006 at 12:32 pm
“Small-market journalism is a study in self-debasement.�? Kinda sounds to me like grad school.
Oh, and thanks for mentioning Herb Tarlek. By association, I will now have Bailey Quarters dancing in my head for the next 24 hours. Thanks a lot.
alex said on November 7, 2006 at 12:32 pm
Well, Marcia, I’ll smoke to that!
Jim said on November 7, 2006 at 1:22 pm
Mmmm, that Bailey was a hottie … much more so than Jennifer. But I always liked Maryann over Ginger and Betty over Veronica …
Connie said on November 7, 2006 at 1:55 pm
All of my calls in the last week have been Republican get out the vote calls. Which just goes to show they didn’t do their research, since in Indiana your primary party choice is public information. I was voter number 184 at Sugar Grove Church this morning.
John said on November 7, 2006 at 2:04 pm
Velma over Daphne too?
I got two calls (albeit recorded ones) last night from Republicans advising me that a vote for anyone other than Joe Lieberman is a wasted vote. I guess the Eleventh Commandment doesn’t apply to Republican card counters.
I heard from Laura Bush, Mitt Romney, Rudy Guliani, and Gov. Ridge. My wife’s friend heard from Bill Clinton but we just got the second stringers.
Dorothy said on November 7, 2006 at 2:05 pm
I was number 38 at lunch time. Does this mean I was 1,038? When do they run out of numbers and start over? I’m sure there were tons of people there ahead of me this morning cause I passed the polling place on my way to work and saw the crowd.
Connie said on November 7, 2006 at 2:14 pm
And a Chocola gotv person just rang my doorbell while I am home for lunch. I hear hubby say, “we’ve already voted.” Chocola person says “may I ask who you voted for?” Hubby: “No.” Door closes.
Lex said on November 7, 2006 at 2:29 pm
By association, I will now have Bailey Quarters dancing in my head for the next 24 hours. Thanks a lot.
Could be worse. You could have, say, war with Iran dancing in your head. Bailey was Teh Hot.
Nance is right about the company-bought pizza, except for the poor bastards like me who must cover a marathon City Council (elected in odd-numbered years) meeting tonight, chock-full o’ rezoning public hearings, which begins at Pizza Minus 3 Hours and likely will not end before 11. I’ve offered a bounty of free soda to anyone on the city desk who will save me four slices of Meat Lovers. The only response I got was from the govt. editor, who’s running a marathon on Sunday and said he’d fight me for ’em. I said I’d rip his arm off and beat him over the head with it to get those slices, and that because he’d be lighter and be getting blood transfusions and IV fluids between now and Sunday as a result, his time should improve and so we’re all winners.
Control of the government is at stake and I’m gonna be in a room with no wireless, listening to the same six developers and lawyers arguing the merits of Office-Institutional vs. Commercial.
Speaking of Teh Hot and all.
Kirk said on November 7, 2006 at 4:43 pm
the thing that always pisses me off about election-night food is that they buy it for people who work one night a year but don’t do anything for those have to work every night. for the one-night-a-year crowd, it’s a picnic. write one story, chow down free food, then start quacking about what the election really means while editors, copy editors and others do several hours more work. i’ve given loud, yakking reporters the heave-ho more than once on election night. and as soon as they put the food out, i call the sports desk to make sure that all those guys can come up and partake, especially the agate clerks.
deb said on November 7, 2006 at 6:33 pm
one sports editor i used to work with fondly called those clerks AG-otts. he was the only guy i knew who ever gave them any respect at all. i occasionally helped with agate when we were short-handed on friday nights, and it was ten times worse than writing obits.
my favorite election-food memory: at the p.m. where i worked, the news editor and i hung out in the newsroom until 1 a.m. or so, grabbed a couple hours’ sleep, then met at the local greasy spoon about 4 a.m. for carryout to take back to work — massive corned beef and cheese omelets. wonder what one of those would do to me now, at 51.
Peris said on November 7, 2006 at 6:37 pm
I too showered first, then went to the polls, which of course necessitated a 2nd shower.
nancy said on November 7, 2006 at 6:43 pm
Kirk points out the a.m. cycle problem — reporters are done and kickin’ back while editors go into hyperdrive, trying to get everything done by some point before dawn. In tight races, it can be nerve-wracking, I’m sure.
Turnout at my precinct was heavy, with a governor’s race, a lopsided Senate contest and other heavy-duty stakes on the line. I balked at a few of the judicial contests; one said, on the ballot, “Vote for not more than NINETEEN.” I counted the names in the list. Nineteen. Left it blank.
Kirk said on November 7, 2006 at 7:27 pm
i knew about most of the judge candidates here. i definitely did not vote for the guy who we found out was married to two women at the same time (a technical oversight, he essentially said).
Lynne said on November 7, 2006 at 7:44 pm
Howdy from the copy desk at an a.m. paper back East. The polls haven’t closed yet. We’ve already swarmed over the free food — sandwiches, chips, cookies, soda, coffee. Let the games begin!
Kirk said on November 7, 2006 at 9:13 pm
hi, lynne. being as this is ohio, cuyahoga county got a judge to keep 16 polling places open until 9 o’clock, and the secretary of state has forbidden the release of any vote conts until then, so we’re having a fine time twiddling our thumbs
nancy said on November 7, 2006 at 9:17 pm
Blackwell wants to keep us in suspense about his political death for a couple more hours, I guess.
I love thumb-twiddling on the desk. It’s like working on the slime line of a trawler — just waiting for the next load of cod to come down the chutes.
Kirk said on November 7, 2006 at 9:34 pm
of course, cnn, ap and a few others already have called it for blackwell anyway. the desk, actually, does have some non-election junk to fill in the back pages. we important types who came in to work the election, though, are reduced to reading blogs and such, which beats working. the first story i have to edit probably won’t come along for a couple of hours yet.
Kirk said on November 7, 2006 at 9:35 pm
that is, they’ve called it for strickland. of course
alex said on November 8, 2006 at 1:40 am
aggots! aggots! uckin’ odforsaken aggots!
Emma said on November 8, 2006 at 2:07 pm
Re: Election night food. This year, The Palace (formerly “Bill’s Palace”) catered our election night festivities. Chicken on a stick. Beef on a stick. Pasta and spinach cheese dip. This may sound pathetic, but I was impressed.
John said on November 8, 2006 at 7:31 pm
I had the good fortune of covering several elections in Chicago, for the Sun-Times. When your story was done and signed off on, you’d grab the freight elevator down to the basement, walk out through the loading dock and into lower Michigan Avenue, and into the legendary Billy Goat Tavern. At first it would be Sun Timesers on one side and Trib folk on the other, with a few political types mixed in. Gradually everyone would get together, swapping election night stories. And drinking. Then people would start showing up with first editions and we all pored over each others stories, sizing them up.
Great stuff. I’m no longer in the newspaper business full time. And election night is the night, more than any other, when I miss it the most.
(A side memory for any Chicagoans: I recall standing at the Goat chatting with Cam Simpson, a bulldog of an investigative reporter. George Ryan had just been elected governor, and Cam was giddy, and cocky, suggesting Ryan was going to be a field day for guys like him. I recall thinking he was overstating the case a bit. And I recalled recalling that a month or so ago, when Ryan was sentenced to prison!)
(A side, side memory: There is a wonderful new book out about the Billy Goat. It’s called “A Chicago Tavern: A goat, a curse and the American Dream.)
I’ll stop now.
Bob said on November 8, 2006 at 8:32 pm
I don’t know if this will even work, but I’m gonna’ try to link a photo of the Billy Goat:
If it doesn’t work, you’re welcome to stop by my web site and check out some of the photos from the surrounding area.