Election watch snapshot: Three hours at the DFL party

Mac students were glued to every form of media they could get their hands on Tuesday night, awaiting election results. Kagin was packed as were the dorms. Five miles down the street, a lot of the election coverage students were following was taking place at the Crowne Plaza and River Centre in downtown Saint Paul.

Over at the Crowne Plaza, the DFL Watch Party location, reporters and spectators filled the Grand Ballroom, reporting and viewing the election results. Journalists’ computer screens were turned to NYTimes.com and StarTribune.com among other sites. TV camera crews were adjusting their viewing settings as the broadcasters were applying make up. A busy night was ahead for these folks.

7:33 p.m. Nasro Abukar, 33, from Minneapolis arrives early to the party after a busy day canvassing for President Obama. She says that many people complain about the media. She has different sentiments though.

“The media is what we need the most,” she says.

7:41 p.m. Ted Haller, freelancing for Fox 9 News, soaks in the scene before his long night begins. He says, “You kind of have to figure out what the people at home want to hear.”

7:57 p.m. Glancing at his clipboard, Eyewitness 5 reporter Mark Albert prepares his TV piece from the Grand Ballroom. He props his clipboard up to guide him. After a quick one-minute recording, he’s back to his plate of pizza behind the camera. He leaves the ballroom and runs into a member of his news team, giving her a so-so hand gesture, possibly in evaluation of his performance. He then passes a rival reporter and quickly shakes the man’s hand as he continues walking at a rapid pace to take care of his next job: using the men’s restroom.

8:17 p.m. Howard Yee, 50, of Minneapolis sits outside the Grand Ballroom glancing at CNN and MSNBC election coverage on screens above him. He says the media’s coverage of the election is “good enough, except for Fox News.”

8:50 p.m. U.S. Senator Al Franken concludes his speech in which he says that “no one works harder than Amy Klobuchar.” Afterwards, he comments on the media’s role in politics. “The free press is the most important thing we have,” he says. “You know Jefferson said he’d rather have press without government than a government without the press.”

9:01 p.m. Back on in front of the camera, prepping for more coverage, Albert tells one of his co-workers, “So we’re on. We’ve got about four minutes. 9:04, we’re gonna go.”

His colleague asks if she can quickly buy some more food.

“If you’re gonna go, be back by 9:04:30,” Albert says.

Another reporter provides the updated election information to Albert.

“We’ve got 60 percent reporting,” the guy says.

“16?” asked Albert’s assistant.

“No, 60,” said the guy.

9:10 p.m. Senator Franken accepts an interview with KARE 11 News as “Sexy and I Know It” plays in the background.

9:12 p.m. Senator Franken completes his interview, and makes his way towards the side of the ballroom, chased by more than a dozen spectators and reporters all calling for his attention. He stops at the MN News Network base, puts on a headset, and prepares for his next interview.

9:16 p.m. Carlie Waibel, Communications Director for the Minnesota DFL describes where she is receiving her results from.

“Tonight we’re relying a lot on Twitter,” she says. “It’s been really helpful. I’ve been noticing they’ve been calling it actually quicker than what we’re seeing on the screens here. Also, the Secretary of State website has been very dependable, and that’s how we’re getting a lot of our legislative updates.”

9:19 p.m. Chris Simon of WCCO 830 Radio talks to Franken spokesman Marc Kimball about getting Franken on the air. Kimball tells Simon that Franken has another interview, but will be available shortly. Simon immediately gets on the phone with a co-worker.

“We’ve got Al Franken, but we’ve got 15 minutes,” he says. “He’s got a two-minute interview.”

Simon says that as a radio personality he tries to paint a picture for those who can’t be attendance.

“I describe the excitement in the room, the cheers whenever a Democrat would win, whenever President Obama takes a big state, the cheers, that’s my first job,” he says.

Kimball returns.

“How long will you need?” he asks.

“Five minutes,” says Simon.

“Anytime you can record it, or are you hoping to go live?” says Kimball.

“We’re hoping to go live. 9:30 or so,” says Simon.

“9:30? Okay, we’ll try,” says Kimball.

“Thank you,” says Simon.

9:23 p.m. Congresswoman Betty McCollum describes her personal newspaper reading.

“I read local, I read national, I read international,” she says.

“I read them all.”

9:26 p.m. Congressman Keith Ellison draws large applause after his emotional speech. After leaving the stage, a Capitol Press Corps reporter pulls the congressman aside.

“I’ve got him,” says the Eyewitness 5 reporter, standing nearby. “I’ve got a [short] window of opportunity.”

The Eyewitness 5 reporter proceeds to interview Ellison for two minutes. As Ellison completes his interview, the Capitol Press Corps reporter grabs him again. Suddenly, another reporter interrupts.

“So sorry, we need to do this live shot with FOX News,” tugging Ellison away again.

After a number of photographs are taken, by FOX News as well as by spectators, Ellison returns to the Capitol Press Corps reporter. The reporter finally gets his interview. At the end, he describes his interaction with the other reporters.

“That was called bating,” he says. “They bated me.”

9:41 p.m. Congressman Ellison responds about the media’s presence in politics.

“I don’t blame the media,” he says, “but I think the nature of media is that we focus on sensation.”

10:14 p.m. The crowd cheers their loudest of the night. People are jumping up and down. The TV screen shows, “President Obama Re-Elected.” The TV reporters are no longer doing live coverage. Most journalists and crowd-goers are on their phones soaking in the moment.

10:21 p.m. At this point, Haller says, “We’ve interviewed almost everybody that’s a household name.”

His night is not over, though.

“We’ll be here probably until the marriage and Voter ID amendments are called,” he says. “Right now all of the photographers are getting video of, you know, Mayor Rybak crowd-surfing and things like that, so we’re trying to kind of just let the moment live for now.”

10:40 p.m. Sadik Warfa, 36, a Twin Cities community activist reflects on the night, repeatedly showing his excitement with the presidential election results. He says that real journalism should show all sides of an issue. He says that right now, the “media is trying to divide people.”

11:14 p.m. Haller has moved on to the Vote No gathering at River Centre. Like many of those at the gathering, at Macalester, and around the country, his night is still young.