Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Election Night Pizza in the Newsrooms

November 5th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Lisa Grifis, with pizzas for election night in the newsroom of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Lisa Grifis, with pizzas for election night in the newsroom of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

I’m not sure where this tradition started, but it’s standard in newspaper newsrooms around the country. Reporters, photographers and the copy desk staff who work election night are treated to pizzas, delivered.

Pizzerias around the nation consider election nights one of the busiest days in their year other than Superbowl Sunday, when they hit Millenium Falcon speed. Pizza and baseball, not so much, but the gridiron and politics — some would say comparably brutal sports — demand the pies.

At the paper, it goes like this: Newside in the newsroom is generally empty and quiet on the day of elections — reporters and photographers are either given the morning off in anticipation of a long night at their desks or shadowing “their” candidate, or they’re in early afternoon to write the backgrounds of their races and amass archive files and photos. A few cubs or clerks are kept around for breaking news. Other sections are moving their pages early off the floor to give election results the bulk of production time.

About 6 p.m., or before the first results roll in, the pizzas arrive – eight or 10 boxes of different pies. In the old days, the vegetarian one would go cold, and the all-meat ones devoured first. Today, it’s rare to get one with meat on it at all. The desk descends on them as though this would be a last meal — another staunch tradition — they’re free-food hares. No tortoises around a newsroom where a meal is concerned. Leftovers are rare.

After that, they went to work, slowly as results came in, and national stories moved, then copy flowed like a rapid in a major river. Graphics and maps and charts were ordered, results checked and revised, and teases for the cover planned. The most exciting or controversial race led, but the lead photo could be of any race — photos were chosen on their own merit.

It was really exciting in the days of cold type, with paste-up, proof and camera departments also in overdrive; computer production took all the deadline thrill out of it for many of us. I imagine it was considerably more heated during hot-type days, but those preceded me.

So: What prompted this post? A “pizza etiquette” memo distributed Monday for the newsroom of the Raleigh News & Observer in the Great State of North Carolina.

To: [Raleigh News & Observer staff]
Subject: Pizza etiquette

I want to remind you that pizza will be provided
tomorrow night ONLY for those working on elections.
Please be polite. If you are working elections, you
may have up to TWO slices. Thank you in advance for
being considerate.

Times are tough, one ex-newsie remarks, when the limit is only two slices for such a long night.

Tags: Today in the World of Food

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Matt // Nov 5, 2008 at 11:12 am

    For actual pictures of actual newsroom pizza check out Lisa Griffis and her blog…

    http://www.lisagriffis.com/2008/11/for-the-love-of-dieters/

    Her newsrooom did not limit pizza consumption.

    —Matt

  • 2 ksteinhoff // Nov 5, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    Pizzas and calzones are the main food for telecom late nights, too.

    When we moved in the The Post’s new HQ building in 95, we ate so many that is was a long time before I ordered one again.

    I think they work because almost everyone will eat them, they are relatively cheap, you can eat them cold and they warm up easily.

    Another pizza factoid: I discovered while covering hurricanes that pizza joints are your friend. When the power’s out and all the other eateries are closed, pizza places may be open because their ovens are gas-fed.

    Here are a couple of pizza reviews from a cyclist perspective:

    http://www.palmbeachbiketours.com/2008/06/29/pizza-biker-fuel/

  • 3 jordan // Nov 5, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Such a shame that the media is enforcing a slice limit. With the layoffs, you’d think they could lighten up a bit since there are fewer mouths to feed…

    The funny thing about this is that a friend was an on-air expert at a local TV station in her town and received NO FOOD despite being there from 5 p.m. through midnight. It makes two slices sound generous.

    Interesting chatter on why pizza is chosen for such occasions. Personally, I don’t need a reason to get pizza – I really do think I could eat it every day and be happy as a clam!

  • 4 pathom // Nov 6, 2008 at 11:57 am

    For reasons best described as “Texan,” the traditional Election Night meal in the Austin American-Statesman newsroom was barbecue with all the fixin’s. Delicious, but not made for eating at one’s desk – and hell on the keyboard!

  • 5 Matt // Nov 10, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Pathom: Wow… I never thought I’d take another position at a newspaper but if the AAS is really handing out ribs, I might give it another try.

    —Matt

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