Jon Dawson: What really happened during election night in Lenoir County
Last week, broadcasting history was made in Lenoir County.
From the Neuse News web television studio in downtown Kinston, B.J. Murphy and Bryan Hanks anchored what was planned to be a two-hour experiment in local election coverage. With a multi-camera setup and graphics spiffy enough to make most local TV stations jealous, we went on the air thinking we'd be able to make it through the Bojangles’ drive-thru just before closing time.
Around Hour 3, we realized something was amiss. Reports indicated there was a technical issue that was delaying local election results, so we improvised.
Bryan wowed viewers with his ability to name every song in the Luther Vandross discography. B.J. arm-wrestled — and nearly defeated — his youngest daughter. Junious Smith III shared stories from his years on the competitive dog grooming circuit.
The situation grew so dire I was given airtime to chastise NBC for canceling the show Manimal in 1983.
During a commercial break, there was a fervent discussion as to whether or not we should stay on the air or call it a night. I was sure as soon as we turned the cameras off, the election results would be posted and we'd miss out. Bryan wanted to get home in time to watch the Scandinavian Cup Stacking Championship on ESPN17, while Junious had three poodles waiting on pedicures.
B.J. decided to stay on the air, and by Hour 4, there was a definite "Lord of the Flies" aroma in the air. The combination of sleep deprivation and a Herculean intake of caffeine and processed foodstuffs (see Fudge Round clip below) can really ramp up the paranoia. At one point, Bryan accused Neuse News staffer Aleatha Thrower of stealing his Duran Duran Trapper Keeper, when in fact he lost it in a card game at camp in 1984.
Most of the team — which included Sarah Burk, Catherine Hardee, William “Bud” Hardy, Matthew Lococo, Marcus McComb, Stephanie Towne and Travis Towne — made it through the evening unscathed. Even the on-air folks kept it together with a few exceptions, as notated in these excerpts from my Election Day diary:
12:20 a.m.: A very tired Matthew Lococo eats a piece of cold pizza in the break room
12:49 a.m.: With the Mountain Dew supply long depleted and the coffee maker on the fritz, Neuse News Publisher B.J. Murphy resorts to eating instant Folger's coffee straight out of the jar with a spoon
1:36 a.m. - An extremely tired Matthew Lococo eats what he believes to be another cold and somewhat chewy slice of pizza from the break room
1:37 a.m. - Junious Smith III experiences a hallucination in which he believes he sees someone eat part of a pizza box in the break room; he is sent home to recuperate
1:38 a.m. - Multiple staffers are startled when they discover someone has taken several bites out of an empty pizza box
Although we were prepared to stay on the air as long as it would take, near the end of Hour 5, we were informed the board of elections was shutting down for the night. With that, we emptied out into the Kinston streets at 2 a.m., thankful no one was around to see that Bryan had already changed into his Joe Gibbs onesie pajamas.
The feedback we received from the broadcast was overwhelmingly positive, with many people asking what our next televised event would be. Although I haven't cleared this with the powers-that-be, I'm proposing "A Neuse News New Year's." The show would feature interviews with local movers and shakers, and the evening would be capped off by a giant Lovick’s Cafe Dough Burger being lowered from the Kinston Towers as midnight approaches.
Watch this space for updates.