Covering Election Night without candidate events due to COVID-19
by Joe Siegel
The way LGBTQ media covered the 2020 election was more subdued than in the past due to social-distancing rules in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was very different this year first because of the pandemic, but also because of the heightened tensions surrounding the elections and the possibly drastic consequences for our community depending on the outcome of the elections,” said Tammye Nash, managing editor of the Dallas Voice.
“On Election Night, [senior staff writer] David Taffet and I set up at our respective locations — me at home and him in the office — to cover as much of the election returns as we could,” said Nash. “We set up a blog post and then updated it with information as it came in, based on the plan we created. We eventually decided it was more efficient for me to watch a variety of sites covering everything from local races to the presidential race, and feed that info to David, so he could focus on constantly updating our blog pos
“We stayed up until about midnight local time, at which time we felt like we were at an impasse,” Nash continued. “Then [Wednesday, November 4], we focused on getting our election coverage content ready for our print edition coming out [the following] Friday. We had a national LGBTQ candidate round-up sent to us by freelancer Lisa Keen, which I added to, and David compiled a story on LGBTQ and ally candidates in Texas.”
Matthew Bajko of an Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter noted that the “biggest difference was the lack of election night parties to cover. I usually swing by anywhere from two to five different candidates’ parties to get comments and feedback from them and their supporters. This year, I had planned to drop by one such event set to be held in the backyard patio of a tavern. But at the bar owner’s request, it was moved to a different location across town to a private residence with an outdoor space, so I just called the candidate to get a comment about their victory. My colleague did attend one event held at an open-air food-truck park on election night hosted by one campaign when the planned gathering in the Castro district was canceled due to COVID concerns.”
It was a different story in New York City. “General elections in New York City rarely are competitive so candidate parties are rare,” explained Paul Schindler, editor of Gay City News. “Other celebrations are of course more common — but not held this year. In a year with so much attention on the tense presidential race, we put our effort into chasing after the many relevant down ballot races — among both LGBTQ candidates as well as allies and foes. And there was also a lot of parsing of the presidential numbers. So the focus was on verifying good data and then contextualizing what it all meant for the big picture.”
In the nation’s capital, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff noted, “We had reporters and three photographers fanned out across the city. There was a local campaign event at a gay bar and there was a large outdoor gathering at Black Lives Matter Plaza in addition to White House protests that we covered on Election Night. It was different, for sure, but a busy night for us.”