Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Election Night Design: The Virginia Monologue

The state of Virginia is poised to throw an interesting dilemma at newsrooms across the country.

Consider the following:

A) Based on current projections, if Obama wins Virginia he very likely wins the election. Try it yourself: go to this interactive map and turn all the tossup states to red for McCain. (As of this writing, that would be Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.) Obama still wins. Then change Virginia to red, and McCain wins.

B) Virginia's polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern, just as election night coverage begins.

C) At 7:58 p.m. on election night 2006, 20 percent of Virginia's votes had been counted and reported to news organizations via the Associated Press. By 10:17 p.m., 90 percent of the votes were reported.

Throw exit polling into the mix there's the very real possibility that Virginia is called -- and the presidency known with a pretty good degree of certainty -- as early as 8 or 9 p.m. What's a broadcaster to do?

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