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Election night takes full-out effort, and extra care at newspaper

It was election night, and the newsroom crackled with the anticipation that a big news story brings. The city editor walked up to his political reporter, smiling.

It was election night, and the newsroom crackled with the anticipation that a big news story brings. The city editor walked up to his political reporter, smiling.

"So," he asked, "who's winning?"

"Democracy," the reporter said. "The polls don't close for another two hours."

Tuesday night will bring that same eagerness to our newsroom. A newspaper is a special place to work. It's especially so on election night.

By the end of the evening, we'll have winners and losers -- and different, if not entirely new, courses for government, from City Hall to the White House. No matter who wins, the voters will have spoken. Quietly but powerfully, they will have made their impact. We get to chronicle it.

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Talk about fun.

All hands will be on deck at the News Tribune. This is a day and night when we harness the full horsepower of our newsgathering team -- and really show our muscle. We'll cover races up and down the ballot. Our staffers will talk to voters, gather results, snap photos of winners and losers, and design pages you'll see first thing in the morning.

Elections have become even more exciting for us in the era of the Web. No longer must we wait for the morning paper to deliver your news. You'll see updates through the day and night on duluthnewstribune.com. We'll let you know how the vote progresses. And as soon as the polls close and democracy has run its course, we'll get you the results.

The Web plays to our strength on election night. Our team in the field dwarfs those of every other news outlet in town. And that team will be even bigger Tuesday. Volunteers from other departments will join newsroom colleagues in fanning out to polling places. We'll also work with reporters from our news partner, Fox 21 News. All night long, our combined report will feed our Web site and our news partner's newscast.

The goal: Get you the latest information.

Above all, it must be accurate. During a recent election, a local TV station gathered information at the polls -- and got many precinct totals wrong. We're not above making mistakes, but we take great pains on election night to make sure we get it right.

Information flies fast as officials count votes. Rumors float up. Reporters and editors frantically assemble stories on deadline. Despite the distractions, we simply can't be wrong.

We put extra checks and balances in place on election night. First, no one calls winners and losers without final results or without the approval of News Director Robin Washington and me. Calling races with incomplete results is dangerous business. Many news organizations have found themselves in trouble by thinking they knew the will of the voters before the ballots were counted.

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Remember the 2000 presidential election? The major broadcast TV and cable networks called Florida for both candidates -- several times. Newspapers weren't immune. One major metro printed seven different front pages through the night and into the next morning, declaring Al Gore and George Bush winners, back and forth. Finally, the last edition said the race was too close to call.

If an election is too close to call, we're going to say that. It doesn't do you or us any good to roll the dice.

Four years ago, our newsroom was careful with the presidential contest. Though we waited nearly two hours later than normal to begin printing the paper, the contest between President Bush and John Kerry was still too close to declare a winner. Better to get a paper out to you and to get the story right than to forge ahead and commit a "Dewey defeats Truman" mistake.

We'll go to the presses a little later this year, as well. Our production and circulation colleagues are news people, too. They know a big story when they see one. And anticipation builds for them on election night as well. A little extra time for us, we hope, will make a better report for you. We appreciate them agreeing to hustle to make that happen.

Democracy is the ultimate winner on election night. It's what makes our country special.

We're looking forward to being there for you Tuesday.

ROB KARWATH is executive editor of the News Tribune. You can reach him at 218-720-4177 or rkarwath@duluthnews.com .

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