Meghan Finnerty | November 29, 2021
89.1 The Point Wins National Award for 2020 Election Coverage that Overcame Chaos
Alums Shay Gauthier, Derick Abbey, Ben Blakely, and senior Matt Delaney reflect on a chaotic election night and their award-winning coverage.
The results are in. The Point 89.1/WBSU wrapped up a double digit 2021 award season with the announcement of a second-place national prize for their 2020 election coverage.
After three years of award-winning election night coverage, it would be easy to assume they followed the same award-winning formula, but this election coverage was unlike any other that Shay Gauthier ’21, Derrick Abbey ’19 ’21, or senior Matt Delaney had done before.
“We’ve done election night for years and years. And a lot of that is we split into teams and a couple people go to the Republican headquarters and a couple go to the Democratic headquarters,” Gauthier explained. “Well, we couldn’t do that with COVID. So, it was a lot of Zoom interviews. It was a lot of emailing back and forth. A lot of time spent on a computer.”
Delaney, who was the station’s website and programing director and Gauthier, its former operations manager, had prepared to cover seven counties.
“Between two people (it) was insane. I think we were covering around 30 different races,” Gauthier said. “It was a lot of work and chaos to say the least.”
“When you’re in the moment, getting those interviews, trying to call people, sending those emails, it’s sort of hard to imagine where it’s going,” Delaney said. “Then you look on Twitter one day and you won an award.”
Election Day (November 3) involved a lot of in-station work. The student reporters relied heavily on public social media streams to clip the audio and turn it back out during their live broadcast.
“We were sitting down in the back office and just researching who was leading a race, who was falling, and took a close look at who we had interviewed,” said Delaney.
Inside the booth and on air was Abbey. He had MC’d the past two election years and came back to help again. “Let’s go for another great election year,” Abbey said. A six-hour live broadcast is an intense time but it gives a rush, he explained.
Gauthier was the night’s political correspondent providing focus and detailed analysis on the local elections. “I think what people don’t realize sometimes is that local elections are directly impacting them.” They explained that politics are confusing and it’s important to give politicians a voice, then voters can listen and understand how they will be affected.
Unlike previous years, that night’s election results were not prompt or clear. It was the result of the pandemic, absentee ballots, and a highly polarizing presidential race. The team was consistently refreshing browsers and flipping channels, waiting for states to be called in the Presidential election. “It was hectic,” Abbey said. Some states were being called on one site or channel but not on the others. “Even AP News was being very conservative about calling states early.”
When the station went off air around midnight, much was still unclear. “The summary was we don’t know anything yet,” Gauthier said. “We think it’s going to go this way but we don’t really know.”
“The summary was we don’t know anything yet. We think it’s going to go this way but we don’t really know.”
Shay Gauthier ’21
The coverage was a team effort that included research and production elements from Karl Schmidt, Gio Battaglia, Peter Buffone, and sports director Ben Blakely ’21.
“Not everyone in the station wants to be part of news (coverage), but everyone wants to make The Point succeed,” Abbey explained.
The Point has a long history of submitting student work for awards because it contributes to the program’s credibility and recruitment.
“I became operations manager because I believed in what the radio station does and what it stands for. But especially during COVID, it was one of the worst times for people,” Gauthier said. “So, it made even more sense to submit. To say look at all these things that we’re doing, (while) being limited.”
In the spring, Blakely and Gauthier got to work preparing for awards submissions. They tried to remember the best of each show, to spotlight their peers, and to honor the expectations of WBSU Station Manager Warren Kozireski, who they call their “silent cheerleader.”
“I can’t imagine the amount of hours we sat inside production one and production two just cutting everything up but it was worth it in the end,” Blakely said. “It turned out in the long run as we won double digit awards.”
The station and its members won nine state awards from the New York State Broadcasters Associations Excellence in Broadcasting Awards Competition for the College Radio Division, and three national awards including two at the 2021 Broadcast Education Association Festival of media arts competition and one by the College Broadcasters, Inc.