Since 2006, it has been an election night tradition to text or email fellow journalist Tom Wright just before the polls close and inquire about his wardrobe choice for the evening.
Wright is my counterpart at KFDM-TV Channel 6 down in Beaumont. Like me, he manages the day-to-day newsroom operations and contributes content. We play together in a rock band called Buffalo Blonde, and I met him when was I was managing editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. My photo editor, the now retired Pete Churton, also is in the band.
Election nights for print and broadcast journalists typically are all-hands-on-deck affairs.
In my almost three decades in the newspaper industry, I can’t recall missing a single one - March primaries, November general elections and local elections in May. And then there are all those other elections in between, such as runoffs and bond elections, although I’ve missed a few of those, I’m sure.
Election nights, like the one Saturday, are a different animal from what they were before websites, Internet and social media.
The Internet has more than leveled the playing field for media operations that produce print, such as the Tyler Morning Telegraph, where the editorial staff is about as big as all the local television staffs combined.
The idea is to update the website as fast and furious as the results pour in, with our competitors doing the same. It’s a white-knuckle ride to the finish line.
On an election night down in Beaumont in 2006, after the pizza was eaten and just before the polls closed and the fast and furious began, it dawned on me that my buddy Wright was in a newsroom across town, likely sitting around, stuffed with pizza and in a state of nervous energy like I was.
So I sent him a message, asking what he was wearing.
I can’t recall his exact reply, but it went something like this: “Wow, yeah, I guess we’re both pretty much sitting in our own work places, doing pretty much the same thing.”
This began an eight-year election night tradition that lives on.
It’s almost always the same question: “What are you wearing?”
Sometimes his replies are straight-forward: “Khaki slacks, brown shoes, dress shirt.”
Other times not so much: “Nothing but a smile!”
At 6:43 p.m. Saturday, I texted him this: “Boxers or briefs tonight?”
He replied, “Just being the municipal and school elections, I went with boxers. Dress or athletic shoes?”
I was wearing neither, seeing as the wardrobe choice for the evening included shorts, seeing as I’d be in the newsroom all night. He got a texted photo of sandals.
“Oh, you went Roman,” he replied. “Good choice.”
The conversation went way downhill from there, but you get the idea.
I started a Facebook post about it all, and the shoe photos were posted there.
None of this, of course, has anything to do with wardrobe curiosity. My wife will tell you I’m about as fashion conscious as our backyard pool sweep.
It’s more about brothers in arms, camaraderie and being in the same boat, albeit in different cities now. And we were once competitors.
Seeing as Wright is a journalist and a newsroom manager, I know he's working on election night, just like I am.
Our text exchanges are just our way of acknowledging we're in this together and that the usual long, sometimes grueling election night lay ahead.
But this is what we do as journalists, and it is an honor and privilege to be the harvester and disseminator of election night information.
Plus we get free pizza.
Brian Pearson is managing editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.