On Election Day 2016, TVNewser ran around Manhattan, stopping by TV news studios to check out what was happening behind the scenes in the lead-up to and during prime-time coverage.
Unfortunately due to Covid-19, we aren’t able to stop by the networks which are broadcasting election night 2020 from New York to check out what’s happening on set, in the control room, and speak with talent and producers about what they’re expecting from the evening’s festivities.
So, we’re trying something different this year—a Q&A with the executive in charge of his/her network’s election night coverage to better understand what we should expect from them, and how the pandemic is influencing how they’re going to produce this year’s coverage.
We caught up with Marc Burstein, senior executive producer of ABC News Special Events who is producing his sixth presidential election night for ABC News.
Here’s what he had to tell us about what the network will deliver to the masses on Nov. 3, and how his team is adapting to Covid-19.
TVNewser: What can we expect from ABC News election night coverage that we didn’t see in 2016?
Burstein: Viewers will see the same smart, fair and incisive coverage by a brilliant team. But of course there will also be much more of a focus on the number of votes already cast, either by mail or in person, prior to November 3.
To what extent has Covid-19 changed how you’re covering the big night?
Many of our contributors and analysts will be in different studios than the main election night headquarters they were in for the 2016 and 2018 elections. Spreading people out is essential to maintain six feet of separation for what is at a minimum 7 hours of airtime. The control room team will also be spread across two major control rooms to allow for safe distancing.
How have you determined what you want to do in person versus what you need to do remote?
My home setup allows me to do many things, but producing an event as complex as election night from home is not one of them. That said, there are definitely some people who will be able to do their jobs from home as they have been doing effectively for many months now.
This year’s election may not be decided on Nov. 3, or even Nov. 4. Do you have coverage plans set if this goes on for longer than usual, and if so, what are they?
We are preparing for everything and anything—from an early and decisive night to a contest that goes for days or weeks.