Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Fort Whyte Byelection: Pallister won, but I was lost

How does one prepare to Tweet live at a byelection? This was the question circling in my mind for the past few days. My fellow journalism classmates and I were assigned to go to the campaign headquarters of a candidate in the Fort Whyte byelection for the Manitoba legislature on the evening of September 4. Just now, I consulted my handy dandy Caps and Spelling to see if the word "byelection" has a hyphen in it, because my MacBook Air seems to think it does. It does not.

See, that's the kind of paranoia that consumes me on a daily basis.

I have never Tweeted live before. In fact, any situation with the word "live" in it is unsettling to me. If it doesn't require a script or any rehearsal or practice, I'm terrified. I had no idea what to expect that night. As an aspiring journalist, I knew I had to get rid of my fear of uncertainty as soon as possible.

At around 7:30, I got into my uncle's truck because he was driving me to Green Party candidate Donnie Benham's gathering at Triple B's, located at 121 Scurfield Boulevard. It's a far cry from where I live, so I was hoping I would make it on time.

The trip to Triple B's was not an easy one; we were stuck in traffic for almost fifteen minutes. But seeing signs singing praise for Darrell Ackman, otherwise known as Mr. JetzTV, along the way made the journey more entertaining. Can you believe he actually received eighteen votes?

When I finally arrived at Triple B's, I didn't see any of my fellow classmates! I panicked. Did Benham change the location at the last minute? Was I at the wrong place? A million worst-case scenarios haunted me.

Then I saw a Brandy Schmidt sign, which gradually brought me back down to Earth. I slowly walked towards it. It led to a little room filled with more Brandy Schmidt signs. But where were the Donnie Benham signs? I waited outside the room in hopes I would see some familiar faces.

Five minutes passed. It was almost 8:10 p.m. A nice waitress saw the desperate expression on my face and asked me who I was looking for. Eventually I found a group of Benham supporters on the opposite side of the restaurant. Sigh of relief.

Unfortunately not being able to find the spot was only the beginning of my worries. Not much was happening yet, but I began to Tweet anyway. I wished I had written more substantial Tweets, rather than one-liners about what was happening. I aimed for quantity rather than quality. I had a limited knowledge of politics, so I didn't know who to speak to. I mostly just observed and Tweeted, hoping I was doing the assignment right. I felt inexperienced, rushed, and lost.

Half an hour passed and there was still no definite result. My Twitter feed was my preferred source of receiving information about the byelection. While checking and taking notes, something horrible happened. My phone was running out of battery.

This was entirely my fault of course. Knowing I would extensively use my phone for Tweeting, I should have charged my phone prior to heading for Triple B's. Not my best move.

Another part of the assignment was to call in to the college's radio station and report on what was happening. I didn't have much time before my phone completely died on me, so I messily jotted down some notes, secluded myself in the women's bathroom, and called Dan, the radio journalism instructor at RRC, who was managing the rants.

After reading my rant, I felt much better. I had completed my Tweeting and radio assignments.

Brian Pallister won the by-election. Bob Axworthy was in second place while Brandy Schmidt placed third. Donnie Benham was second last. And I think you know how Darrell Ackman did.

Moments later, my phone ran out of battery, and so did I.

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