SMG: Where’s our damn pizza? Why sports media hates election night

Election Night is one of the best nights to be a journalist. The thrill of news breaking all night. The adrenaline rush of chasing down breaking news as it’s happening, of reporting things the moment you confirm them. The knowledge that you are reporting on something that is important to your readers’ lives and, on occasion, is truly historic. The camaraderie of working late and working together common goal.

Election Night is awesome.

Unless you work in the sports department.

We in the sports department generally hate Election Night. We roll our eyes at the cityside reporters who talk about working late into the night, who have to deal with fast-breaking news, taking results over the phone, juggling numbers, getting quotes and writing fast stories on tight deadlines.

And we hate the pizza.

We hate the fact that citysiders working late get food provided for them. Election Night Pizza is a bonafide thing, it’s part of the allure of working the night for citysiders, and it’s the thing we in sports hate the most.

We hate it because the work citysiders do on Election Night is the same work we in sports do every … damn … night. Working late into the night, having to deal with fast-breaking news, taking results over the phone, juggling numbers, getting quotes and writing fast stories on tight deadlines. We do this literally every night.

And we never got pizza. We never had food provided for us in the newsroom. We never celebrated or bragged about the food provided for us. We did our jobs. Every night. Without pizza.

It’s petty.

It’s totally and completely petty. It’s awful. It makes us look jealous and small. It’s not a good look for sports journalists. It reeks of insecurity.

It’s totally and completely hypocritical, too. Sports reporters have food available for them in press rooms at games, from high school to the pro level – something that never happens at a city council meeting (to be fair, reporters at pro sports pay for their food). So to complain about the one night that citysiders get food is a bit self-righteous on our part.

It’s not an attitude to be proud of, but it comes from a real place. When you work in sports, you’re always reminded that you work in the Toy Department. That what you do isn’t Real Journalism. That the news desk serves as the Fourth Estate and the Public Watchdog, safeguarding democracy and providing a voice for the voiceless while you are doing fluffy stories about meaningless games, are too close to the people you cover, never write critical words and aren’t doing serious work. There’s always a bit of underlying tension between sports and news journalists at the same paper.

I feel like this attitude may be changing slightly. Digital news had made everyone – sports and news – write and update news live on a constant online deadline. One of the journalists I interviewed for my dissertation pointed out that sports used to be its own little island in the newsroom, and that digital news has forced sports to become part of the newsroom. Likewise, the constant demands of online news have citysiders doing a lot more live-deadline writing than they did 5-10 years ago.

But there’s still this feeling that when you work in sports, your work is fundamentally of disrespected by your news colleagues.

Election Night Pizza is symbolic of this attitude. Seeing your cityside colleagues rewarded and celebrating the work you do every night is annoying.

It’s petty. Terribly petty. But it’s how sports feels on Election Night.