In the field of journalism, no event is bigger than election night. While most Americans spent the past week watching the World Series or getting lost on Twitter, the CBS News all-star team hunkered down in windowless rooms to put months of preparation to the test.
“We’re ready for anything and everyone on CBS,” he says CBS morning Co-host Gayle King, one of several on-air reporters who rehearsed for hours in preparation for the big day. “It takes an army. I like to say we have a whole battalion – and so does the village. We pull out all the stops.”
King will be next door at the CBS News presenter’s desk in New York City on Tuesday night CBS Evening News‘Norah O’Donnell, Face the nation‘s Margaret Brennan and prime timeis John Dickerson. Chief White House Correspondent Nancy Cordes, Senior White House and Politics Correspondent Ed O’Keefe, and Chief Elections and Campaigns Correspondent Robert Costa will take turns occupying the fifth seat at the presenter’s desk.
“I think one of the things that sets CBS News’ reporting apart is that all of our anchors have a background in political reporting,” says O’Donnell, who has covered every election since 1996 and is the On- Air talent will guide through the show.
O’Donnell notes that hosts on the network’s various newscasts also “spend a lot of time in the field,” which gives them a better sense of how to conduct conversations when calling other dialing units in the New York and DC studios — and reporters from CBS’ 14 local stations across the country.
Since last week the CBS morning Times Square studio has been transformed into a true polling station. The green room is now a makeshift office space, with the famous swing attached to the ceiling; The morning show’s round table is detached and replaced by the broad, slab-shaped desk at which the presenters will sit; and new dynamic graphics float across the set’s wraparound screens.
At PEOPLE’s walk-through on Friday, the room was already full of rehearsals.
Vladimir Duthiers, correspondent and presenter of CBS news streaming network, will be breaking down exit polls throughout the night on set. He has spent two weeks rigorously preparing for the event, aided by a full team of analysts working in a dressing room nearby.
Duthiers has an advantage covering the election because he spends several hours each day on the air covering midterm news – “I can’t get in this cold” – but that doesn’t mean he plans to sit back and inspire it.
“I sat in a room with my producer and the exit poll team and talked about the issues they’re going to ask voters in exit polls,” Duthiers tells PEOPLE, “so I’ll understand that I’m the historical one Understanding the nature of these issues, the historical nature of how people have voted Democrat or Republican in the past, and then when it comes to specific candidates, understanding where they stand on that issue.”
CBS News’ exit poll data will not only give viewers an idea of how the races will swing, but also explain why voters made their choice. “If we understand the answers of the voters, we can get an idea,” says Duthiers. “And that gives us a glimpse into their hearts and minds.”
Amid widespread voter denial leaked from the 2020 presidential campaign, CBS News will open Tuesday night what it calls the Democracy Desk, which will be composed of Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues, Electoral Law Secretary David Becker and Congressional Correspondent Scott MacFarlane.
The three, also stationed at CBS News’ polling headquarters in New York City, will analyze conflicts at polling stations, government efforts to make vote counting more transparent and how the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots affected the outcome of Tuesday’s election .
A few yards from them is the Election Data Desk, where viewers can watch Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett, Executive Director Anthony Salvanto and the rest of the decision-making team as they tally numbers and call out races in live time.
“I think what sets us apart is our commitment to news and not noise,” says Brennan, who brings a wealth of knowledge to the table Face the nation interviews on the table. “We will provide clear, transparent and downward reporting and context. And we also have extensive data to shed light on what motivates voters.”
Brennan and Salvanto have been particularly interested in four demographics that they believe will play significant roles in election results: distressed parents, women committed to the Restoration Roe v. calfstaunch Trump supporters and childless voters under 30. Through focus groups and polls, they have a very good understanding of these groups and will use their discoveries when interpreting the results of election night.
Efforts to organize CBS News’ ambitious 2022 election broadcast began gaining momentum in January under the leadership of David Reiter, executive producer of special events, and Mary Hager, executive producer of Face the nation who serves as editor-in-chief for Tuesday’s show.
“I think the enthusiasm and the very serious, important challenge that we all face is to make sure that we can really make a difference with our reporting on election night,” says Hager. “We want viewers to really feel like they’ve learned something.”
Hager calls the planning mission for election night “tremendous, immense and unbelievable”. She and Reiter thought of all the possible storylines and election outcomes that needed to be prepared so that they could be slipped through the control room in the shortest possible time. Most of the packages the news team has been preparing for almost a year will never make it to the air.
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The entire CBS News team is poised to stay on the airwaves for as long as is necessary, and anticipates the broadcast will last until about 2 a.m. ET Wednesday morning.
“The last election, I actually slept here in the studio,” says King, adding that she wore the same dress on camera two days in a row. “I thought I could go home and change and bathe, but the way the election went last time we had no results. So I lay on the couch in the Green Room for maybe 20 minutes or so.”
Though she acknowledges that a 20-minute nap on the couch in full TV attire “doesn’t really sleep,” she pulled it off, and the adrenaline of updating the nation in real-time allowed her to pull through. That adrenaline is a common fuel source among staff, all of whom have said in one form or another that it makes late six-hour broadcasts like Tuesday’s possible.
“Election night is like my Super Bowl,” says O’Donnell. “Although it’s a lot of preparation, I’m enjoying every second of it.”
CBS News America Decides: Campaign ’22 The election night special begins streaming at 5:00 p.m. ET and will air on television from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET or later on some stations. Coverage will continue throughout the evening until 2am, live in all time zones.
Check your voter registration, locate your polling location and create a voting plan at vote.org to ensure your voice is heard this election season.