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Making the midterms

Three TCNJ alumni working at NBC during the midterm elections.
Bryan Doane, Jodi Maloney, and Stephanie Shen.

As election results scrolled across screens during the November midterms, millions of Americans tuned into NBC’s around-the-clock news coverage. Behind the scenes, Bryan Doane ’22, Jodi Maloney ’22, Kathleen Patterson ’22, and Stephanie Shen ’22 were part of the NBC family’s graphic operations unit, responsible for creating the visuals that accompanied on-air talent as they analyzed races, examined straw polls, and underscored high-profile topics. 

Here, they share some of the things they learned from the historic night.

How did you prepare leading up to election night?

Kathleen Patterson: We used test data to practice building the correct graphics as quickly as possible and to identify any aesthetic or data processing errors.
Bryan Doane: Most days were spent training on the graphics systems until we were assigned our specific roles. We also ran drills with different directors and talent to make sure we were familiar with everything.
Jodi Maloney: We also spent time building a list of graphics the producer and director wanted to be played in the playback program.
Stephanie Shen: This was to familiarize ourselves with the software as much as possible and prepare us for any scenarios that could arise throughout the night.

Three TCNJ alumni who work at NBC at an alumni networking event.
Kathleen Patterson, Stephanie Shen, and Jodi Maloney

What were your roles when things went live?

BD: I was operating from 4 p.m. on election night until 6 a.m. the following morning, and then again later that day for MSNBC’s election special at night. My graphics were typically shown at the top of the hour or after commercial breaks to show the senate composition or races to watch.
JM: I was on the “NBC News Now Special Coverage” pre-show, which was from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on election night.
SS: I built 116 midterm graphics in real-time for “NBC News,” “TODAY,” and “Nightly News.”
KP: I worked daytime coverage throughout the week of the election and then the week after.

Were they any surprises that made you act on the fly?

JM: NBC projected a winner in Kentucky after first announcing it was too early to call. As soon as we heard the news, my partner and I quickly built a graphic and within a minute put it on air. It was nerve-wracking but exciting!

Anything you’ll remember that will stick with you?

SS: It was really cool to see Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie talk about a graphic I made. I have a distinct memory of building it on the fly. The item had the poll results about the amendment on reproductive rights for four different states and was aired a few seconds after it was created. I was like, “Whoa! I just did that!”
BD: I never got tired of seeing the camera fly past Steve Kornacki into the virtual scene behind him and knowing that my team and I were responsible for the correct timing and camera movements that followed.

How did your time at TCNJ help you prepare for the moment?

SS: First of all, Professor Matt Lawrence is the reason Jodi, Bryan, and I had this job in the first place.
BD: Helping to film WTSR Underground’s livestream was probably the experience that best prepared me for the fast-paced world of television.
JM: Lions TV allowed me to gain experience in a studio and control room. It was cool to be able to walk into NBC and be familiar with a lot of the equipment.
KP: My humanities and social sciences backgrounds were invaluable. I was trained to think critically, be detail-oriented, and check my work.

David Pavlak