Executives at NJTV hoped reaction to its Election Day coverage was nothing like the criticism the young station faced in its reporting on Hurricane Irene and its decision to air cartoons instead of a live broadcast when Gov. Chris Christie announced he wouldn’t run for president in 2012.
“It’s possible to do what we can do with a smaller amount of people than what we’ve done in the past, with a reasonable budget attached to it and with quality people,” said station general manager John Servidio. “I thought things went better than I expected. We really only had three weeks to put this entire night’s coverage together.”
NJTV took over operation of public television in the state after Christie ended support for New Jersey Network, which aired its last broadcast in June.
NJTV used several studios and remote production locations to cover the event, bringing its most recognizable faces on for analysis on election night. Television veterans Steve Adubato, Rafael Pi Roman and Michael Aron joined “NJ Today” anchor Mike Schneider, for the evening.
“In terms of depth and experience, in terms of knowing people in the state, knowing the issues inside and out, knowing the smaller issues that I think affect the larger issues … the commentators we had and the anchors we had … did an extraordinary job,” Servidio said.
Sponsoring the election coverage was Integrity Health, which contributed $25,000 to the station’s budget, in addition to support from “NJ Today” sponsors New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. and Verizon. Servidio said the network used funds from the “NJ Today” budget to cover some of the election costs, since coverage was spread over two programs.
“We went into this with the mindset that we wanted to come out with the best show we could, regardless of cost, to a large extent,” he said. “This was never a question of how much money we had to do this.”
NJTV also updated its website to accommodate election coverage, which Servidio said is the basis for going forward with multi-platform news coverage. He also said the social media interaction with viewers Tuesday night was strong, and vital to continuing the network’s growth.
At least one outspoken critic of public television’s outsourcing said he saw an improvement in the broadcast.
“The sense I get is from the standard they had been delivering, that it was an improvement; weighed against what we’re used to, it probably still is struggling,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-West Deptford), who said he didn’t see the full coverage because of his own Election Day schedule.