Faces of the election: The voice

Faces of the election: The voice

CHAMPAIGN -- In 1962, Otto Kerner Jr. was governor, John F. Kennedy was president and Dave Shaul was reporting the election results for residents of East Central Illinois.

Today, Pat Quinn is governor, Barack Obama is president and Shaul is still doing his thing.

For parts of six decades, area residents have turned to the 72-year-old Shaul as the most trusted name in broadcast election reporting. They'll do so again Tuesday night, when Shaul will take to the WDWS-AM radio airwaves to sort out and break down every result in his trademark baritone voice.

"I was always glad that people would think of me in connection with the elections," he said.

Some perspective: 1962 was also the year that Walter Cronkite succeeded Douglas Edwards as anchorman of the "CBS Evening News." Cronkite stayed for 19 years, delivering his last newscast on March 6, 1981.

Thirty-three years later, Shaul is still going strong.

Best known as the anchor of the "WCIA News at Midday," he was a mainstay of the station's news team, reporting on primaries and general elections through 1999, when he took his talents down Neil Street.

Shaul was the face of broadcast election results long before computers were available to assist with producing voting totals.

"At Channel 3, Paul Davis and I started out using adding machines from our accounting department to add up the totals," he said. "We didn't use computers until the development of the PLATO computers at the university, many years later.

"That was quite a change."

As an on-air announcer, Shaul does extensive preparation to familiarize himself with the various races and the pronunciations of candidates' names.

"I used to go over things quite a bit in the days prior to an election so I wouldn't need to use as many notes on election night," he said.

His most memorable election? Has to be the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

"Dave Gentry and I were announcing it on the radio throughout the night and the next morning, and we didn't have a result until several weeks later," he said.

Shaul has never felt pressure to be the first media member to declare a winner, which cost many anchors credibility points in 2000.

"On the statewide races, we just quote it if the Associated Press calls a race," he said. "I have never been involved in calling races."

All in all, his election night duties have become easier over time. No more having to scribble vote totals on pieces of paper to serve as on-air "graphics." And no more having to wait until 1 or 2 in the morning before calling it a night.

"Now we usually wrap things up by midnight," he said.

Interacting with the candidates hasn't changed much over time, Shaul says. But the back-and-forth between their campaigns sure has.

"I think the biggest change has been the emphasis we have seen in recent years with attack ads on television commercials," he said. "Now we are seeing the attack ads show up more in the lower races."

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