Election Day 2020 Kathy Kiely 14 December 2020 Americas, Asia As members of the Electoral College gather in state capitols around the country to complete an close out an election filled with rancor, we thought you might want to look at our political process through the eyes of someone who is not the least bit jaded about our political process. Every year, students from around the world come to study at the Missouri School of Journalism. This year, one of them, Zephyrus Li, wanted to see how reporters in this country cover the election. You can watch mini-documentary he made about his very long day — beginning before the polls opened and ending long after they closed. Fellow student Tommy Corbett interviewed Li about the process, why he gave himself the assignment and what he learned from it. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. ZL: My name is Zuofei Li… People also can call me Zephyrus or Zeph. Zephyrus is kind of my English name and Zuofei is my, like, my real name — my Chinese name. TC: Do you want to talk a little bit about where you’re from in China? ZL: Yeah, sure. I come from Beijing, China … this is my second year and also my third semester in the Mizzou and then the next spring will be my final semester here in Mizzou. TC: Do you want to talk then about maybe some of the other newsrooms that you work with at Mizzou? ZL I spent the most part of my time in the Missourian, but I also did some, like, coverage for the KOMU8 and as well as the KBIA news. But, actually, I started working in the Columbia Missourian since this May when I enrolled a class called the staff photo journalism. Actually — that course, actually, was not my core course that I have to take, but since it was the summer and I don’t have anywhere else I can go, so, I just said “why don’t I just enroll in a class?” … And I would say that’s kind of the chance that I get involved into photojournalism as well as the more visual things that I’m really, really interested in. TC: Can you talk a little bit about, kind of, your process with how you filmed the micro-doc? ZL: So, at 4 a.m. on Election Day, I just drive – drove to [Missourian photographer] Owen’s home – Owen’s apartment – and shoot the whole – shoot the whole process when he did, like, prepare for this, and as well as head to the polling sites to do the morning coverage – the photo coverage — about the polling sites like the Mizzou arena — the biggest polling sites in in Columbia, locally. And yeah, I did that from 4 a.m. to like around 5 a.m. to 8 or 9 a.m. And that’s — that was my first part. And after that, I came back to the newsroom and ingested the stories — ingested the footage I had — and take a short nap, and head to the the Columbia — the Boone County Government Center — so that’s my first half-day. Yeah. TC: What would you say was the most memorable part of that day for you? ZL: Well, for the most memorable part, I would say maybe on the election night after like or 8 p.m. at the moment, and all the reporters are in the newsroom and with the CNN broadcasting the national election coverage as well as the reporters that could talk about the local election, and editors that were with us, Mark Horvit, as well as Scott Swafford with us, and we try to figure out, like, the – the process of the local election, like some local candidates, as well as the state governor, I remember. And several of the reporters were assigned to the, like, their headquarters to get the speech, the things from the candidates; from the candidates Parson as well as the candidate Galloway. Yeah. And I just, I think is, like, memorable since actually, that was the kind of the things about Election Day I imagined before. Like, every reporters gathered together, watch the election coverage — as well as the data coverage at the same time — and to —to see that like, the moment that the United States got like a — a new or like, yeah — got a, like, a new president. So that’s kind of the things in my — I can imagine, and then I finally saw that. TC: Yeah, so that kind of leads into my next question, which would be like, how did this experience like, personally impact you? Like, what did it teach you being like, upfront and personal with a US election? ZL: So, I mean, since I came from China, so we, actually, don’t have this kind of election. Technically, we have an election, but it’s more like a rubber stamp, it’s not like a real election. So when I was in China, I —I watched the cover — I watched the coverage — watched the presidential election at the 2012, as well as the 2016, and I thought, “Wow! That — that was really impressive.” I won’t say is it good or bad, but it was really impressive and I truly want to be part of that. I may not have a chance to vote, personally, but, I mean, like covering the vote, covering the election, could be — will be a really important thing for me. So especially to see this democracy goes on, which is — doesn’t — goes on pretty well, but it still keeps working and the whole process I think is really, really impressive to me. TC: do you have anything else you want to add or that I didn’t ask about? ZL: Yeah. I just think it’s a – it’s a really great process and it’s really impressive to me and yeah. And just as I said, like, since I’m an international student and the U.S. and China’s relationship is not quite well right now, so this could be my first and last chance to cover the election. So I value this pretty much, and I gotta — I gotta tell you, I learned a lot of things from this. Especially, like, just like, maybe just some basic things like how the process going, like people’s passion about voting and people’s passion about the — about, like, the — Yeah, just the people passionate about voting, especially in Missouri. Especially, like, in Columbia. Since some people I interview that they actually are like a Democratic voter — they vote for the Democrats — but you know, the Missouri is really, pretty, like a red state, which is hard to change, but I still can see, like, see their passion to, like, to — to give their votes and to speak like this: “These things matter” and matters to them really, really well and that, I was — I was really impressed. TC: Oh, that’s nice. I — I hope that you get to stick around Zeph. I really enjoyed working with you, man.