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posted: 1/23/2014 9:56 AM

Pass the chips and get ready for the Big Day

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And so we embark on a brief interlude of hype, swagger and ridicule leading to a crescendo of cheers and excitement.

Super Bowl fever? Sure. That, too. But the description also applies to what newspaper people sometimes think of as "our Super Bowl" -- Election Night.

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The comparison is not inapt. For, the resources and intensity we apply to election coverage certainly qualify it as one of the most prominent and demanding events we cover all year. But there are meaningful differences.

For one thing, we have two election cycles most years, not just one championship contest. For another, whereas practically the entire nation attaches itself to every aspect of the ultimate football game, from the love interests of the star players to the commercials sprinkled throughout the evening, comparatively few people will make it to the polls on Election Day. We'll be lucky, in fact, if that body reaches 20 percent of eligible voters for the March 18 primary.

One could also argue that the political commercials aren't as good, either, but that's a less consequential distinction.

No, the key difference of significance is that, aside from perhaps a little money won or lost on the side, the outcome on Feb. 2 will have almost no impact on anyone's daily life except a player's. By contrast, the outcome on March 18 -- building up to the outcome next November -- will have broad and direct consequences for every citizen, whether he or she watches or not.

For that reason, we approach election coverage with a special seriousness and sense of responsibility. We may not be able to engage every citizen, but we want to be sure to infuse those who do get involved with a depth of information about all the candidates participating and a source of passion for the candidates they come to support.

That process certainly involves a well-organized plan of story development and issues coverage. But it also extends to other, often direct, connections with readers.

One such is reflected in our endorsements, which we'll begin publishing in mid to late February after a period of in-depth research and face-to-face meetings with nearly every candidate.

Another involves events like the Republican governors candidate forum the Daily Herald sponsored last week in conjunction with our Business Ledger publication and our television broadcast media partner ABC7 Chicago. That program attracted nearly 300 election-minded suburban residents, and, we hope, shot a jolt of excitement into a race -- that for the highest office in the state -- that will shape the outlook of Illinois and the suburbs for years to come.

Elections in general and primaries in particular may not attract the widespread, almost-universal attention of a major sporting event, and that's a source of endless hand-wringing among those of us inside and outside of newspapers who fret over the future of government. (And, if you're interested in talking more about it, it will be the subject of a program on primaries I'm conducting for the Palatine Area League of Women Voters tonight at 7 p.m. at the Palatine Police Headquarters.) But for those who do pay attention, who do get excited about the prospects of advancing issues they believe important to the quality of life in their community, state and nation, election season is a period of high drama.

We aim to give them at least as much to be excited about as we do the temporary fans of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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