Five Newhouse School seniors were among 19 public relations students who took part in the third Challenge for Emerging Leaders, held Nov. 8-10 at Lubin House in New York City. The challenge, sponsored by The Plank Center for Leadership in…
Newhouse Student Journalists Participate in Democracy in Action Project
Student journalists at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications are about to get a real-life taste of election coverage by taking part in a project that will place them at the center of one of our most democratic processes.
As part of the Democracy in Action project, students will be fanning out to more than two dozen polling places around Onondaga County. They’ll be covering one of the basics of democracy. Namely, people going to the polls to vote. Their work will be published on the Democracy in Action (DIA) website, http://dia-cny.syr.edu/ and appear on NCC News, which is a service of the Broadcast and Digital Journalism students at Newhouse. This is the seventh year students have taken part in the project.
“These vignettes tell the story of our Democracy in Action,” says Simon Perez, assistant professor in the broadcast and digital journalism department. Perez, along with associate professors Aileen Gallagher and Chris Tuohey (the department chair), are helping to coordinate the election night efforts. “In years past they’ve found grandmothers who have voted for president in every election since Eisenhower and parents who bring along their children so the young ones can get a feel for what this is all about,” according to Perez. “Election Day is one of the most important events in every newsroom in the United States, and this project gives the students a feel for what a humming, buzzing professional newsroom is like”
As part of the project, students will be filing reports in real time, including text, video, audio and still imagery. This will also be the first year in which live streaming updates will be provided from the NCC news studios, which will also be available on the Democracy in Action website.
“Every year, Democracy in Action is a highlight for journalism students at the Newhouse School,” according to Gallagher. “They go into the community and talk to real people about the issues that matter to them. In an election year like this, it is more important than ever for students and our community to know that journalists help protect our democracy by informing the public and acting as witnesses to this most American act of choosing our leaders in a free and open way.”
“Anybody who has worked in the news media knows what a crazy day Election Day is,” says Tuohey. “Your staff and your technology are all pushed to the limit, but it’s a lot of fun. I think adding the live streaming from the studio with live shots from various polling places is going to help give the students the real life experience. Not everything will go perfect, but that’s all part of the learning experience.”
Perez believes the best part about the project is that it brings students from across Newhouse, including print, photo, magazine and broadcast, to practice their journalism skills.
“A sophomore radio student may work with an active duty military photography student capturing the pride a newly naturalized citizen might feel casting a ballot for the first time. Across different ages, classes and subjects, this project is truly a unified Newhouse journalism experience,” he says.
Students will be assigned to the various polling places throughout Onondaga County. Before they head out to the polls, students will meet with Onondaga County Board of Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny to discuss the ground rules for coverage. News media must follow election rules while inside polling places, such as not disturbing a person as they’re filling out their ballot.
For student journalists, it’s a real-life experience, as many of them will be working shoulder to shoulder with other media from the Syracuse market. Student-gathered material will also be made available to NPR stations, including WAER and WRVO. Reporters and photographers in the field will be responsible for getting their stories posted to the project website as quickly as possible. Anchors and producers executing live reports from the set throughout the day must make sure they have the most up-to-date returns.
“After they’ve graduated, if they find themselves in a newsroom on Election Day,” according to Perez, “they can all say, ‘I’ve done this.'”