Students tell voters’ stories through Democracy in Action project

November 5, 2012

Several hundred students from across the country will participate

To tell voters’ stories on Election Day, several hundred journalism students across the country will share their coverage through a special project coordinated by three professors at the Newhouse School.

This is the third election for the project, called Democracy in Action (DIA), for Newhouse student-reporters. It’s the first time the project is featuring coverage from other parts of the country with students from other journalism schools. 

“A presidential election – and such a close one – is the perfect time to capture glimpses of what’s happening on Election Day in many communities,” says Charlotte Grimes, the Knight Chair in Political Reporting at the Newhouse School and one of the co-directors of the project. “We wanted to share the democratic experience locally and across America.” 

The project is also practical, says Chris Tuohey, who coordinates the broadcast part of the multimedia coverage. “Democracy in Action is so much more than an academic exercise. It's the real deal from top to bottom. The work the students produce could end up on multiple professional platforms, thanks to our partners.  I can't think of a better way to prepare students for the real world."

Social media will also play a large part in the coverage, says Christy Perry, the web and social media coordinator for Democracy in Action. “We’re all sharing information and getting a good look at races in different states. We’ll also be capturing Election Day on different social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Scribble Live.”

Follow DIA’s Central New York coverage on Twitter using the hashtag #diacny.

The election is Nov. 6.

The other coverage will come from journalism students at 10 other schools: The Greenlee School of Iowa State University, the Grady College at the University of Georgia, the Nicholson School at the University of Central Florida, the School of Communication at the University of Miami, the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University, the William Allen White School of University of Kansas, the E.W. Scripps School at Ohio University and the journalism departments of Kent State University, Washington and Lee University and Columbia College Chicago.  

At the Newhouse School, about 120 students from nine classes will visit more than 60 polling places, starting at 5 a.m., to talk to voters, poll workers and candidates. Their multimedia work will be at www.dia-cny.com/electionday as well as Syracuse.com, WRVO radio, WAER radio and Z89 radio. 

At the University of Miami in Florida, more than 100 multimedia student-reporters, 15 photographers and more than a dozen faculty members and professional editors are working on Election Day coverage, says Joe Treaster, the Knight Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication and the project coordinator. The students’ work will be shared from a special section of The Miami Planet.org, the online newspaper of the University of Miami’s School of Communication.

At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, 10 students from a TV reporting class will produce a daytime show on Election Day with additional web coverage throughout the day, says Steve Collins, one of the professors in the project. The TV coverage at http://knightlynews.cos.ucf.edu will be supplemented by 15 students in Collins’ news reporting class, who will interview voters at polling places around the Orlando area. 

At the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., stories for Athelect 2012 are being generated by nine graduate students, each of whom has been assigned a precinct on election day. The students have also been doing stories that “can empower citizens to understand what's at stake and how to participate,” says Patricia Thomas, the project coordinator and Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism. Thomas and co-director Joe Dennis have also partnered with the local Athens Patch website to carry some of the students’ work. 

At Iowa State University in Ames, about 30 students in a public affairs reporting course and a photojournalism class are collaborating to produce multimedia coverage at http://diaiowastateu.weebly.com. The students also worked on designing the special website, says Jane Fritsch, co-director with Dennis Chamberlin, of the Democracy in Action coverage at the Greenlee School. 

At Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., more than 30 students and up to 10 faculty and staff will participate in election night coverage by The Rockbridge Report, the student-produced multimedia news operation of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications. That coverage will include a dozen local, state and national contests; three live broadcasts; constantly updated Web results and continuous Twitter feeds from late in the afternoon until the races are decided, says Brian Richardson, one of the professors coordinating the coverage.     

At Arizona State University in Phoenix, undergraduate and graduate students of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism will focus on election coverage through the school’s converged newsroom. The stories will be on Cronkite News Service website, according to its executive multimedia producer, Lily Ciric Hoffmann. 

At the William Allen White School of University of Kansas in Lawrence, a dozen students and recent graduates working on the PoliticalFiber project will provide live blogging, photos and video coverage of student voters and other election-related happenings. “Once the vote is in, we’ll provide local results for Lawrence and Kansas and tell our readers what the outcome means to issues that most impact young adults,” says project coordinator Pam Fine, the Knight Chair in News, Leadership and Community.  

At the E.W. Scripps School at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, WOUB Public Media will be carrying election coverage at http://woub.org/election-2012. It serves more than 30 counties in Southeast Ohio and West Virginia. On election night, about 50 students and staff will report results from 20 local counties and Ohio and West Virginia statewide races, says electronic journalism professor Mary Rogus. 

At Kent State University in Kent Ohio, more than 100 students will cover Election Day in this swing state of Ohio as candidates make their final pitches, says Barbara Hipsman, one of the professors overseeing the coverage. The students’ work will be at Kentwired.com and feature coverage ranging from the student TV station to curated stories by the beginning newswriting class. 

At Columbia College Chicago, students in "Covering Politics" will be reporting on fiercely fought Illinois congressional races and the election night rally for President Barack Obama at McCormick Place. The students' multimedia stories will be on ChicagoTalks.org, a hyper-local news website run by the journalism department. "This is terrific real-life experience on a major news story," says Nancy Day, department chair and instructor for the political reporting course.

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