Newhouse students cover Election Day from polling places across the U.S.

Nearly 100 Newhouse students filed voter-focused Election Day stories from polling places in Onondaga County and across the country for Democracy in Action.

Students Domenica Orellana and Sam Harasimowicz anchor the 9:10 update on Nov. 3, 2020.

Newhouse journalism and photography students spent Election Day at polling place covering voters’ stories for the Democracy in Action (DIA) project.

The idea behind DIA is to take the focus off of the candidates and the campaigns and put it on the voters and their reasons for voting, says DIA co-director and chair of the broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) department, Chis Tuohey.

“Elections are a huge part of journalism,” says Tuohey. “What makes it even more challenging and exciting is that there will be surprises along the way.”

On a normal class day, students pitch stories in advance and have ample preparation time. But on Election Day, the only things students know ahead of time are which polling place they’re going to and what time to be there.

“It forces them to be assertive, creative and resourceful as reporters,” says Tuohey. “In many cases they are scared to death that they may not come up with a story. [Most] of the time, they do.”

A long line of voters waiting to get inside their polling place.
Voters wait in line in North Syracuse. (Amanda Albert)

Isabel Tabs, a senior BDJ student, had a rough start at her polling place, Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse.

“Some people in the polling site complained when they saw [a] camera and were very verbally aggressive with me, telling me I needed to leave the site,” she says.

Despite this, Tabs was able to control the situation and successfully finish her story, thanks to assistant teaching professor Jim Osman. A former Washington bureau chief for Media General, Osman prepared his students with responses to possible complications they might run into at polling places.

“I find it my obligation to tell students what they may encounter based on my 25 years of experience covering elections,” says Osman. “Talking about it in class and doing it are two totally different things.”

“I stood my ground and told them the rules and highly emphasized the fact that I would not be filming anyone’s ballot,” says Tabs. “Besides this hurdle, I had a very educational and rewarding experience.”

In a typical year, the almost 100 students participating in DIA would cover Onondaga county and tell stories local to Syracuse. This year, because some students are studying remotely, stories came in from all over the country.

Morgan Tucker, a junior in newspaper and online journalism, covered her local polling place in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. Like Tabs, Tucker was told that she was not allowed to be at the polls. She called adjunct instructor Megan Craig, who told Tucker she had the right to be there as long as she stood 100 feet away from the polling station.

“I went back in and told them, and they responded well,” says Tucker. “My story ended up being pretty wholesome and inspiring because all of the workers were really passionate in their responses. I felt good submitting the story and was proud of myself for turning around the story so fast.”

Craig sees the value of a project like DIA as twofold. “Students gain invaluable insights into life as an on-the-beat reporter, and the community is given the gift of 100 extra reporters telling their stories on what’s sure to be a historic day,” says Craig. “I [was] particularly excited for students to find those small human interest stories that perfectly encapsulate the importance of the day and the importance of voting.”

For Tucker, the best part of the experience was being taken seriously as a reporter by those at the polls, she says.

“It was cool to have people treat me like a real reporter rather than a student,” says Tucker. “I am more confident than I was about approaching strangers, fighting for my First Amendment rights and turning around a story in a day.”

A woman and her two daughters smile and show off their "I voted" sticker.
Katelyn Kriesel and her daughters on election day in Manlius, New York. (Victoria Radis)

“It is critical for student journalists to take part in Democracy in Action so they know how to cover elections and our democracy when they enter the professional world,” says Osman. “There is nothing more important in the work we do as journalists. We owe viewers the best coverage that is unbiased and informative.”

Students posted stories on the Democracy in Action website at dia-cny.syr.edu. In addition, several of the student stories were published at Syracuse.com.

Adrianne Morales is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Students cover Election Day as part of Democracy in Action project

Newhouse students will spend Election Day reporting live from polling places as part of the Democracy in Action (DIA) project, now in its 11th year.

Students in the broadcast and digital journalism; magazine, news and digital journalism; and photography programs will file stories on the DIA website and provide voter-focused election news, reporting on the human element of the election—from polling place workers to first-time voters.

Students will cover Election Day activities in Onondaga County as well as counties across the U.S., with contributions from students who are studying remotely this semester. The website will include a section titled “Beyond CNY,” featuring stories from locations such as Florida and California.

Reporters will head out early Tuesday morning and provide live election reporting throughout the day.

What makes Election Day stories different from the typical reporting work Newhouse students do is that when the students go out into the field, they have no idea what their stories are going to be about, says broadcast and digital journalism chair Chris Tuohey.

“Usually, we stress the importance of preparation,” says Tuohey. “In DIA, the students only know what polling place they are going to and what time they are going there. In many cases they are scared to death they may not come up with a story. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time, they do.”

Follow the students’ Election Day reporting by visiting dia-cny.syr.edu Nov. 3, and follow on Twitter at @DemocracyAction and #nhdia.

Adrianne Morales is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Sports Media and Communications Track

The Sports Media and Communications track is a specialized series of courses for graduate students interested in sports media.

The Newhouse School is the proud alma mater of many of the top people in all areas of sports media. To foster the school’s strength in sports communications, we developed the Sports Media and Communications Track (SMC), a specialized track for graduate students in broadcast and digital journalism; magazine, news and digital journalism; and television, radio and film.

Requirements:

As a graduate student in SMC, you complete the required coursework for your degree plus additional required and elective classes in sports communications. These include:

Your SMC classroom experiences will be enhanced by numerous speakers and guest lectures from leaders in sports communications, on-campus opportunities with Syracuse Athletics, ACC Network, CitrusTV, the Daily Orange and several radio stations as well alumni connections and career opportunities.

If you want to be part of the Sports Media and Communications Track, indicate your interest on your application for admission to the master’s program.

Olivia Stomski oversees the SMC and is director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center.

Newhouse alumna changes the way Black stories are covered in one of the most segregated cities in America

Madison Carter ’16 focuses her news coverage on communities that often go overlooked by the media

“In every job I’ve had in this industry, I came in as the only Black woman in the building,” says Madison Carter ’16, graduate of Newhouse’s broadcast and digital journalism program, and anchor and investigative reporter for Buffalo’s WKBW-TV. “It’s lonely, and it’s isolating, and honestly it makes you feel crazy at times.”

Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in America, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study. Carter says she wants to “show the community, all of the community,” to her viewers.

When the Black Lives Matter protests happened in Buffalo this summer, Carter was vocal about how her station covered the story. She knew that if she didn’t speak up about how Black stories were covered in predominantly white markets, there would be no change.

“I would say more than 70% of the coverage out there, I was disappointed with. Because it wasn’t about explaining to viewers why we’re seeing what we’re seeing,” she says. “A lot of people were out there talking about what they could see, while I as a Black woman was speaking about what I know.”

Madison Carter
Madison Carter ’16

From the start of her career, Carter’s focus has been on telling stories about Black communities and other communities of color.

“What drew me to journalism, after I truly understood what the job was, was the ability to tell stories that sometimes go untold or overlooked,” says Carter. “You just don’t see people of color on TV.”

Carter says that making the shift to include Black stories and perspectives in Buffalo’s news coverage was hard at first.

“I think the challenge was getting news managers to understand that they’re trying their hardest, but they’re not doing enough. They just don’t know enough. They were not informed enough, educated enough,” she says. “It takes an open-minded boss, and you don’t find many of those in this industry. Luckily, my boss was.”

Carter has been outspoken in her newsroom about diversifying the media to properly represent the community it is serving.

“It’s not that you have to put the Black reporter on the Black story,” says Carter. “You should have enough reporters who are educated enough about communities with people that don’t look like them or cultures they didn’t come from.”

Carter had identified the problem but still needed to find a solution; most newsrooms simply don’t have enough staff to properly cover all parts of the community, she says. She decided that if she was going to raise the concern to her boss, she would also have to come with resources and solutions, so she spoke to her managers and co-workers about switching the narrative behind the coverage, and she saw a shift.

“We’ve got to do better than this. You’ve got to leave your newsroom. You’ve got to go into communities with Latino people, with Black people, with Asian people,” she says. Asking questions and seeking experts about topics reporters don’t know anything about is the correct way to educate viewers.

She also knew that if her viewers didn’t care about racism because they felt unaffected by it, she would have to find ways to show them how racism hurts the whole community.

“I have to find a way to convince someone who’s not Black that this matters to them, or that this has an effect on their life.”

One way to do that is by going for their pockets, she says.

“Racism is not free,” says Carter. “It’s showing taxpayers like, ‘You pay this person’s salary who discriminated against all these Black men and women. So if you support racism, keep on paying him.’”

Another method is “quietly normalizing” Black stories, she says. “I want to tell stories about Black people, without them being Black stories exclusive to the Black community. I want to normalize [getting] an expert on childhood trauma [who is] a Black woman with natural hair. So, you just find that normal.”

Subtly but effectively changing the way Buffalo consumes news is how Black stories will make their way into the mainstream media. It’s what Carter calls “infiltrating the system.”

Carter is thankful for her professors at Newhouse for pushing her and her classmates to go outside the Syracuse University bubble and discover the community’s stories. She says it’s important for rising reporters to remember that the community where they live and work is not necessarily the community that they serve.

“[My professors] were educated, and they knew, and they said, ‘Hey, we’re sitting on this private school, this big hill, and this is not Syracuse for real. Like, if you leave here, this community is divided by an interstate,’” she says. “Newhouse prepared me to leave my newsroom, leave the hill, and go out into the community and understand it.”

Adrianne Morales is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Careers

If you see yourself as a non-fiction storyteller with a passion to educate and engage an audience with words, sound and visuals, there’s a career in broadcast and digital journalism for you.

Newhouse alumni work in newsrooms across the world as anchors, multimedia journalists, meteorologists, producers, on-air reporters and more.

Here are what some recent broadcast and digital journalism graduates are doing now:

Colleen Callander ’18

Production Assistant
MSNBC

J.P. Chunga ’16

Digital Media Manager
Utah Jazz

Meghan Mistry ’17

Associate Producer
CBS This Morning

Elizabeth Hinson G’14

Associate Producer
CBS News

Curriculum

Between our hands-on, experiential classes and your internships with local and network news outlets, you’ll be working as a journalist from the start of your studies.

You will be coached to write news that is clear, concise and compelling. You will research and report. You will produce and anchor newscasts. You will navigate the digital news world using mobile devices and social media. Additionally, you will study today’s most critical journalism issues and ethical dilemmas. After completing our curriculum, you will be well-equipped to work in a multimedia, multi-platform news world.

Some courses you’ll take as part of your broadcast and digital journalism degree:

BDJ 311

Broadcast and Digital News Writing

Basic style and construction of broadcast and digital news stories. Composing and writing radio, television, and web news stories under deadline pressure. Techniques of broadcast interviewing and information gathering.

BDJ 364

Radio and Digital Audio News Reporting

Gather, produce and report news in the radio and digital audio medium, including field experiences and newscast production in laboratories. Students will be required to analyze political stories, environmental issues, and other issues facing communities.

VIS 261

Videography for Broadcast Journalism

Teaches foundational principles and skills of videography and broadcast journalism.

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action is an Election Day project run by student journalists in the Newhouse School. The 2020 election marks DIA’s 11th year of telling voters’ stories.

On Election Day, students fan out to polling places all over Onondaga County, starting from when polls open and continuing throughout the day. Rather than focusing on specific races and results, the stories feature the voters and topics like why they vote, why this election is important in their communities, what they are teaching their children about voting and why voting truly is “Democracy In Action.”

Students on assignment represent multiple journalism programs at the Newhouse School, including graduate and undergraduate students in Broadcast and Digital Journalism; Magazine, News and Digital Journalism; and Visual Communications.

Project participants aim to produce a rich collection of stories using text, audio, video and still photography. We hope you enjoy everything you see, read and hear!  Let us know @DemocracyAction or #nhdia on Twitter.

NCC News

NCC News is the Newhouse School’s multimedia website where student reporters cover daily news in Central New York.

Featuring video, audio and print stories produced from a series of broadcast and digital journalism classes, NCC News is a full-service, student-run news source covering breaking news, politics, sports, weather, health and consumer news in Central New York.

Washington Capstone

Real-world professional standards. Real-world deadlines. Real-world stories that need to be told. All in our nation’s capital.

Robin Deehan G’15 reporting live in Washington D.C.

The Washington semester of the Newhouse broadcast and digital journalism graduate program is where students take all the journalistic skills they have learned during the past year and put them to the test in the news capital of the world.

BDJ master’s students are required to spend the last six weeks of their graduate program in Washington, D.C. During this capstone experience, you apply the hands-on and academic lessons you’ve learned from your previous semesters on the Syracuse campus at another level.

The majority of the class covers Capitol Hill and the federal government as reporters for television stations in markets as varied as Austin, Erie, Waco, Shreveport, Fort Wayne and Joplin. As a credentialed member of the Washington press corps, you will develop, research, shoot, report and edit your own stories, which then air on your assigned station’s newscasts.

Students interested in producing work with a variety of organizations. In previous years, we have placed students with CBS Newspath; WTTG-TV, the FOX station in Washington; Agence France Presse; NBC News; The Situation Room at CNN; and the Cox News Washington Bureau.

We have longtime partners in Washington radio news and sports including WTOP News Radio and WAMU, the NPR station.

A number of our students have used their skills across media platforms in our D.C. program, working in outlets such as USA TODAY. The capstone program is supported by faculty who bring to their teaching decades of experience covering Washington for local and network news operations. Students also benefit from the twice-weekly Speakers Series, in which journalists and Washington insiders share their observations about their profession and the unique challenges of making sense of Washington and those who work there.

Curriculum

Our curriculum—short, intense, exciting.

The broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) master’s program has a 40-credit curriculum that begins the week after the July Fourth holiday and ends in August of the following year.

During that time, you’ll launch yourself into our summer Boot Camp, which will immerse you in the experience of working in a real newsroom. During the year, you’ll go into the field to produce packages and report live, develop your skills in writing for the ear, and finish with a capstone experience reporting in Washington D.C.

Advertising Master’s Program Program Schedule

Summer Session II – 6 credits (July)

BDJ 611Writing for Broadcast and Digital News3 credits
BDJ 663News Reporting I3 credits

Internship – 1 credit

Students are required to complete a one-credit internship in either the fall or spring of their program. The internship credit can also be completed over winter break. If you choose this option the internship will be done over break but the credit will be listed as part of the spring semester.

Fall Semester – 11 credits

BDJ 510Topics in Specialized Practice1 credit
BDJ 664News Reporting II3 credits
COM 647
or
COM 698
Applied Media Research
or
Media Law
3 credits
Elective3 credits

Spring Semester – 12 credits

BDJ 636Critical and Historical Perspectives on Broadcast Journalism3 credits
ADV 612News Reporting III3 credits
COM 647 or
COM 698
Applied Media Research
or
Media Law
3 credits
Elective3 credits

Summer Session I – 6 credits

BDJ 665News Producing and Presenting6 credits

Summer Session II – 6 credits

BDJ 675Washington Professional Experience6 credits