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Students Cover 2012 Election Battleground

By Celeste Gossmann

JMC students fanned out in considerable force to cover national, state, and regional elections in 2012. Fifty student reporters, editors and producers, as well as students in the Reporting Public Affairs and Newswriting courses, followed candidates and issues, chronicled campaigns and covered President Obama's September visit to Kent State. They reported, edited, blogged and aggregated news coverage. In the process, they demonstrated the importance of teamwork, technology and tenacity.

The Campaign Trail

Reporters for TV2, KentWired.com, and the Daily Kent Stater (DKS) covered 2012 races from August through election night, focusing prominently on candidate appearances in Ohio. Their efforts emphasized the importance of the School's converged newsroom and the synergies between student media outlets. Significant campaign stories, like the Presidential debates, were initially covered by TV2 and DKS but would receive more expansive coverage on Kent.Wired. "For bigger stories, like Obama's visit to Kent and election night itself, we had a special presence on the homepage," said lecturer and student media adviser Sue Zake.

Election night provided significant reporting opportunities for student journalists. "We sent six people – three to Chicago and three to Boston to cover each campaign. In Chicago and Boston, we had a TV reporter, newspaper reporter, and photographer. We also had four reporters in Columbus to cover the statewide elections and issues. Most schools don't have the capacity to provide the depth of coverage that we did," Zake said. "We worked hard to make sure that we had in-depth coverage of issues as well as candidates, because sometimes election coverage ends up looking like a horse race."

The campaign coverage provided relevant experience for students. "Our students learned to think on their feet and solve problems in real time. When they left the confines of KSU to cover the campaigns, they had to act independently – just as they would on the job. Our students were resourceful in dealing with complications of campaign logistics and deadline pressure," Zake said.

The POTUS, Live

President Barack Obama's visit to Kent State in late September for a campaign rally provided student journalists with reporting and broadcasting challenges that required speed, skill, technology and significant collaboration. "There was good collaborative coverage between the Stater, KentWired and TV2 all the way around, so when content had to be posted quickly because the event was live, it happened," Zake said.

Graduate broadcasting student Jasen Sokol co-anchored live coverage of the event, broadcast on both TV2 and online at KentWired. "The President's visit taught us how to do a live broadcast in a situation with a lot of unknowns. We didn't know exactly when the President was going to arrive, and we didn't really know what he was going to say. That's not an experience that you can get at a lot of schools, and it sets Kent State apart," Sokol said.

JMC alumni who followed the coverage of President Obama's visit were impressed with the quality of work produced by the student media. "I've covered and managed coverage of more presidential visits than I can remember, dating to my days at Kent State," said Kristen DelGuzzi, '98, senior editor/government and politics for the Arizona Republic. "I watched the coverage of Obama's visit to campus and was so impressed with the depth, breadth and professionalism of the coverage at KentWired.com. Every time a colleague stopped by my desk on the day of Obama's visit to Kent, I pointed to KentWired.com on my screen. They all assumed it was the Plain Dealer. I wish you could have seen their faces when I said, 'Nope, that's my college paper!'"