This November marked a milestone in my journalism career. It was my first opportunity to cover a presidential election, hopefully the first of many.
Although Nov. 2 now feels like a distant memory, I recently happened upon an article from Stanford University about how their students covered the event. The university set up a real time “command center” that processed election data as it streamed in and turned around stories as news broke.
The article, by Max McClure, explains that many members of the university’s journalism program were there, from undergrads in the introductory class to grad students. Groups of students were assigned issues to cover, starting their work weeks before Election Day.
The articles were published in the Peninsula Press, the graduate journalism program’s news website, throughout the evening. The student work competed with big names like the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle.
I was lucky enough to cover the election in Mansfield, Conn. for The Daily Campus and to report the election results to the Associated Press, but many UConn journalism students were not given those opportunities.
The idea of creating a functioning newsroom in the journalism department is brilliant. It gives students who were not hired by other publications the chance to see what election reporting is like. Working under the time constraint and pressure of an election is hard to fathom unless you have lived through it.
It requires a certain style of journalism that is invaluable today. Students learn how to prepare stories in advance and plug in the facts as they come. They learn how a newsroom operates during breaking news. And they learn how to cover an election.
In the future, I think journalism programs should look to Stanford’s model and try to emulate it. The value for students would be enormous and the work they would churn out would be useful to the community.