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Covering the election for first-time voters | MI First Election

MI First Election 2016
Stacy Hoxsey
ComArtSci - MSU
(l-r) Amy Wagenaar, Eugene Wilson and Valerie Dorn

The School of Journalism (J-School) in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences will provide live news coverage of the 2016 presidential election through a combined effort called “MI First Election.”

Every four years, first-time voters head to the polls to cast their vote for the next president of the United States. In an effort to give a voice to these voters and inform them about election issues and events,  the School of Journalism (J-School) in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences will provide live news coverage of the 2016 presidential election through a combined effort called “MI First Election.”

The effort will join more than 250 students, faculty, and staff from the J-School to cover events, including working with WKAR Public Media to air news packages and live cut-ins. On election day, the group will make up the largest presidential election news team in the state, covering issues at state and local levels, as well as those facing first-time voters.

Live from ComArtSci

On election day, J-School students will head into the field with press passes and business cards, interviewing community members everywhere, including at polling stations and watch parties. Reporting back to the college in real-time, these journalists will have access to a state-of-the-art newsroom where they can share their election day multi-media stories to the MI First Election website.

In the newsroom, students will cover the election through blog posts, radio broadcasts, web videos, photos and social media posts. Students also will spend time producing live TV news shows such as the student-run Focal Point. In addition, the student news anchors will provide live updates during PBS NewsHour’s special coverage throughout the evening on WKAR TV in mid-Michigan.

Troy Hale, a faculty member in the J-School, was involved with MI First Election coverage in 2012, when the effort first launched, and is looking forward to this year’s iteration. “The students learn so much, and professors are having fun because students are excited about it. When students are that excited it reminds faculty about how cool it is to do what we do,” said Hale.

The presidential election has been the focus of many journalism classes in ComArtSci since the spring of 2016, providing inspiration to students learning writing, design, information graphics, illustrations, animation and broadcast reporting. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, students have posted their stories to the J-School’s website, covering the presidential race from debates to the polls.

Jason Ruff, a senior studying journalism, recently wrote an article on how social media’s use in elections has changed over the years. He said he looks forward to reporting on a presidential election for the first time.

“I think MI First Election is a good idea. It gives students the opportunity to cover a major historical event. Even for a sports broadcast guy like me, covering an election will be something special,” said Ruff. “I will be doing some on-air work, either in the field or in the newsroom. Hopefully it's the latter as I'm really looking forward to working in the new [newsroom] space.”

Watch real-time video of the newsroom action on the MI First Election website, where you can also read J-School multi-media stories and watch video news packages of presidential election coverage. Content will also be shared with Detroit Public Television and WKAR.

First time voter experiences from WKAR

MI First Election 2016
Credit Stacy Hoxsey / ComArtSci-MSU
(l-r) WKAR Producer Nicole Zaremba, Current State from WKAR Host Mark Bashore, MSU student Amy Wagenaar, MSU student Eugene Wilson, MSU student Valerie Dorn, WKAR Motion Graphics Artist/Editor Dan Wogan, NPR Morning Edition Host Brooke Allen and WKAR Radio Station Manager Peter Whorf.

Faculty in the School of Journalism and WKAR have also assembled a team of staff and students working to capture the experiences of two first-time voters - one young Democrat and one young Republican.

The team, including WKAR producer Nicole Zaremba and four J-School students, who are producers, editors and audio technicians, will follow a Democrat and MSU freshman, and a Republican and recent MSU graduate, as they head to the polls to vote for the first time. The WKAR team will bring to life the voting experiences of the two.

Valerie Dorn, a senior studying media & information and one of the producers of these two stories, said she has been responsible for overseeing the project from start to finish. She determined the subjects, conducted research, created call sheets, and envisioned what the finished product will look like.

“Being a producer is a lot of responsibility but I absolutely love it, and I had a great crew for this project so it made my experience that much better,” said Dorn. “We all had the opportunity to see how other young people our age formed their opinions and political stances on this election, and I think collectively we all found what they had to say really interesting.”

Zaremba said this experience gives students ownership of their position in a professional setting, giving them the knowledge, skills and insights needed to prepare for the future.

“I expect the same dedication from the students as I would from a professional freelance editor, shooter or producer. I want them to feel proud of their work and proud that their name will be on this project,” said Zaremba. “I hope they will be able to use this experience once they graduate, and that I've prepared them and given them the tools to succeed in the the fast-paced climate of television production. More importantly, if they have the passion and dedication, the skills can always be learned."

Watch for MI First Election updates just ahead of each hour throughout the PBS NewsHour special election night coverage on WKAR TV in mid-Michigan. The video shorts will also be posted to video.wkar.org and shared via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Don’t Miss the Action

Stop by the newsroom in ComArtSci on election day to catch the live coverage and even lend a hand. You can also head to the MI First Election website for live updates and follow along on social media with #MIFirstElection.

On WKAR TV in mid-Michigan, PBS NewsHour will provide special election coverage throughout the evening until the final election results are in. Hosted by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, WKAR's broadcast of PBS NewsHour coverage will also include MI First Election live updates from the ComArtSci Newsroom.

WKAR will also host special election coverage on 90.5 FM, starting at 5 a.m. with Morning Edition and Current State. Coverage for the evening begins at 4 p.m. with All Things Considered and will continue through the evening with Mark Bashore anchoring Michigan updates from the Current State and live cut-ins from The School of Journalism MI First Election reporting teams.

Support local journalism by becoming a new WKAR donor and get ad-free feeds of your favorite NPR podcasts with NPR+ when you donate $8/month or more! Make your contribution today to fund more vetted news reports throughout mid-Michigan!