Classes are canceled Tuesday for journalism students at Howard University, but not so they can vote.
Scores of broadcast, print, public relations and advertising majors will spread out across Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland to cover the election and deliver it to viewers locally and nationally on the Internet, by broadcast and in newspapers.
Students will be going to polling locations, congressional offices, college campuses, viewing parties and neighborhoods to interview residents, take photos and provide up-to-the-minute reports on the contest between Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain for the White House.
Sophomore broadcast journalism major Rodney Hawkins will be going to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) office in Baltimore, to monitor what his staff will be doing to help his constituents during the election.
Its very important that we as students get involved in this election because of the history that is being made, Hawkins said. The experience that each student will get doing this will only happen once in our tenure at Howard.
Sophomore broadcast journalism major Candice Smith will be broadcasting from Dunbar High School in Northwest D.C. I think that using students to do regular news coverage is innovative for our department and university, Smith said. It will also be greatly beneficial to students in their future endeavors to be journalists.
There will also be a number of students who will remain on Howards campus to help organize the masses of information that will be submitted throughout the day from the reporters and photographers that are at different sites.
Their jobs will be just as important as those who leave campus, according to adjunct Prof. Ron Harris, director of convergence for the effort. Some students will create packages solely about first time voters, Harris said. Other students will be responsible for organizing packages on older voters for example.
Yanick Rice Lamb, a journalism professor, said there are many different aspects to this project. According to Lamb, some students will be working with Final Cut Pro software, uploading stories, finding links, posting blogs and multimedia database reporting,
We will function as any other working news organization to cover this election, Lamb said. Everything that everyone does will be important.
Not only is this a historical election, but students will be receiving first-hand experience in their professions.
As time goes on, people will continue to see changes in the journalism world, Lamb said. This project will utilize media convergence in every aspect and help our students use the right media to tell the story.
There are also some students who have returned home to vote. They will be doing coverage from their hometowns.
Sophomore public relations major Victoria Thomas is from Chicago. She will be attending the invite-only viewing party with Obama and his family in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. I am so excited to have the chance to do this because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Thomas said. I will be taking pictures and interviewing many people and hopefully I will get a chance to speak with Senator Obama himself.
Every professor in the journalism department is responsible for editing students work and students will be assigned to a specific editor who will help them throughout the day with their assignments.
In order to be effective, students will have to call their editors at least every 20 minutes, Harris said. They will have to file their work early and often.
This election project is the vision of Phillip Dixon, chairman of te Department of Journalism, Lamb, Harris, Ingrid Sturgis and Peggy Lewis, all professors in the journalism department. The professors spent several weeks to plan the historic project. Many of the professors involved in this project said that it is going to be very beneficial for their students.
This is probably the most historic election in a lifetime, said Lewis, director of broadcast for the project. Who wouldnt want to cover it?