For much of the semester, School of Communication and Media students and faculty have devoted time, energy and creativity to the #FocusImmigration thunderclap – a multi-platform project that sheds new light on the pressing issue of immigration.
On April 10, the collaborative project culminated with a School colloquium featuring examples of student work and a two-hour News Lab telecast that was broadcast statewide.
“There were a lot of moving parts to this project and they all came together in a very exciting way. We were ambitious for our students and they delivered in a big way,” says Head of Journalism and Television/Digital Media Tara George.
She had conceived of the thunderclap as a way to involve students and faculty from throughout the School. “I thought it would be really interesting to harness the breadth of our resources and publish simultaneously around a hashtag so that we could try to create a viral campaign and have an impact,” she says.
Introducing the School colloquium – which featured representative, multi-media projects presented by an on-stage panel of students – George pronounced the thunderclap a resounding success.
According to School of Communication and Media professor and clinical specialist Mark Effron, the collaborative project included 32 print stories; 24 digital stories; more than 10 hours of WMSC #FocusImmigration programming; classroom content; and weekly editions of Montclair News Lab on Immigration; in addition to a #MyImmigrantStoryIs booth where members of the campus community could share their immigration stories. The award-winning Montclarion published a 32-page special edition the next day.
School of Communication and Media Director Keith Strudler also acknowledged the achievement and unique opportunity this project offered to students. “#FocusImmigration touched all platforms of the School – from news production and film to journalism, public relations and social media,” he says. “This is a real-world experience for our students, who will need to be able to work like this when they graduate.”
To culminate the semester-long project, Montclair News Lab went on air at 4 pm with a two-hour telecast featuring live and taped immigration-themed programming.
Broadcast statewide, it included a live discussion with George and guests, including an immigration lawyer, a journalist who covers immigration issues, and the head of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Toward the end of the broadcast, students who had been monitoring social media were thrilled to tweet, “We just found out #FocusImmigration is TRENDING WORLDWIDE!!!” According to George, the thunderclap’s experimental viral social media campaign was one of the project’s most exciting successes.
Earlier in the day, at the student colloquium session, a student asked George if #FocusImmigration would continue next year. “It’s on you students to decide whether you’ll want to continue the discussion on immigration or take the focus elsewhere,” George responded.
It was clear that for many students involved, this topic resonated deeply. For Adrienne Bauldock, a senior and newsroom stage manager whose mother is an immigrant from Grenada, the thunderclap was personally meaningful. “It’s made an impact and spread awareness on a campus where so many of us are immigrants ourselves or related to immigrants,” she says.