In the works since the beginning of the fall semester, the School of Communication and Media’s live midterm election coverage was a monumental undertaking involving more than 100 students, numerous faculty members and media properties, the NJ News Commons, TV34 Montclair, and noted guest commentators and experts. It went off without a hitch, with coverage that was streamed live online and broadcast on TV34 Montclair, as well as simulcast on campus radio station 90.3 WMSC FM.
While the School has covered elections in the past, this was its most ambitious – and successful – undertaking yet, according to Mark Effron, School of Communication and Media clinical specialist. “We did more remotes, had more guests coming into our studios and made more use of social media,” he explains. “Students did everything – they were executive producers, researchers, anchors, reporters, camera people, stage managers, directors and audio technicians. They were out in the field covering things working for three-and-a-half hours on live TV, without teleprompters. They took responsibility and ran with it. I’m proud of all of them and of what they accomplished,” he says.
The event gave students a first-hand opportunity to be involved with and feel a part of the historic midterm elections. “I think it’s so important that young people connect to politics right now,” said guest expert and celebrated journalist, best-selling author, and television producer Jonathan Alter in an on-air interview with retired professor Marc Rosenweig. “So much of the world they’re growing up in is at stake this election night.”
Senor Communication and Media Arts major Katherine Braunstein was one of the evening’s co-anchors. While she was nervous at first, because she had never been an anchor before, she also had to get up to speed on politics. “I just wrote lots of papers about politics and the candidates within the New Jersey districts, and watched videos my professors would send me,” she recalls.
“It was an incredible experience,” Braunstein says. “I was pleased to create a great product with the team. We worked together and I was really happy with what we did in the end.”
As broadcast executive producer – and one of three executive producers – on election night, senior Television and Digital Media major Melissa Cheeseman determined which upcoming segments to broadcast in order to provide the best coverage of incoming stories.
“The broadcast itself was my favorite part. Everything was hectic and the energy was high, but being able to work alongside the talent and crew, who made this a success, was an amazing experience,” she says. “Watching all of the pieces come together gave me a huge sense of accomplishment.”
On election night, NJ News Commons, the flagship project of the School of Communication and Media’s Center for Cooperative Media, partnered with NJ Spotlight and TV34 Montclair, as well as campus media properties Wired Jersey, WMSC 90.3 FM, Carpe Diem and The Montclarion to provide complete coverage. During the course of the live broadcast, members of the NJ News Commons team populated NJ Spotlight’s live statewide election results map.
“One of the best things to come out of these kinds of events, in my opinion, is the opportunity for students and professional journalists to work alongside each other on something as important as a national election. And when you do it live, it adds to the sense of urgency and importance,” says Center for Cooperative Media Associate Director Joe Amditis. “This collaborative project gave student journalists hands-on experience doing things that they will undoubtedly encounter in their professional lives.”
School of Communication and Media Clinical Specialist Vernard Gantt says that his project title was “Grand Poobah.” In this role, he helped select three student executive producers and briefed them on their rules. “I worked with them in the control room keeping the show moving and on track,” he says. “I answered questions, held hands, calmed nerves and pushed for success.”
Ultimately, Gantt was delighted with this success. “I’m pleased with how they handled the things that failed, that zigged instead of zagged and the mistakes that were made,” he says. “They dealt with them, didn’t freeze, or allow them to derail the show. That pleased me more than anything else.”
Effron, as well, gives the students high marks. “Our students always manage to go beyond. They took charge – and it was wonderful.”
To watch the coverage, visit: https://montclairnewslab.tv/archives/2018/11/226/