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March 2016

From the Dean . . .

WE’VE BEEN ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The rallies, debates, town halls and door knocking have subsided in South Carolina.  But not before 32 student reporters for the Carolina News and Carolina Reporter captured the mood, methods and a bit of the madness of presidential campaigns.

CN/CR is our capstone course for senior journalism students.  It’s a working newsroom producing a daily newscast, online reports and stories for the state’s newspapers. 

Since the start of the semester, our students have been moving at campaign speed to report the Trump phenomenon, the Cruz-Rubio spat and the demise of the Bush dynasty in the Republican primary.  They’ve followed the door-to-door canvassing of Clinton and Sanders volunteers.  They’ve examined issues important to South Carolina’s black population, its conservative evangelicals and its gun owners. 

In my CNN days, I covered five presidential campaigns.  I might not have thought it possible then, but the process has gotten even more complex.  Social media are an integral part of campaigns and reporting.  Crowds seem more rowdy.  Everyone wants a selfie with the candidates.  (Sometimes we might, too.)

But our students are holding their own, wading into gaggles, plugging into mults, dogging the candidates and staffs for equal access.  Other SJMC students have helped out with the MSNBC and CNN broadcasts from Columbia.

I’m getting some vicarious enjoyment out of their efforts and results.  As part of our teaching team—with Rick Peterson, Harvie Nachlinger, Scott Farrand and Carolyn Click—it’s rewarding to see the daily reports.  I’ll confess, a few weeks overseeing the process in South Carolina beats months on the exhausting campaign trail. 

The candidates are gone now with both primaries over.  We won’t see them again this year, since South Carolina is a predictably red state in November.  When the 2020 cycle starts—and it won’t wait until 2020—new classes of Carolina News and Carolina Reporter will have this year’s cycle as a model.

I’ve taught a Media & Politics course in a variety of ways and places over nearly 20 years.  This is the first time in a newsroom setting.  Many of our journalism students have their career sights set on covering sports or entertainment.  I tell them what I discovered is that politics is a year-round, four-season, full contact, blood sport.  That’s how it’s practiced in South Carolina.          

One student told me the other day: “This is more fun than I’d expected.”

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Charles Bierbauer

You can find the students’ reports at http://www.datelinecarolina.org/

Carolina News is streamed and airs on USC’s campus cable Monday-Friday at 4 p.m.


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