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Feb. 5, 2016
A team of 13 Northwest Missouri State University students enrolled in a special topics course traveled Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 to cover the Iowa caucus.
Accompanied by three faculty members, the students divided into four teams to cover caucus events throughout the weekend, with stories posted to social media and Northwest Student Media outlets.
Adam Walker, a senior mass media major with a broadcast and production emphasis, said the course provided him with valuable experience to help with his job prospects after graduation.
“This class was an opportunity to actually do things out in the field, and so I jumped for the chance,” Walker said. “The best moments for me on this trip would have to be when I was the correspondent on the floor during the caucus when the results were coming in.”
The trip, which was funded by a grant from Northwest’s Improvement for Teaching and Learning Committee, enabled students to interview 2016 presidential candidates, learn about the election and caucus process and network with the more than 1,600 credentialed media covering the caucuses.
Steven Chappell, an instructor of mass media who teaches the political journalism class, said he applied for the grant and created the special topics course to allow students from various majors to learn about the election process from a hands-on media perspective.
“Northwest’s administration has been very supportive of laboratory learning, and what better laboratory for students to learn than the actual real world,” Chappell said. “We were able to get full media credentials and access, and our students were able to experience the full caucus experience alongside reporters from across the globe, including CNN, Al Jazeera, Reuters and Fox News. You name it, we met them.”
Preston Kralicek, a junior mass media major with a broadcast production emphasis, said working beside the professionals was valuable to him.
“I really enjoyed getting to see how reporting is done firsthand,” Kralicek, a Kansas City, Missouri, native said. “Being able to watch other camera men and reporters work showed me what to do and what not to do.”
The trip included the first full field test of a new broadcast and production truck acquired by the School of Communication and Mass Media last spring. Will Murphy, the school’s engineer who helped outfit the truck, traveled with the students and oversaw those who worked in the truck.
Murphy said the truck was on display alongside media trucks from a number of professional media organizations, and was even the exact same model and type of truck used by NBC to cover the caucus. Several alumni stopped by to admire the truck and the students’ work.
“In a field crowded by production, microwave and satellite trucks adorned with names like NBC, CNN, FOX and others, Northwest Student Media stood out as the only production truck owned by a university or utilizing student talent,” Murphy said. “Throughout this international news event, our students were part of a select club of media professionals, many of whom swapped stories and traded tours of their mobile offices with our now-veteran road crew.”
Students in the class produced video packages that posted to the School of Communication and Mass Media’s YouTube channel, the KNWT Channel 8 News Facebook page, on the Northwest Missourian website and on Twitter with the hashtags #NWCaucus and #NWPolitics. During the caucus Monday night, students Jacob Wood and Kaitlin Brown did live call-ins with KXCV-KRNW, which aired three hours of coverage from NPR from 8-11 p.m.
The truck was particularly helpful with the live coverage and video production, because of its ability to tie into the 2016 Caucus Media Center at Capitol Square in downtown Des Moines.
“The truck was a self-contained newsroom in its own right, like the major networks, our truck was also tied into the infrastructure of the caucus headquarters itself, providing power as well as fiber optic communications, data and video feeds from all areas of the headquarters,” Murphy said.
For the students, the experience stretched beyond just doing journalism, but to the field of politics as well.
“I really wanted to become more familiar with the candidates because I knew who I wanted based on my political affiliation, but I also wanted to practice what I preach; which is to make an educated decision based on all the candidates and all of their stances,” said Brooke Fulbright, a Platte City, Missouri, native and senior mass media major with a multimedia journalism emphasis.
For Kaitlin Brown, a sophomore political science major from Carlisle, Iowa, who was the only non-mass media major in the class, the journalism portion of the class was a real eye-opener.
“Being a political science major with no prior experience in broadcasting and then attending a major news event like the Iowa Caucuses was eye-opening,” Brown said. “I learned the basics of camera work and audio, I learned how to interview candidates all while standing next to CBS and ABC, and I learned that the media does not always get the respect that they deserve.”
In addition to Chappell and Murphy, Phil Beskid, instructor of mass media, also assisted the students in Des Moines. The course will continue its work, covering politics this spring by reporting on the Missouri Primary March 15 and the local municipal elections April 5.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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