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Westminster College Broadcast Communications Students Cover Election Day

Friday, November 16, 2012

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Eleven Westminster College "Broadcast and Digital Journalism" students worked on election day as digital video journalism stringers for the online version of the New Castle News.

As stringers, or freelance journalists, the students were assigned in teams to cover various polling precincts in Lawrence County and to feed video interviews and coverage to New Castle News Online throughout the day. Students will be able to add the material to their portfolios and resume.

"I thought all the students did a terrific job in persevering to get their interviews. As we've all seen and heard over the past several months, the presidential election can be a volatile and emotional subject for voters on both sides of the aisle," said Tim Kolodziej, New Castle News editor.  "The interviews were thoughtful and very enlightening. Kudos to Brad Weaver and his students for producing a compelling Election Day package."

"This experience helped me tremendously as a professional," said Liam Halferty, a senior broadcast communications major. "I think covering a large-scale type of event like an election trumps covering on-campus or smaller, local stories. It builds a bridge from news on a local level to national. To have our work published on a professional website also gives us ‘real world' exposure to people outside of our college and the usual viewing audience."

"It helped me to realize how much I do enjoy the reporting aspect of journalism," said Casey McDonald, a senior public relations major. "It was actually enjoyable to go out and talk to people, hearing what they had to say. Other than giving us solid experience of actually doing this type of thing, I feel that it helped contribute to what I consider my career goals to be."

The "Broadcast and Digital Journalism" course builds on the fundamentals of broadcast and electronic news writing from previous courses including practical, ethical and legal considerations. Students learn and advance their skills in news gathering, interviewing, writing, producing, reporting and presenting content on Titan Radio, WCN and wcn247.com. The course engages study and exploration by students in all aspects of the newsroom operations including the convergence of the broadcast side of the newsroom to the online product.

Brad Weaver, communication studies lecturer and instructor of the course, often incorporates outside projects and experiences into course curriculum. In the Spring semester "Broadcast Journalism II" course students shot, wrote and edited stories for WCN, Titan Radio and wcn247.com. They also completed projects with New Castle News.

"This kind of experience can go straight on their resumes and perhaps it will open the door to future opportunities," Weaver said. "It's experience that you can't duplicate in the classroom."

Beyond journalistic practice, the experience of covering the elections taught the students perseverance and problem solving skills for out in the field.

Halferty said, "The first person at the polls I approached about an interview shut me down before I could even finish my question. Being rejected or shut down never feels good, but you have to roll with the punches. You can't take it personally. You have to work with what you gather and you can't look back. From here on out I can go out with confidence and know that not everyone will want to talk to us, but there certainly will be people willing to help if I am persistent enough to find them."

"We had a few people who agreed to be interviewed, but wouldn't answer some of the questions," said Joshua Dunn, a junior broadcast communications major. "Some people did not want to tell us who they voted for, as they saw it as a personal matter. Although I don't quite understand why they would agree to be interviewed, I respect their decisions. In a situation like that, I need to find some other questions to ask in order to get something useful out of the interview."

Contact Brad Weaver, course instructor, at (724) 946-7238 or email for additional information.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 377 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

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Students Kendall Hunter and Jarred Treshok cover the election at the St. Lutheran Church precinct in New Castle.