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The Hilltop


SOC Classrooms Turn Into Newsrooms For 2016 Presidential Election

By: Deja Lakin, Contributing Writer
Posted 11:50 AM EST, Mon., Dec. 5, 2016

To college students, November 8 was just a regular Tuesday of classes. But with the added anticipation of who would be named the next president of the United States, Election Day was one of the busiest days for students in the Cathy Hughes School Of Communications.

With cameras, laptops and reporter notebooks in tow, more than 100 students from the Cathy Hughes School of Communication scattered out to eight different polling locations to cover the progress and process of the presidential election. Classrooms were converted into newsrooms as news packages and articles highlighted the controversial race.

News coverage ranged from voter turnout, voter demographics amongst women and millennials, difficulty accessing absentee voting ballots, the tone of the election and much more.  Professors and students alike made sure all issues would be covered.

“It was a good experience,” said sophomore Chloe Chery, who recently transferred into the School of Communications. “It was good being in a political environment, but it definitely made me realize I [don’t like] politics.”

While thorough content was heavily emphasized, meeting deadlines were stressed just as heavy. Students were given publishing deadlines of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Find the nearest access to wi-fi, type your article, send it before deadline and then come back,” said Dr. Fredric Kendrick, assistant professor in the Department of Media, Journalism & Film as he instructed those writing articles for the Howard University News Service.

I definitely felt the pressures when it came to deadlines. I feel like I was rushed and could have made my packages a lot better, but it also forced me to decide which information was the most important for my stories,” said senior journalism major Brittany Burton.

This year was a transition year for Kendrick, who was named this year’s election project director for SOC. He recalls the 2008 election to be the first time the journalism department collaborated as a whole to cover the elections.

“In the past we had people do content and had people post it on our website and had it get printed in The Hilltop. It was [due to] Professor Ron Harris’ direction that the Howard University News Service was involved [and] was a wire service to get that news out. He was instrumental in the process,” said Kendrick.

Articles, videos and photos by students were published on Howard University News Service and were also printed in the Hilltop’s 12th issue, which was available the following Thursday.

Kendrick not only credits the framework laid by Harris, but also the help of his colleagues. Faculty members supervised students who were in their courses as well as their area of expertise. Students were allowed to sign up for different assignments though a Google Doc that was sent out by the faculty of the journalism department.

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“It’s wonderful to have a group of students who were excited to work with the elections,” said Ingrid Sturgis, an associate professor for the Department of Media, Journalism and Film.

Sturgis was one of the professors who assisted with the digital media aspect of the coverage. One of the projects within the journalism department’s coverage she was happy about was Electionland.

Electionland is a website which has a focus on investigative journalism. As mentioned on it’s website, it’s purpose was to track and cover voting problems in real-time during the 2016 election. Schools and media outlets from across the country collaborated on the project. Howard University was the only Historically Black College and University to be involved.

Even though the election coverage has been successful and beneficial for both staff and students, improvement is not out of the question.

“I hope to see more collaboration with media professionals and even other departments in the School of Communications,” said Sturgis.

Kendrick expressed that there is more than enough room for the project to grow.

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“I say this to my class, and I said this to my colleagues: We are Howard University. And our program is not on the same level as everybody else. We are unmatched and to continue to be unmatched, we have to continue to push ourselves.”


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