Post Election Reflections – Conference in Review

One week ago today voters cast their ballots in one of the liveliest and contentious elections in memory. The effects of the tidal wave that swept the Democrats from power in the House of Representatives and narrowed their majority in the Senate are just beginning to be felt.

Three days after the election, college journalists from across the country gathered for the collegiate journalism conference “Post Election Reflections: Covering the Campaign of 2010, sponsored by the Institute on Political Journalism. For aspiring journalists and political junkies the conference offered up a good dose of analysis, anecdotes, reflection and contemplation about the future. Over 46 colleges and universities were represented at the conference.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT

Journalists’ fresh off the campaign trail took a breather and joined the conference, regaling the students with tales from the campaign trail. There was plenty fodder for discussion. Talk about a crazy campaign season! The Tea Party, Christine O’Donnell’s witch ad, and Rand Paul and “Aqua Buddha” were emblematic of a topsy turvy campaign that would make a great Hollywood movie script. Reporters from shops like POLITICO, REUTERS TV, and CQ-Roll Call, gave first hand accounts of the challenges of covering the campaign.

IPJ Alumnae, Jessica Taylor of POLITICO, who tracked the House races for the last 10 months, talked about winners and losers and about highlights from the most competitive races.

Dr. Kim Meltzer (IPJ ‘96) of Georgetown University examined how television coverage of the candidates influences voters’ perceptions and decision making. Dr. Mark Grabowski (IPJ ‘97) from Adelphi University moderated a panel on how to get that first journalism job after college.

Jen Rae Hein, the communications director for Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, has worked on campaigns and works with the press daily. She gave tips on how young journalists should interact with politicians and their staff. 

National Politics Editor for POLITICO, Charles Mahtesian, was the featured keynote speaker at dinner on Friday night. Mahtesian’s passion for politics and journalism came through loud and clear during what one participant called “the best talk on journalism and politics that she’d ever heard.

 BACK TO BASICS

It’s often said that going back to the fundamentals is a good exercise and helps keep things in perspective. With this in mind, IPJ Director Joe Starrs decided to wrap up the conference by asking the students this basic question: What is the role of a journalist? The students broke up into small groups and discussed the question. Each group chose a spokesman, who gave a brief summation of their discussions. Waiting in the wings and listening to the students was Richard Benedetto, a 40 year veteran of the Washington Press Corp, who covered the White House and Presidential campaigns for USA Today.

 Benedetto addressed the students and said that a journalist’s job is to provide information. Journalists do this by going places where other people can’t or won’t go and telling their readers or viewers what they saw and heard. Benedetto said a journalist doesn’t offer his or her opinion, put simply states the facts as accurately and honestly as possible.

For a full schedule of conference events, please visit www.DCinternships.org//IPJConf.

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