Election Post-Mortem: Beta Test for “Newsroom of the Future”

Hofstra University j-student extraordinaire Kelly Glista wrote a post-mortem for CMM about her experience covering the final presidential debate and election night in real time with the team at Hofstra’s NewsHub, a convergence-tastic newsroom-classroom.  (Here’s a video about its unveiling.)  Three new media maxims emerged to me on first reading: Take the leap and learn as you go; work with what you’ve got; and be ready to go off-script.

 

A hot of the NewsHub multimedia newsroom-classroom at Hofstra University.

A shot of the NewsHub multimedia newsroom-classroom at Hofstra University.

 

By Kelly Glista, NewsHub

 

Being a print journalism major with very little experience on camera, my first reaction when asked to anchor the NewsHub coverage was something like, “Who, me?!” That initial coverage was planned for October 15th, the day of the final presidential debate, which was being held on our campus.

 

Looking back, in many ways we consider that day a beta test of the potential coverage for what our professor has dubbed “the newsroom of the future.” We were using entirely free online technology, working with journalism students of all experience levels and covering an event that had never before happened at the university. It was an opportunity we never could have considered passing up. I got to the newsroom at about 10 a.m. and 14 hours later when I left, I was able to say that we had produced live-streaming coverage of a presidential debate.

 

With that experience under our belts, the NewsHub crew began to look toward Election Day. We planned a very similar schedule: reporting and posting to the site all day with a live web-stream via Mogulus.com starting around 7 p.m. and ending whenever the election did.

 

We managed to post between 40 and 50 stories to Nassau News during the day. We wrote about local polling places, Election Day parties, campus events, voting machine problems, and basically anything we could get our hands on. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the manpower to get a lot of video coverage throughout the day so much of the Webcast was done completely live: no pre-planned script, no video packages.  A few Nassau News reporters came in throughout the night with video from other events, but at the end of the night we had only used about 25 minutes of prepared video in an approximately four-hour broadcast.

 

With me sitting in front of the camera and the Hub’s Cover it Live blogger Tim Robertson across from me, we pulled information from the other reporters in the room, the TVs behind me (tuned in to MSNBC, FOX, and CNN) and other Web sites to put into the live-blog, which I was then able to use as a “script.”

 

The downfall to this was, of course, when the information dried up and we stopped the broadcast for a few minutes to regroup, showing some of the prepped videos on the Mogulus cast over again. Not the best we could have had, but in reality our numbers dwindled toward the end of the night leaving one anchor, one live-blogger, and a few Nassau News reporters to gather content. But when the West Coast polls closed we announced the projected winner with the same certainty and timeliness as big media outlets across the country.

 

Overall, I considered the night a huge success for college media. When the newsroom was in full swing you could watch journalism students running across the room to fact-check, or shouting out results from TVs and computers. That we put together a Webcast of the presidential election using free Web sites and our school’s computers still baffles me at points, but I have never been more impressed with the passion of my classmates.  College media are real and Hofstra’s NewsHub is ready to be taken seriously.

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