One huge student benefit to media taking over their campus for the Presidential Debate this week: The media outlets are letting students get a peek at what it's like to be a working journalist.
This morning, three CNN social media mavens sat in Greenspun Hall auditorium, remembering how the media dubbed 2008 “The Social Election” for President Obama’s skillful use of social media in his campaign.
“That seems so antiquated now,” Samantha Barry, CNN senior director of social news, mused in her rolling, Irish lilt.
Barry came to CNN from the BBC two years ago to act as the head of the network’s social newsgathering and dissemination operation, and together with Vanessa Yurkevich, digital correspondent, and Chris Moody, politics senior digital correspondent, spoke to a collection of journalism professor John Castagnino’s students on the day of the debate.
Around 40 students came out to hear what the pros had to say, covering issues from the most effective use of social media as a platform for disseminating journalism to what the life of a social journalist was like.
It was a rare opportunity for UNLV students to hear from people operating at the highest levels of their profession — and it was only available because of the debate.
“It's not every day CNN comes up,” Castagnino said. “I've been in media a long time, but they want to hear from people in the industry. A lot of students feel like ‘Hey, I can do that. I don't need to go to college. I can go out there and get the job right away.’ They need more of this.”
Of particular interest to students was how journalists handle questions of bias. On that Barry asked how often students saw news in their feeds that didn’t already confirm their worldview. Almost none did. That’s because, she said, social networks’ algorithms prioritize content a user has already liked or engaged with — intensifying the echo chamber effect.
It’s a concept Castagnino says he already tries to bring into class, though it can be a tough row to hoe.
“How do you break that barrier, especially when students are so opinionated one way or the other?” he asked. “They should be open-minded. Everybody should be open minded, but you're talking about an election that's so polarizing, how do we come and see in the middle? The thing I always stress to my students is that your job is to say here's the facts, you make your own decision. We can't stress that enough. You're just presenting what's out there. You're not presenting what you feel.”
In addition to the many opportunities by all the media outlets to be source interviews, students are working as interns all around campus. The C-SPAN Campaign 2016 Bus started its coverage days ago by stopping at several area high schools and the Rotary Club before parking at the UNLV Student Union.
C-SPAN, along with Campaign 2016 Bus sponsor Cox Communications, worked with the Commission on Presidential Debates to provide students from area high schools with a special tour of the debate hall. For coverage of the debate itself, C-SPAN worked to get three UNLV students media credentials:
- Nadia Basich, a journalism student
- Robin Peters, a political science major
- Savannah Stallworth, a business and entrepreneur studies major
They’ve already begun sharing their unique perspectives on the activities taking place on their campus and will work the media spin room and campus watch events alongside professional journalists. Follow them with #cspanbts.