BU Goes to the Conventions
Washington, D.C., Journalism Program students cover politics
When Alexa Dragoumis found out two weeks ago that she was going to cover this week’s Republican National Convention, she could hardly believe her luck.
“This one came out of left field,” says broadcast journalism major Dragoumis (COM’14, CAS’14). “I follow politics, and this is the biggest thing I’ve ever been able to go to.” The self-professed history buff has been immersing herself in research: reading books about presidential conventions and campaign coverage in newspapers and websites like Politico.
Dragoumis is one of six College of Communication students who are reporting live from the floor of the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa, Fla. Another team of six COM students will head to Charlotte, N.C., to cover the Democratic National Convention next week.
All 12 are currently enrolled in, or have recently completed, BU’s Study Abroad Washington, D.C., Journalism Program, which gives students an opportunity to spend a semester in the nation’s capital, working in the bureaus of national news organizations and reporting on the federal government for New England news outlets. The students covering this week’s convention, and next week’s, are writing for local New England newspapers and producing multimedia packages for news stations. Much of their work is being posted to the BU Washington News Service website.
For Dragounis, who worked last year as a reporter on the BUTV10 news program Inside Boston and this summer was an intern at Boston’s ABC affiliate WCVB working for the nightly news magazine Chronicle, the chance to cover a political convention is invaluable.
“Politics is a huge résumé-builder, because it’s one of the hardest things to report,” she notes. “You must get your facts right, and it is very hard to be nonpartisan when reporting.”
Denise Baer, resident director of the Washington program, agrees. “These conventions will give our students a very quick introduction to national politics and the opportunity to observe events as they happen,” she says. “Attending the conventions adds credibility to a reporter’s résumé.”
The conventions give tremendous insight into how the political parties are set up for the next few years, says longtime political scientist Baer. “The conventions are organizing events, and people who attend are looking for what positions they might attain in a new administration,” she says. “I think it will be interesting to see the jockeying for who will be the nominees in 2016. And the question of how do women fare in the two parties, with the Republicans’ so-called war on women.”
“You’re going to see another spike in the nastiness between the Republicans and Democrats,” predicts Lester Kretman, a former NBC News White House producer and senior faculty advisor for the Washington program’s broadcast journalism students. “Some talk will focus on jobs, some on women’s rights, and other issues involving the economy and former policy. But nastiness is eating away at the political system.”
The students’ trips to the conventions have been months in the planning. Baer had to secure press credentials back in January. Once the go-ahead came through, there was a flurry of activity, lining up newsmakers to come in and speak to the group and giving last-minute reading assignments.
The students have access to the convention floors and an opportunity to interview both politicians and delegates. Print journalism students are reporting and filing stories for New England newspapers such as the Worcester Telegram, the Cape Cod Standard, the Nashua Telegraph, Quincy’s Patriot Ledger, and the Portsmouth Herald. Broadcast journalism students are working with Lilly Broadcasting, which owns several ABC, CBS, and NBC stations throughout the Northeast and Midwest, shooting b-roll and recording sound bites for possible use in affiliate packages.
The recently redesigned Washington, D.C., Journalism Program has offices and classrooms near the Dupont Circle neighborhood and a new BU residence hall near the Woodley Park Zoo Metro stop. In addition to reporting, participating graduate and undergraduate students take a core course in political reporting. Joining Baer and Kretman at the helm is Lou Peck, the program’s newsroom editor and a veteran editor for National Journal’s Congress Daily.
Steven Graff (COM’13) is one of the four students traveling by Megabus from Washington to Charlotte to cover the Democratic National Convention, which runs from September 4 to 6. The broadcast journalism graduate student spent 14 years teaching English in the Los Angeles public school system before coming to BU and says he relishes the chance to report from a convention.
“I hope to attend a speech from the vice president, meet with the Massachusetts delegation and my home state delegates from California, and just watch the machinery at work,” Graff says. “I don’t consider myself experienced enough to approach it like a professional yet, so I will approach it like an apprentice, a reporter-in-training. I’m very grateful that they took the effort to give us this opportunity, and I plan to immerse myself in it.”
New Jersey native Dragoumis says her dream is to land an interview with her home state governor, Chris Christie, a rising star in the GOP, who has been selected to deliver the keynote address at the convention tonight. “That would be amazing,” she says. “I’m not sure he’ll have time to talk to any journalists not affiliated with a major news organization, but who says you can’t try?”1 Comments