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Gathering News and Beating Deadlines At The Democratic National Convention

Nineteen USC Journalism Students Help National, Local News Outlets Cover the Convention Across All Media

Jeffrey SholarIt was Sunday afternoon, two days before the opening of the Democratic National Convention, and University of South Carolina journalism graduate student Jeffrey Sholar had a problem.

As an intern for the Charlotte Observer, Sholar had been assigned to shoot video of the so-called March on Wall Street South, one of the largest protest rallies of the week.

Sholar set up his camera on the sidewalk, but he quickly realized his vantage point would not capture the intensity of the moment. He turned to a police officer and pleaded his case.

To Sholar’s surprise, the friendly officer waved the student journalist past the security lines and allowed him to take his camera into the middle of the rally.

“It was great to get up close, to show the scene from the point of view of those in the march,” said Sholar. “I got some shots that I was really proud of.”

Girls at ConventionSholar is spending convention week shooting and editing video for the Observer website. He is one of 19 USC journalism students helping cover the convention as part of an internship program developed by the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Some students are gathering information and video to help the Associated Press broaden its reporting for newspaper, broadcast and online news clients around the world. Others are working on CNN’s live production team inside the Time Warner Cable Arena. And still others are reporting, editing — and tweeting — for local and regional news outlets.

All are taking advantage of the Charlotte convention to get hands-on experience covering a major story. Dean Charles Bierbauer says it should help the young journalists make the transition from student to professional.

“These are students nearing the end of their college careers. Their professional careers can be given an early boost by what they report, what they experience and whom they meet in Charlotte,” Bierbauer said.

USC student Jamie Hicks understands what Bierbauer means.

After First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech Tuesday night, Hicks raced between delegations on the convention floor gathering comments for her employer, the Associated Press. With an AP photographer in tow, she conducted interviews with delegates and fed details back to AP editors for use in the wire service’s main convention stories.

“I did not feel like an intern at all,” Hicks said. “I felt like I was a regular AP reporter working the convention floor.”

Back at the Charlotte Observer, editors assigned USC student Rachel Dean to cover a rally at Johnson C. Smith University that featured U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. The event was designed to pump up enthusiasm among those young voters who came out so strongly for President Obama four years ago. Would they vote in such large numbers this year? Dean tried to find out.

Dean’s classmate, Meagean Dugger, won plaudits from her editor at the Observer with a story she discovered in the Louisiana delegation. Hurricane Isaac destroyed one delegate’s home last week. Despite that setback, the woman was determined to take her seat at the Charlotte convention. Dugger reported that the woman’s fellow delegates held a fundraiser to help her and other victims of the storm.

Social media is a big part of the students’ convention experience as well.

At CNN’s HLN network, USC student Paulia Hughes is working side-by-side with anchor Kyra Phillips and tweeting throughout the day to update readers about events in the convention hall.

Paula Hughes at DNCNearby, at CNN en Espanol, USC student Daniela Jaimes works with anchor Patricia Janiot to deliver updates to the Spanish-speaking audience. And a few blocks away, Teagan Hance and Ali O’Hara contribute to another 24-hour news operation, Time Warner Cable’s News 14 Carolina, which is covering the convention for viewers in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington.

Katie Geer spent part of her summer researching a controversial new measure that allows the city of Charlotte to tighten restrictions on protests by declaring the convention “an extraordinary event.” As an intern working for Raycom’s Charlotte and Columbia television stations, Geer will be following the many rallies and protests across the city this week. She says she is watching closely to see how the new measure is implemented and whether it will face challenges in court.

Kahn Singleton and Megan Warner are working for National Journal, one of Washington’s most prestigious news outlets. The magazine of politics and policy is a must-read for political professionals.

Singleton and Warner are splitting their time in Charlotte between National Journal’s newsroom in the convention center and a public event space three blocks away.

The students are helping gather material for the Journal’s daily website and weekly magazine, and they are contributing to a series of public briefings presented by the Journal and its sister publication, The Atlantic.

On Monday, for example, the two students helped coordinate a roundtable discussion on the impact of social media that brought together representatives from Twitter, Facebook and the Obama re-election campaign.

Across Charlotte, USC students are working on the front lines to bring the story to the public. They are combining the best of old and new journalism: They are digging deep to find good stories and fresh angles, and they are presenting them across all media platforms – on television, online, in print and on mobile devices.

They are working 14-hour days and getting little sleep. But after the convention’s first full day, Hicks seemed to capture the attitude of the USC students: “I can’t wait to get back to work.”

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