The second Inauguration Ceremony of President Barack Obama on January 21 caps a long reelection campaign. For this cycle, I had the unique opportunity to incorporate the week-by-week political activity into a fall course at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), “Media and the 2012 Elections.”
Of course, I also carefully arranged the early course schedule in August and September around the Democratic Convention, spending time in Charlotte between sessions.
Unfolding in real time, the UIC course was deliberately designed without the luxury of looking back at the results. Instead, though the students (and invited guest speakers) constantly examined historical context, with media coverage as the unifying theme, it was all about truly observing that fabled “first draft” of history, via the media.
We saw the first Presidential debate in a variety of settings, from bar video screens to dorms to a formal viewing party at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Students were also required to pursue their choice of tasks outside the classroom. These included serving as Election Day judges, canvassing in Wisconsin, and staging get-out-the-vote events. With the Obama campaign headquartered in Chicago, some students signed on there, seeing first-hand the efforts that reached out from Chicago to the neighboring states.
The course activities culminated in a pair of live public access programs that I arranged for on CAN-TV. These aired live over cable and simultaneously streamed live online, the first shortly before Election Day, the other a few weeks after. Faced with the challenge of filling a half hour slot, live, students quickly saw the practical hands-on issues involved with interviewing political figures, preparing production pieces, and inviting viewer call-in questions.
CAN-TV posted a group shot of the class at its Facebook page.
On the morning after Election Day, I faced another group at UIC: more than two dozen international journalists invited by the Department of Political Science. As part of a panel discussing the election process, I focused on the role of the media.
With their own recording devices rolling, my first questions from the audience were: How could a media organization “call” the election? How could CNN or NBC say “it’s over” before the government officially tabulated the results?
It is always good to have fresh voices posing the basic Who What Where When and Why questions. In answering those, we’re forced to articulate just what this country is all about.
And how we got to January 21, 2013.
© Copyright 2013 Walter J. Podrazik