University of Pennsylvania students will get a close-up and personal view of the 2012 Republican and Democratic political conventions in Tampa, FL and Charlotte, NC and they will be an important component of the news media’s coverage of those historic events.
As they did in 2008, undergraduate and graduate students from Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and the Fels Institute of Government will provide on-the-scene reports of the conventions for The Philadelphia Daily News. This year also marks the fourth time Penn students will attend the political conventions as a part of a class geared specifically to these events.
The students are attending the political conventions as part of an Annenberg and Fels class held every four years. Comm 428: “Conventions, Debates, and Campaigns” provides students with the opportunity to learn how political parties get the message out to the public via an on-site analysis of the two major party conventions. "For any citizen or student of politics, attendance at a national political convention is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will forever change one's perspective on politics, and even influence career choices,” says David Eisenhower, director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School for Communication. “Moreover, as the only such program organized by any university in the country, Annenberg's convention program is yet another unique feature of Penn's political communications program, which is second to none. I speak for all of us in saying expressing our gratitude to Annenberg for this opportunity. We will have a great deal to share with Annenberg and the Penn community when we return in early September."
Marjorie Margolies from Fels, who co-teaches the course with Eisenhower, cites the serendipitous nature of the class and the opportunities it presents for students. For example, during the 2008 conventions the students were privileged to off-the-cuff encounters and conversations with “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart and “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews (who featured the students on his program).
“This class gives the students a real ‘inside baseball’ look at politics,” Margolies says. “By reporting for the Daily News, readers of that paper will enjoy the fresh perspective that only Penn students can provide.”
Faculty attending, in addition to Eisenhower and Margolies, include David Thornburgh, executive director of the Fels Institute of Government; and Alvin Felzenberg, Annenberg adjunct instructor and presidential historian.
“I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to participate in [the] class,” says Andrew Reich (C ’09), who served as a class attendee and Daily News stringer during the 2008 Republican and Democratic conventions. “That summer an ‘A-Team’ of political experts escorted my classmates and me to both national conventions, showing us what the textbooks never could. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Eight students will attend the Republican Party National Convention in Tampa (Aug. 27 – 30) and a dozen will attend the Democratic Party National Convention in Charlotte (Sept. 4 – 6). The class will comprise personal observation of the conventions during the day and intense discussion and analysis in class in the evening. In-between the students will find time to report on what’s going on at each convention via straightforward reporting and the student’s own observations on Twitter. The Daily News’ Twitter handle is @CloutCon, with the hash tag #RNC for the Republican convention, and #DNC for the Democratic Convention. Watch for special news alerts with the additional hash tag #cc.
“The general interest newspaper model is rapidly evolving, so we are looking for new ways to gather and deliver the news,” says Gar Joseph, city editor of The Philadelphia Daily News. “Students bring a natural curiosity and fresh eyes. It is one thing to read textbooks about how democracy works, the role political parties play, and quite another to see it in action, but politics is about people, personalities, competing interest groups and the skills necessary to forge a majority without making too many enemies. Democracy is noisy, messy, emotional and not very efficient. They'll get to see some of that in action.”
“Our readers expect us to do things out of the ordinary. They like hearing from new voices and I'm encouraging the students to share their feelings and insights as well as reporting what they see and hear,” Joseph says. “Our own political experts, John Baer, Will Bunch and Chris Brennan will be weighing in, of course, but the students give us a new look at an old, scripted, traditional event that is the season opener for determining our next president.”