Bemidji State University: Students immerse themselves in election for class
BEMIDJI – Students in the Reporting and Writing class at Bemidji State University got real-time political journalism experience Tuesday night.
“For many of them, it’s their first election,” said their instructor, Valica Boudry, assistant professor of mass communications at BSU. “It’s a good experience for them.”
After a quick briefing at the Democrats’ gathering at the Holiday Inn Express, the students separated, some staying with the DFLers, some going to the Republicans’ party, working in print, video and audio media.
“Our program really emphasizes multimedia, so we try to integrate it at every level,” Boudry said.
Hope Slusar, Calissa Treat and Meghan Jewett were among the students camped out at the Democrats’ election night gathering at the Holiday Inn Express, while other students were gathering information at the Republicans’ gathering.
“This is a really good experience for me,” Jewett said, adding that she voted for the first time in the 2012 election after letting two other election opportunities slip by.
What prompted her to vote was, like many of her fellow students, the proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
“Most of them were very aware of the marriage amendment,” Boudry said.
Slusar said that if not for the class, she might not have voted. Treat agreed. “I’m not really political,” she said.
“I thought it went really well,” Boudry said. “The students were really enthusiastic. They worked together as a team and were able to produce a video, a written story, and they did a photo slideshow. They also went down to the KBXE studio the next morning to talk on air.”
The students worked their stories until about 2:15 a.m.
“They enjoyed the process a lot,” Boudry said. “For a lot of them, this is the first time they were introduced to politics on any level. I think they kind of saw a different side of politics. … The students really enjoyed working together. They felt like they really bonded.”
Prior to Election Day, Boudry and her students sat down in class and planned coverage, choosing the races they would cover: the state marriage and voter ID amendments, the city’s charter amendment, the mayor and city council races, and the area legislative races.
Students researched the amendments, gathered background on candidates and conducted interviews before the elections, with each student interviewing at least one candidate. Slusar, for example, had interviewed Rita Albrecht, who was elected mayor.
“I was surprised with how well they worked together and how enthusiastic and energetic they were,” Boudry said.