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Live, student-run television broadcast set for Nov. 4. More than 400 students, faculty, and staff are involved

More than 400 Lafayette students, faculty, and staff will transform Farinon College Center into “Election Central” Nov 4., broadcasting up-to-the-minute information on races for the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives to audiences on campus and around the world.

The College’s student-run, live election-night television broadcast will be viewed from 9-11 p.m. Eastern Time by audiences worldwide via the internet. It also will be carried live in the Lehigh Valley (on RCN-4), in the Delaware Valley (RCN-8), and on the College’s campus cable system (channel 66).

Students will research the issues and candidates, write scripts, prepare storyboards, and create pre-recorded and live segments. A trio of student news anchors — Jeff Katz ’10, Stephanie Kramer ’09, and Jayne Miller ’10 — will appear live with updated returns, interviews, analyses, and commentaries.

In addition to students, dozens of faculty and staff members are taking part in the project, according to Mark Crain, Simon Professor of Political Economy and chair of Policy Studies. “Ten classes are officially involved,” he says, “and it is interesting to note that Lafayette, a liberal arts and engineering college, does not have a broadcasting or journalism major and has only 2,400 students.”

Hosted by the Policy Studies program, this is the second election year the ambitious TV initiative is covering. Lafayette’s 2006 broadcast received positive reviews and kudos from several veteran Pennsylvania broadcasters, including Jim Gardner, anchor of Action News on WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.

The telecast will originate from sets in the Farinon Center’s Landis Atrium. A pre-event party featuring food, music, and dancing also will take place in Farinon. In the days leading up to broadcast, Crain says there will be a mock convention and a results-prediction contest. But, even more importantly, he says, there will be a tremendous amount of activity in the classroom.

Sunday, Nov. 2, will offer a dress rehearsal. Sets will go up the following day for Tuesday’s big event. Like the college’s 2006 broadcast, which was carried live by RCN Lehigh Valley Cable Network (which reaches 500,000 homes) and the Internet, this year’s broadcast will feature up-to-the-minute tracking of results, predictions, analysis from student and alumni political commentators, and unscripted student discussions.

“The 2008 U.S. election cycle provides our students with a unique opportunity to confront the critical issues shaping the future.” says Crain. “We want to use the broadcast to channel energy and engage as many people as possible in the political process.” He says the ultimate goal is for the election broadcast to go beyond an extracurricular activity and provide a broad-based learning experience complementary to what is taught in the classrooms. Crain predicts the 2008 event will offer viewers coverage “with a more youthful and edgy feel” than that of the major networks.

The broadcast and the work leading up to it will be very interdisciplinary in nature. The pre-recorded segments will be made by students in classes taught by Crain. Others involved include: Nicole Crain, visiting professor of economics & business; Sharon Jones, director of engineering and professor of civil and environmental engineering; Jeff Liebner, visiting instructor of mathematics; and Bill Jemison, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Students in the geographical information systems course taught by John Wilson, geology lab coordinator, will create onscreen political maps. Mary Toulouse, director of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Resource Center, is finding ways to use technology to involve students from around the world. Students in an advanced video art course taught by Michael Lantz, visiting part-time instructor of art, will work on the stylistic format and assist in the pre-recorded segments.

The journalistic writing course taught by Carrie Havranek, visiting part-time instructor of English, will be involved in script writing and in providing coverage of political bloggers. Lew Minter, director of the art department’s media lab, guided EXCEL Scholars and students in two courses in the design of a logo for the event and a series of posters, which will be distributed around campus in the weeks prior to the broadcast.

Campus organizations such as Policy in Action, and the Lafayette newspaper, will also be involved. Other campus groups taking part include: the IEEE Club; College Democrats; College Republicans; Student Government; French Club; and the Lafayette Debate Team. The Lafayette campus radio station, WJRH and even the Lafayette Dance Team have gotten involved in contributing to the event.

New Century Productions is providing the television cameras and live video production. They handle the television production for Monday Night Football, the Super Bowl, and special events across the country. Nancy Werteen, a television reporter, news anchor and consultant with New Century Productions, is working directly with the student anchor team.

“We want to use the broadcast to channel energy and engage as many people as possible in the political process,” says Mark Crain. He says he believes the energy level among students is very high this year due to the historic nature of the elections and the Obama factor. “Obama has excited many young people as he represents to them a new generation of politicians,” Crain says. “He has brought about a dramatic increase in turnout among young voters, and I think they realize that the winner of this election will have an effect on them throughout their lives.”

Crain would also like to acknowledge the generous support Bruce Maggin ’65 has provided to help make the 2008 broadcast a reality.

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