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Medill Students Fan Out Across Chicago To Cover Elections

Forty students will cover mayoral, aldermanic elections on Web and social media

CHICAGO --- Some 40 students from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications will deploy across Chicago Tuesday (Feb. 24) to cover the Chicago 2015 mayoral and aldermanic elections with real-time stories told with text, video and stills and delivered across the Web and social networks.

Medill graduate student coverage of the Chicago election will be available as it happens on social media and the Medill News Service website at Medill Reports Chicago – Election2015Stories. “We have close to 40 students who volunteered and will be involved from the Medill Content Lab -- and some from an advanced video class,” said Scott Anderson, assistant professor at Medill and managing editor, Medill News Service and Medill Content Lab.

“Video and social media are key priorities for this election coverage,” he added, noting that the “constant deadline” digital focus goes beyond what Medill students have done before in wide-ranging coverage of this kind of event.

The overall focus for the students will be reporting on the top three mayoral candidates, including incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Students will be based at the top mayoral candidates’ campaign headquarters for evening coverage.

Medill students also will cover results of several interesting aldermanic races and some of the more newsy and controversial referendum questions, including whether the city should switch from an appointed Chicago Public School board to an elected board.

Students will cover all the usual traditional bases for election day coverage, including in-person interviews on the street with voters and the scene at the polls at the open and close of voting, Anderson said. Vine and Instagram video clips, tweets and Facebook posts from those field assignments will be a key focus. Students will also harvest information and reports from social media in their reporting.

(In addition to medillreports.org, student reporting can be followed at @MedillChicago; via medillreports on Instagram; on Vimeo; and as of Tuesday, on Medill Reports Facebook page.)

A two-person data team will focus on the results stream, and an editing and production “pod” of students and faculty will manage video, photo and text feeds from reporters at elections headquarters, as well as other field locations.

The reporting will be updated across platforms through the day and night, with video wraps on the key topics updated as necessary through the cycle. Video efforts likely will include regularly refreshed segments with student “anchors" from Medill’s downtown Content Lab set, as well as so-called “look lives” from reporters in the field. There also will be traditional short packages on key topics, Anderson said.

Students also will be helping with editing and production and staffing the social media pod to coordinate feeds from those in the field.

“About half of the visits to Medill Reports Chicago are from mobile devices and the ‘responsive’ design of our site gives a great experience no matter the screen size,” Anderson said. “Mobile users also expect frequent updates and lots of visuals -- photos and video -- and the student team’s focus is geared to meet that expectation.”

In addition to Anderson, members of the core faculty team involved in planning logistics include Medill lecturers Chris Walljasper and Michael Deas, Medill Professor Craig Duff and Medill Assistant Professor Abigail Foerstner.

The second-quarter news reporting experience at Medill for graduate students is built around two days a week in the Medill Content Lab in the Loop, focused on giving students practical, hands-on, immersive grounding in reporting, storytelling and digital production in the fast-paced, multiplatform, always-on news cycle of today.

The Content Lab works to help students become more seasoned, savvy, multi-dimensional and fleet-footed journalists and beat reporters. Working closely with a faculty member as his or her primary editor, students focus on finding, cultivating and interviewing sources on a beat; cover breaking and enterprise stories on and off that beat; publish to myriad platforms, and occasionally, work in teams.

One of the main objectives is to give Medill students experience in the rigors, realities and risks of the constant news cycle that is the norm today.

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