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Here's one reason students Barack the vote: respect

The Obama, John McCain, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee campaigns in Washington and Idaho treated young journalist-bloggers from the UW like pros. The Hillary Clinton campaign couldn't be bothered.
Seattlepoliticore.org, where University of Washington students are covering the presidential campaign.

Seattlepoliticore.org, where University of Washington students are covering the presidential campaign. None

Since early January, 16 of my journalism students at the University of Washington have been covering the 2008 presidential campaign. We've gone new media, adopting a mode of blogging that combines traditional reporting, insights from other news outlets, and first-person commentary. It's somewhere between the voice of The Seattle Times' David Postman and the rancor of the blogosphere: part journalism, part pundit, part political newbies. Altogether, we have presented the campaign through youthful eyes.

Our forum has been Seattlepoliticore.org, and our material has gotten play at The Huffington Post, The Seattle Times, the Idaho Statesman, and a number of blogs for which my students write. We've covered Democratic Party caucuses in Idaho — the state's Republicans don't use this method to select delegates — and the caucuses and primaries of both parties around King County, including Seattle proper and the Eastside suburbs. Later this week, we head to Texas for our grand finale: coverage of the March 4 primary and caucuses. (Yes, Texas has both, too, challenging Washington's delegate process for most-screwed-up status.) It just might be the last big contest for all of the campaigns.

It's been a powerful experience for us, both as students and citizens.

We spent two hours stuck at Snoqualmie Pass, working via cell phones and wireless network cards, and then sped to Coeur d' Alene to see Northern Idahoans brave ice and freezing weather to give Barack Obama 80 percent of their caucus votes. We were barred from entering the Republican caucus in the 37th Legislative District in Seattle's Rainier Beach neighborhood — until the Seattle City Library and a sheriff's deputy intervened — and scored an on-camera interview with Gov. Chris Gregoire at a Democratic caucus in the Magnolia neighborhood. We saw Mercer Island and Sammamish Dems and Repubs conduct themselves with calm and citizen pride.

And along the way we learned some important things about the Obama and Clinton campaigns. We didn't set out to learn these pieces — but the campaigns taught us loud and clear.

In our coverage of the Idaho and Washington state caucuses, there emerged a lean toward Obama in my students' writing about the Democratic contest. This pro-Obama frame occurred for three reasons:

  • Because some of the students have serious political crushes on him, even though they've tried to keep all this in check. He inspires them — and I haven't sought to squelch this, being a prof interested in helping students become citizens.
  • Because the class is set up as a blogging class, in which politics meets alternative journalism. So their opinion shines through in places, and this was fine as long as they didn't cross over into fan mail.
  • Because the Obama campaign treated us like pros — they called us back within minutes, set up interviews, got us press passes, went out of their way to make the campaign accessible. The Clinton campaign, in contrast, didn't return a single phone call, didn't provide press access, and did virtually nothing to encourage our coverage. It was either arrogance or disorganization on the Clinton campaign's part.

Here's one example: Jeff Giertz, the Obama team's on-the-ground point person for the press, answered my phone call when I called to ask about press access to the Obama event on Feb. 8 at KeyArena. He said he'd check on getting passes for my students. I figured I'd wait and see if he actually did. Within five minutes he e-mailed me back, saying it was a go, and he could provide four press passes for my students. I was impressed. Clearly he had a vested interest in getting college students into the press area — and he did what a campaign person should do: He treated us well and welcomed us to his candidate. He told me to call him anytime.

So I did.

Lots of my students wanted to cover this event, so I called Giertz back six hours later and asked for four more passes. He said yes. The next day, when some of my students arrived at KeyArena after the local police had locked the doors and weren't allowing anyone in — including reporters from local TV and radio outlets — the students dialed up Giertz and he personally came and vouched for them. He followed up the day after the event with an e-mail checking in on how I thought things went.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Feb 26, 9:56 a.m. Inappropriate

And Clinton Campaign is headed by a PR Chairman????: Normally I don't post to articles, but this one floored me. The Clinton campaign's top strategist is the chairman of one of the nation's foremost pr firms -- and the campaign doesn't even carry out PR 101 - make access as easy as possible for future journalists? Bravo to the other campaigns who recognize that journalism students are the reporters, producers, communicators of tomorrow and treat them as such.

BevJ1210

Posted Tue, Feb 26, 11:18 a.m. Inappropriate

What did you expect?: A fish rots from the head down, and the attitude of a candidate is reflected in the kind of campaign that is run. From the staged crying times to the fake spontaneous debate lines, what about Hillary Clinton isn't a put-up show?

Hollow vanity - nothing more, nothing less, and nothing new; Republicans and conservatives have known this about her since the days of cookie recipes, Rose Law Firm billing records, and Travelgate. Liberals are just catching on? Oh, well...better late than never.

The Piper

Posted Tue, Feb 26, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Fascinating: Great article! I have to say it's consistent with everything I'm seeing about the Clinton campaign's shortcomings, and the Obama organization's strengths.

Posted Tue, Feb 26, 6:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Right you are....: My 19 year old, 24 year old daughter, and their friends say they felt snubbed by Hillary.... Our daughter has met her in person twice and supports Obama.

I say good, but we all know Washington DC will change Obama more than he will change Washington. All our lives various presidential candidates pledge to change things.

The president who has changed things is Bush.... in only eight years he returned us to 1929. [:-(
Tahoma

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 6:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Expect Excellence, and Students Deliver: I'm a retired professor of journalism. Treating student journalists with the same consideration as the pros is part of their education - and sometimes that piece is denied when arrogant sources decide it's not worth their time to talk to "kids."
I held my students to the same standards as those in the newsroom, and the best of them flourished because of it. They acted like professionals and they were treated as such - for the most part. They were once denied press passes to a political debate in Hartford, but after a few phone calls they got them. Hillary, of anyone, should realize that it also "takes a village" to prepare students for the workforce. How discouraging when adult students, who have been coached in dress, behavior and preparation, are summarily dismissed.
susan

Posted Thu, Feb 28, 10:19 a.m. Inappropriate

A different Obama experience: I'm not a student, but I am doing some coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign for a local newspaper and for a research project that I'm working on. Perhaps it's because I'm not in the target demographic for Barack Obama, but I couldn't get anyone in his campaign to return a phone call for an interview -- despite five solid days of trying. However, I got a callback within a day from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

I'm glad your students have been treated respectfully by the Obama campaign. I wish I could say that he's being as attentive to some of the rest of us.
liz809

Posted Fri, Feb 29, 11:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Indicative of management?: If the Clinton campaign is run by people who do not answer to her, or if she denies knowing what her people have done (as she has more than once), how good a presidential manager would she be in the Oval Office? It certainly raises doubts.

TOBy
TOBy

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