Tag Archives: Journalism

Covering #Election2016 from London for CNS

Maggie and Mina

CNS reporters Maggie Gottlieb and Mina Haq in England.

By Maggie Gottlieb ’17
Broadcast Journalism Major

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Nov. 16) – Just a month before America’s fateful electoral day came, Merrill College’s Capital News Service reporters received some exciting news of their own.

“We’re sending two CNS reporters to London for Election Day to cover overseas reaction,” Broadcast Bureau Chief Sue Kopen Katcef told her students after Maryland Newsline one night.

I was practically jumping up and down in excitement.

I’ve been covering this election at various internships since the very first campaign announcements back in the spring of 2015. Vividly, I remember being at my internship at CNN Newsource when we heard over the scanner that Donald Trump would soon hold a press conference “regarding the 2016 presidential election.”

As a budding journalist, every moment since has been riveting, historic and perhaps a tad disturbing. I spent a week in Philadelphia last summer covering the Democratic National Convention for CNS. We witnessed the first woman be nominated for president of a major party, even amidst reports of collusion with the DNC and a walk-out by angry Bernie Sanders supporters. Just one week prior, America saw the divisive nomination of Donald Trump despite RNC delegates’ feeble attempts at a contested convention.

The America in the months since the party conventions has been one of tension and divisiveness. But it wasn’t just America who was watching on Election Day.

Merrill student Mina Haq working on a story for CNS.

CNS reporter Mina Haq works on deadline.

Off to London

As our plane took off to London just a few days before the election, we looked back at the nation’s capital below us, thinking the next time we stepped on American soil, our country would have elected its first woman president. We were wrong, much like most of the media industry and many American voters.

We arrived on Sunday tired but incredibly excited for the week ahead. Our friends at Bournemouth University, the partnership that enabled the reporter swap, picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel near The Eye (thank goodness they did because the London tube system is ridiculously convoluted). After dropping off our bags, we hit the ground running and started interviewing people on the street about their thoughts on the U.S. election. Most were troubled by candidate Donald Trump, but also weary of Clinton because of her email scandal.

While exploring the city that day, we stumbled upon a U.S. election pop up shop in a random tube station. I was so excited because it was the perfect engaging news peg into my story on UK reaction to the candidates.

file_000On Sunday evening, Mina and I met up with some of my Salzburg Academy study abroad friends for dinner near Oxford Street, where the Christmas lights had just been turned on that night. It was a great to walk down such a beautiful city street and forget about the stress of the election for a night.

Monday morning, we interviewed an expert on Brexit to hear her insights into Trump-Brexit comparisons. Then, we wandered back to the tube station pop up shop, which had just opened for business that day. They had a fake voting booth, facetious t-shirts about the candidates, donuts decorated as Clinton and Trump and America themed music. Most we talked to there said they didn’t like either candidate and were glad they weren’t voting citizens who actually had to choose.

We took the train down to Bournemouth to meet with our colleagues at BU, help with their election night rehearsal and see some more of the country! It’s a beautiful beachside college town and it was nice to get out of the craziness of the city for a night. Tuesday morning it was back to London for Election Day and our nerves were off the walls.

Election 2016 and the American Embassy


CNS reporter Maggie Gottlieb records her standup at the U.S. Embassy election night party.

Our assignment Tuesday night was to report from the American embassy in London at its election night watch party. On the tube ride to the embassy, Mina and I couldn’t contain our excitement that we’d finally see who America would choose. Still, we were sure that the next day America would have elected its first female president.

It was exciting to be among other Americans as well as Brits that evening, even when so far away from home. It was 1 a.m. London-time when polls closed here in Maryland and quickly we started to see that Trump was leading in some key swing states. I recorded hourly “look-lives” for Maryland Newsline’s live updates. Most in the embassy were Clinton supporters so the atmosphere was one of anxiety, but hopeful optimism. When Trump won Florida, Mina and I knew where this was heading.

By 3 a.m., most party guests had filed out of the media center, some to head home, some to commiserate elsewhere. We noticed three lone Trump supporters milling about, no doubt to make themselves available for interviews. Around when they called Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin for Trump, the embassy asked media the start packing up. It certainly felt a lot like, ‘our candidate is losing, nothing to see here!’

When we got outside, it was pouring rain. We mused to ourselves that the weather reflected the emotions of our friends back home and the embassy guests. We got home at 5:30 a.m. and Pennsylvania still hadn’t been called. I was too exhausted to wait for the overall call, so I went to sleep feeling confused and anxious.

ELECTION NIGHT: Europeans keep close watch on American presidential election – by Maggie Gottlieb
First Brexit, now Trump: the British feel new political quake
– By Mina Haq

The Day After

The London Eye.Wednesday morning, we woke up and immediately felt a million emotions as we read our friends and families’ social media posts about Trump’s victory. It was a result that shocked the world, with most in our east coast circle feeling scared, hurt and angry. We headed out to get Londoners reactions, which were quite different than those at home. The general consensus was ‘shocked but not surprised.’ Many said this result was just like the UK’s Brexit and we’d just have to wait and see what kind of president Trump will be.

After we filed our stories, we got to ride the London Eye and walk around Big Ben. It was a much-needed break from all of the negativity surrounding the election results.

Time To Go Home

We headed to the airport Thursday – but didn’t feel much like coming home. The week since has been a roller coaster of emotions, especially with a lot of talk of how President-elect Trump could restrict reporters’ rights. But in the wise words of Merrill Visiting Fellow Tom Bettag, “When you have been jolted, you have to figure out how to get up and start moving forward again.” And as a journalist, that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Thank you to Merrill College and the CNS bureau chiefs for giving us this amazing overseas reporting opportunity. Despite the over-zealous speculation about what Trump’s presidency will look like, I’m incredibly excited to graduate in May and begin my professional journalism career covering his administration. It may not have been the result we expected, but that’s what makes this business so exhilarating. It’s time to get back to work.

Note: Maggie and Mina were interviewed on Fox5-DC after they returned, to talk about their experiences covering the election in London.

Photos: Maggie Gottlieb and Mina Haq.

A montage from London and a shot of Maggie and Mina at Fox5 after they were interviewed about their experiences in London.

FJ Blog – Election 2016: What Did Journalists Miss?

Pallavi Guha is a Merrill College adjunct lecturer and Ph.D. candidate.

By Pallavi Guha
Ph.D. Student
Philip Merrill College of Journalism

For the past few months, U.S. and global media have been engaged in predicting the next commander-in-chief of the country. Until the election results were announced, the various legacy media organizations favored Secretary Hillary Clinton in this political spectacle. It was nothing short of a horse race, in which the various media outlets focused on the surveys and polling numbers.

Before FBI Director James Comey announced reopening the investigation of the Clinton email, the New York Times predicted Clinton had a 99% chance of winning against Trump, eventually reducing it to 85% on the day of the election. But it was still way off the actual outcome. And the Times is not the only one that misread voters; others like AP, FOX, CNN and FiveThirtyEight got it wrong too. These inflated numbers completely blindsided the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

Since then, journalists, political leaders and the citizenry, have been asking the same question: How was the fourth estate not able to gauge the public opinion?

Cut to June 2016, the Brexit polls in the United Kingdom, where the national British media took sides in the referendum. The prestigious ones like The Guardian, The Observer, The Times and a few others endorsed remaining in the European Union. The polls and predictions to remain or leave the EU once again were not close to the result. Yet again, the stalwarts of journalism got it wrong.

Why are we seeing repeated failures of the media to predict or understand public opinion? Having covered pre-election coverage in the UK and India, the reliance on data and statistics are much greater now compared to previous elections. Depending on social media platforms and survey results seldom gives journalists access to public opinion. Most individuals are skeptical to share their political preferences on social media platforms. According to Pew, only 9% of social media users engage politically on social media platforms. These platforms don’t always provide the true public opinion since they are known to be echo chambers.

Secondly, the phone-in surveys completely ignored the undecided voters. These voters were not all undecided – many were closeted Trump supporters. But the constant labeling of Trump supporters as “racists” by the legacy media, forced them to withhold their choice.

Being a resident of suburban Maryland, I saw numerous Trump-Pence signs on the road and front yards, compared to Clinton-Kaine. And Maryland is a true blue state. Isn’t this a sign of something? And I kept wondering how could journalists miss it?

One of the many reasons that this signals to is the increasing disconnect between the legacy media and the people. A key example would be the media endorsement of a candidate or an issue. Endorsing a candidate or an issue takes away the objectivity of journalism. The media fails to look beyond its position and assess it dispassionately, much like the signs and phone surveys.

In spring of 2016, we discussed the issue of media endorsements. Most of my students at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism objected to them. Irrespective of their political choice, they thought it was biased.

As a former journalist and a journalism educator, I have always believed objectivity is the cornerstone of journalism. A bit of media credibility erodes every time, when the media fails to understand public opinion. We fail the people, we fail ourselves and we fail the country every time the news media makes a wrong prediction.

Pallavi Guha has been a professional journalist and media educator for a decade. Pallavi has worked internationally for leading media organizations including BBC News and television in London and The Times of India in India. Pallavi has been a teaching assistant and taught courses on gender, race and class in media, Images of journalists in films and Media Literacy. Pallavi’s academic background is in international relations, politics, communication and women studies. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals on intersections of gender, social media and politics. Pallavi frequently presents her work at academic and professional conferences. Currently, Pallavi is working on multiple research projects including sexual harassment of women journalists in Indian newsrooms, implications of social media for voter engagement in India. Pallavi’s research interests include social media communication, gender, politics and media in India and US. Areas of expertise: India, social media, politics and feminist activism in India.



Capital News Service Blankets the Conventions

A group shot of our CNS student reporters with faculty members Josh Davidsburg and Jim Carroll. Jessica is second from left in the first row. Photo: CNS

A group shot of our CNS student reporters with faculty members Josh Davidsburg and Jim Carroll. Photo: CNS

By James R. Carroll
Washington Bureau Chief
Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Oct. 31) – For reporters who cover politics and public affairs, the political conventions are coveted assignments, rare opportunities to witness and write about the spectacle of a national party gathering. Unfortunately, a lot of reporters don’t get the chance to experience a convention.

But Capital News Service last summer gave a group of undergraduate and graduate students that chance, sending two separate groups of reporters to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

In the days preceding and during the two conventions, CNS reporters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, aided by a group of colleagues in Knight Hall’s Studio C in College Park, produced dozens of stories on issues, Maryland political figures, various controversies, and interesting and quirky doings among party delegates.

In addition to CNS text stories and video packages (including some made with 360-degree cameras), reporters produced graphics, Facebook Live broadcasts, photos, assembled pieces on Storify, put video and photos on Snapchat, and tweeted hundreds of times on events and observations inside and outside the convention halls. Some of our CNS reporters also talked about their work and experiences in appearances on a local Fox television affiliate back in Washington and on C-Span.

We invite you to check out some of what we did on the CNS website.

Exciting and exhausting, convention coverage is challenging even for veteran journalists. (These were my 17th and 18thconsecutive conventions.) Our CNS teams dove right in like pros.

“Being a young reporter in the midst of the media is scary, but it’s also exhilarating,” CNS reporter Jessica Campisi wrote in a blog from the GOP convention. “Walking through the convention center, I’ve spotted reporters whom I’ve grown to know through their front-page stories or their morning newscasts on TV. While some people obsess over stars like Beyonce or Kim Kardashian, my celebrity crushes are known for scoops and winning Pulitzer Prizes. It’s slightly intimidating being next to them, but then I realize I’m just like them.”

Maggie Gottlieb wrote about her hectic days at the Democratic convention.

“If there is anything this experience taught me, it is that I am more knowledgeable, skillful and competent than I ever thought before I embarked on this journey,” she said. “My feelings of insecurity about working as a full-time broadcast reporter for CNS (this) semester have completely vanished. I learned to trust in myself, believe in my own abilities and take a leap of faith.”

Everybody came home with plenty of convention swag and souvenirs, but mostly with the tools to witness history and turn it into solid journalism.

(Carroll and broadcast lecturer Josh Davidsburg directed the coverage in Cleveland. Carroll and broadcast bureau director Sue Kopen Katcef oversaw the coverage in Philadelphia.) 



Nelson Lectures in Slovakia on Climate Change

Merrill College Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson talks with journalism students at Comenius University in Slovakia. Photo: Deborah Nelson.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Oct. 26) – Why is it so difficult for journalists to report on the environment – and especially climate change?  It’s an issue being discussed this week in Bratislava, Slovakia by Merrill College Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson.

Among a number of events, Nelson  lectured at Comenius University about climate change and talked to journalism students there.

Nelson – a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, has been reporting about the environment her entire life.  As recently as 2014, she was part of a major investigation for Reuters – called “Water’s Edge“- looking at rising sea levels caused by global warming. The report won numerous accolades – including a $20,000 National Academy of Sciences award. A new project with Reuters will look at antibiotic resistance infections.

Watch Professor Nelson’s speech titled “How to Report on a Changing World” at Comenius University:

Talking to the Slovak Spectator, she talked about not only climate change but also “the challenges that journalists face nowadays.”

During the interview, Professor Nelson was asked why journalists don’t know how to report on environmental issues:

“Many of us aren’t well grounded in science and statistics. Many journalists are scared away from reporting on environmental issues for that reason. I have done many science-based and data-driven projects and I had to learn those skills. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I’m always careful to consult those who are. There is a real need for journalists to learn science and in fact I’ve proposed a statistics course for journalism students.”

Read the entire interview in the Slovak Spectator.

Knight Chair Dana Priest Honored with Zenger Award

Dana Priest headshot

Adapted from a University of Arizona press release.

TUCSON, Ariz. (Oct. 21) – Merrill College Knight Chair Dana Priest has been honored with the John Peter Zenger Award for Press Freedom by the University of Arizona.

Priest accepted the award Friday night during a gala event in Tucson.

A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Priest was honored for her work at the Washington Post exposing secret prisons and the poor treatment of wounded soldiers.

“Dana Priest epitomizes what journalism is all about – courage, truth-seeking, holding those in power accountable, and providing people the information they need to adequately self-govern,” said David Cuillier, director of the journalism school.

About the John Peter Zenger Award

Given by the University of Arizona since 1954, the award is named after John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger and honors journalists who fight for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know.

Writing by email after being told of the award last May, Priest wrote, “Today is World Press Freedom Day, which makes me particularly grateful to be receiving this award from the UA School of Journalism.” She added, “The school’s award-winning work is an example of American journalism at its finest and a reminder of the power of investigative reporting to change lives.”

Past winners include Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Bill Moyers, Walter Cronkite and Associated Press foreign correspondent Kathy Gannon, who returned to reporting this year after being wounded in a 2014 attack in Afghanistan.

On the set of UA's PBS MetroWeek news and public affairs program with host Andrea Kelly at Univ of Arizona at Tucson. Priest was Speaking about Russian attempts to influence US elections and talking to journalism students.

On the set of MetroWeek – a PBS news and public affairs program – with host Andrea Kelly at Univ of Arizona at Tucson. Priest was speaking about Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections and talking to journalism students. Photo: Dana Priest.

About Dana Priest

Priest won a 2006 Pulitzer for uncovering secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and a 2008 Pulitzer for reporting on deplorable conditions for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington. She also is a John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

A three-time Pulitzer finalist, Priest is an alumna of UC Santa Cruz and is the author of two best-selling books: “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military” (2003), and “Top Secret America: The Rise of the National Security State” (2010). The first book was a Pulitzer finalist and is still used in military academies. The second, developed into a “Frontline” documentary, covered the buildup in top-secret intelligence organizations in the aftermath of Sept. 11.