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NVU Journalism Students Sharpen their Reporting Skills Covering Election 2020

Election Day 2020 offered an on-the-ground lesson in covering politics as news for Northern Vermont University broadcast and print journalism students.

NVU Lyndon’s broadcast and digital journalism students were at polling places throughout the 14 northern Vermont and New Hampshire towns in the News 7 coverage area, talking with voters and getting their views on the election and the candidates in both local and national races. 

News7 is NVU-Lyndon’s on-campus news station where broadcast and digital journalism students develop skills in newsgathering, writing, and broadcasting for local and online viewers. News7 is one of only thirty campus-based live and daily broadcasts in the U.S, and the broadcast journalism program, at nearly fifty years of age, is also one of longest-operating programs in the country. 

“We don’t cover campus news, which makes the students think about stories in a real-world context,” said Meaghan Meachem, associate professor and chair, Journalism and Communications at NVU-Lyndon. “Our program uses the 14 towns as a student ‘lab,’ covering school board and select board meetings, as well news that affects the general demographic of our towns,” she said. 

Broadcast students Nick Fish ’22, Chris Bouzakis ’21, Hailey Morgan ’22, Alex Huff ’23, Alek Wolfe ’22, John Habershaw ’22, and Cameron Sommers ’22 were on the ground and then in the newsroom preparing for the live NVU News7broadcast at 5pm that day. News anchor Chris Bouzakis, along with weatherperson Nathan Rubin ‘21, presented that evening’s show. Meachem expects election coverage could continue into next week. News7 broadcasts live two days a week, with other content updating more often on the news website, Meachem said.

NVU-Johnson journalism students Rebecca Flieder ’21 and Emmett Avery ’23 were also on the road gathering stories for distribution on the Community News Service on Election Day. Two of 50 students who participated throughout the state, the news service, based at UVM, is focused on “hyper-local and local news with the goal of training and educating student journalists and providing local content to community newspapers.”

Talented alumni, now seasoned professionals, were also busy capturing stories for their media outlets on Election Day. Kelly O’Brien ‘15 is the Plattsburgh bureau reporter for WCAX in Burlington. And she covered Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s race against Democratic opponent Tedra Cobb from Stefanik’s Glens Falls, NY headquarters, which she called “probably the most intense race in my region.” O’Brien was covered the race for mayor in Plattsburg and a Senate race as well. 

Dominic Amato ‘16 is the Channel 3 News at 11 Anchor/Multimedia Journalist and covered the Molly Gray campaign on election night. Amato had live shots in the 4, 5 and 6 p.m. shows, as well as two cut-ins. Gray declared victory around 11 p.m. and Amato interviewed her live to close out the 11 p.m. broadcast. “There are a lot of moving parts to election night, and some things may be frustrating, but it’s only because everyone is working towards the same goal of putting on a quality show. It was another great learning experience, and is certainly one of my favorite aspects of the job!” Amato said.

“Election Day in the fall semester is literally like the Super Bowl for journalists,” Meaghan Meachem said. “And in this case, with the national coverage still going on, it is a great real-world example of what aspiring journalists are going to experience in their first jobs. We are giving students a front row seat to democracy in action. And to be able to do it in the Northeast Kingdom is pretty cool. You couldn’t ask for a better teaching experience,” Meachem said.