Election Day is quickly approaching. For Lafayette’s election-night broadcast team that means there isn’t much time before going on-air live to potentially millions of viewers.
The College has partnered with WLVT Channel 39, the PBS affiliate in the Lehigh Valley, to produce the live, student-run election-night broadcast named “Fifty States of Grey.” Tune in Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 9-11 p.m. on WLVT Channel 39 and by live-stream on Lafayette’s website.
“We are coming into the final full week: going through the entire rundown, tinkering with the flow and storyline, and making sure everyone knows their role and responsibility so we can handle the split-second timing of the broadcast,” says Mark Crain, Simon Professor of Political Economy and chair of policy studies.
The core group for the broadcast is part of an economics course with 35 students taught by Crain, but dozens of other students from a variety of majors are involved through other classes and student groups. The students have researched the issues and candidates, written scripts, prepared storyboards, and had extensive training behind and in front of the camera.
Along with the live on-air action, the students have been preparing several pre-taped segments that will run during the broadcast. The segments include interviews with local and regional politicians and experts. Some of the topics are political fashion, negative ads, how social media is changing political discourse, an analysis of fracking’s affect on the election, and the role of speech writers and how speeches affect young voters.
The students in the lead roles as co-anchors, co-producers, and political director are working hard to make sure every piece falls into place. Crain described this year’s student team as “phenomenal, dedicated, tireless, and inspiring.”
Alexander Charchalis ’15 (Phoenix, Md.), an economics major, and Madeline Laskoski ’13 (Goshen, N.Y.), a double major in government & law and English, are co-anchors.
“As anchors, Maddie and I reveal and explain the theme of our broadcast,” says Charchalis. “We will share our thoughts on how the election is shaping and will give our analysis on the presidential election along with the Senate and House of Representative races with the help of our political team.”
The co-anchors have been meeting with professional reporter Nancy Werteen at Lafayette’s Conway Studio, where they practice on-air technical skills and reading from teleprompters. Charchalis and Laskoski are also writing the script for the show.
“As a class, we learned how to operate cameras, write scripts, interview, and edit all through doing. Writing the intros and outros of each segment helps us understand how to intertwine all of the segments to build a show that flows and tells a story,” says Laskoski, who hopes to pursue a career in television news production or broadcasting and to eventually pursue an MBA. “These skills cannot be taught in a typical classroom setting. Lafayette has given us an amazing opportunity, and I am so grateful to be able to participate.”
Alison Dally ’13 (Nazareth, Pa.), a double major in international affairs and government & law, and Austin Denesuk ’14 (Dallas, Texas), a double major in anthropology & sociology and government & law, serve as co-producers, positions that require knowledge of the entire process.
“We are involved in every aspect of the broadcast, from castings, to the rundown, to set design, and also delegate responsibilities within these areas,” says Denesuk. “Our goal is to produce the most amazing broadcast possible and allow each member of the team to work to their full potential.”
Dally says that one of the biggest lessons she has learned is that production is about problem-solving.
“Our main job is to make sure everything is running smoothly,” Dally says. “Austin and I are constantly fixing problems as fast as we can.”
Denesuk hopes to work for a production company or studio after she graduates.
“This experience has been a defining factor of my college career,” she says. “The fact that as a college student I have this opportunity is absolutely amazing, and I can’t believe how fortunate we all are to be involved. Not many people graduate from college with this same type of experience.”
Cameron Roche ’13 (Southborough, Mass.), a government & law and psychology double major, serves as political director. His job entails production, direction, and coordination of the political desk anchors, GIS mapping team, and the political research team. He helps determine what information is put on air.
Roche, who hopes to attend graduate school and receive his Ph.D. in American politics, says, “If you can get a group of high-level Lafayette students to work together, you can achieve just about anything. In my three-and-a-half years at Lafayette, these are easily some of the brightest people I have ever had the privilege of working with.”