By Shehtaz Huq ’14
It’s just 30 minutes until Lafayette’s 50 States of Grey election night broadcast goes live. Twitter anchor Gina Morrone ’14 exchanges a few words with the social media and marketing team as her fellow classmates get prepped in the TV studio set up in Farinon College Center.
“We’re trying to bring a provocative, edgy side to social media, especially Twitter,” says Morrone, who is majoring in film and media studies. “Everyone is on Facebook and Twitter these days. We have younger people following an older generation, and social media has enabled that.”
Away from the spotlight, Ivy DeWitt ’14 sits at the marketing team’s table and mines social networking sites for potential on-air content.
“So much effort and passion went into this broadcast,” says DeWitt, an economics major. “It’s been interesting how people have reached across political divisions to work together for this election broadcast class.”
This is the third election year Lafayette students have covered as part of an economics course taught by Mark Crain, Simon Professor of Political Economy and chair of policy studies. Over the past several months, dozens of students with majors ranging from geology to government and law to music have put in extensive preparation researching the issues and candidates, writing scripts, creating pre-recorded and live segments, and training behind and in front of the camera.
These telecasts encompass and showcase so many of the distinctive opportunities that set Lafayette apart and benefit students who are eager to take advantage of them: opportunities to work in multi-disciplinary teams in real-world projects . . . to make use of university-size resources that are all dedicated to undergraduates . . . to take part in academic and co-curricular activities that have genuine impact . . . to work with stellar professor-mentors. The list goes on.
For the first time, the College has teamed with WLVT Channel 39, the PBS affiliate in the Lehigh Valley, to produce the two-hour, student-run broadcast, which was available to millions of viewers through Channel 39 and by live-stream on the College’s website.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a production company and a live TV broadcast,” says Joel Vargas ’14, a technical equipment manager, who is double majoring in film and media studies and engineering studies. “This class reaffirms issues that are relevant to our generation. Things like financial aid and who we elect can affect our future.”
A half hour into the show, the Farinon atrium is abuzz with activity. Co-hosts Alexander Charchalis ’15 and Madeline Laskoski ’13 are providing analysis of political trends, political anchor Matthew Koos ’14 presents up-to-the-minute results on races for the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, and members of the bullpen discuss the issues in a panel setting.
Onlookers from the second floor peer down at the action below.
“I wonder how the Election 2012 outcome will affect my medical school prospects,” says spectator Elizabeth Wilson ’13, a neuroscience major. “We’re in a politically charged environment as college students going into the professional world. This election has given us such an opportunity to exercise political efficacy.”
Behind the blue curtains cordoning off the set from the rest of the atrium, geographic information system specialist Taylor Miller ’13 crunches numbers as her team works under the supervision of geology department lab coordinator John Wilson.
“Working backstage is nerve-wracking but also exciting,” says the geology major. “We have a limited amount of time to make the maps, and if we slip up our tiny mistake will be magnified many times over on all the monitors in the set.”
An hour into the broadcast, bullpen panelist Glenford Robinson ’13 shrugs off his blazer behind the scenes as his segment wraps up.
“That was intense!” exclaims the neuroscience major. “Being part of a discussion with student political analysts gives us the opportunity to talk about issues that matter to us. This broadcast has allowed me as a science major to articulate my thoughts in a live on-air setting. It’s exhilarating.”
The clock ticks down to the last half hour. Set manager Taylor Dougherty ’13, a psychology major, gestures at the map analyst anchor to wrap up his segment.
“My natural ability to micro-manage people lends me to this role,” jokes Dougherty. “It’s a high-pressure position, but the broadcast is going a lot smoother than expected. I was in the production truck at 5:30 a.m. and I’ve had too much coffee, but this has been a surreal experience and absolutely worth it.”
Fifteen minutes left in the broadcast, and the knowledge that this unique and memorable night is coming to a close is sinking in.
“I’ve never been in a class that was so close to real life,” says marketing manager Melanie Coffin ’15, a government and law major. “I’ve never been so proud of a group of people.”
As the show wraps up at 11 p.m., Farinon erupts in a frenzy of applause. The on-set team embraces and high-fives one another. The spectators cheer from the sidelines. With their work done for the evening, everyone turns to the TVs around Farinon and watches as Barrack Obama is re-elected president less than 15 minutes later.