Shenandoah Student Reporting Labs
Seven students from Shenandoah High School have been participating in the Student Reporting Labs programs in cooperation with PBS NewsHour. During this caucus season, they have attended events for Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich as well as Page County Democratic and Republican meetings, and the famed Iowa caucuses.
The seven students are seniors, Devin Edds, Lindsey Hastings, Jake Doerr, Bailey DeBolt, Ryan Gray and juniors, Spencer Baldwin and Tyler Meyer.
The students answered the following questions as a group after attending the 2012 caucus event.
1. What was the most interesting thing you learned or saw during the caucuses? Why?
The caucuses are important because it emphasizes how important individual contact with candidates and neighbors is to the political process. The people who are really passionate are responsible for raising candidate awareness and spreading the word about their candidate. Face-to-face contact with candidates is very important because that is how you can learn the most about candidates. Phone calls, debates, and commercials have little influence on voters’ opinions compared to visits from the candidates to hear their stances and what they want to accomplish. You can build support for a candidate by hearing them speak much easier than from hearing them on television. It is also much preferred to phone calls and commercials because they are annoying and repetitive.
Another interesting aspect was the hometown familiarity of the caucuses. The ballots were passed around the room, then counted by two volunteers. Everyone trusted each other to do the honorable thing, which all participants seemed to abide by.
2. What did you expect to see at the caucuses? What surprised you about the experience?
On the Republican side, the turnout was higher than expected for our county. Six different candidates received votes from the precinct we observed, but only two individuals spoke up for presidential candidates. Several individuals were still undecided when entering the caucuses, and hearing from neighbors about who to vote for and why was definitely more influential than listening to the phone calls and commercials, as we discussed above. In the Democratic caucus, President Obama addressed precincts via a video call. President Obama also emphasized the need to reach out and speak to your neighbors instead of cable news. He discussed health care, bringing the troops home, and college affordability. The Democratic turnout was smaller than expected, but in viewing the other cities and suburbs, they higher turnout than our rural county.
3. What were some journalistic lessons or questions that came up while you were converting the event? What was it like being there as a journalist?
We enjoyed learning about people’s opinions firsthand instead of just listening to the media. We also found that recording people’s opinions have helped develop our personal views more. It was nerve wracking to questions people are first, but we are now more comfortable in interviewing and asking for opinions. Furthermore, we enjoyed dressing the part of journalists, especially Spencer who received numerous complements on his bowtie, salmon-colored shirt, and vintage hat.
4. What was young people’s participation in the caucuses like? Were a lot of young people participating? Any of your friends or classmates?
There were a few high school students, most likely there because our teacher offered incentives for them to attend. There were also a handful of college students and young families, however most were fifty and over.
5. If you could do one interview over again that you did today, which one would it be? Why? What would you change?
The biggest learning experience has been technical issues. We have basic equipment so noting light and volume have been key to obtaining quality interviews. We’ve also improved on our interview techniques over time with follow up questions and persuading people to be interviewed.