McMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

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How Students' Tweets will Protect Democracy


University of Cincinnati journalism students will help The Cincinnati Enquirer monitor Hamilton County voting precincts for potential impropriety on Election Day and cover the day’s events via social media.

Date: 11/5/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot   There will be an added line of defense to protect the quintessential act of democracy at polling locations across Hamilton County on Election Day: students armed with smartphones.

A team of University of Cincinnati journalism students specially trained by The Cincinnati Enquirer will monitor voting precincts and stream updates on social media. You can keep track of the action on Twitter. The students will post hourly updates with the hashtag #protectvote.

The students will be on hand to monitor activity inside and outside precincts where Enquirer research shows potential voting impropriety is a concern. The collaboration between the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences’ Journalism Department and the Enquirer is part of the newspaper’s Protect Your Vote initiative, which reports on controversy surrounding how Ohio counts votes. The corresponding Twitter feed is @protectvote_Enq.   

Students will be watching for voting machine malfunctions, disagreements with poll workers, provisional ballots, excessive lines, voter intimidation and people turned away from polls. They’ll also interview campaign workers handing out information near the precincts and voters as they leave.

Lance Lambert, a journalism major pursuing minors in political science and economics, will be among the Enquirer Election Day interns. The Amelia resident says he’s looking forward to giving the Enquirer resources it normally wouldn’t have and to helping serve as the eyes and ears of the public during such a critical event.

“This project is so special because Ohio is such an important state in the election and very few media organizations can do what the Enquirer and my classmates are doing on Election Day,” Lambert says.

Educator assistant professor Robert Jonason, director of the Journalism Department’s New Media Bureau, was approached by the Enquirer about partnering on Election Day coverage. Jonason consulted with educator associate professor Elissa Yancey, and in short order 12 teams of two to three student reporters were assembled from “Writing Across Media,” “Public Affairs” and “Principles of American Journalism” classes.

Jonason, Yancey and Mark Wert, the Enquirer’s data and investigations editor, will meet with the students at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and give them final instructions. From there, the students will report to their assigned voting sites where they’ll be working from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Afterward, the Enquirer has invited the students to watch election returns at its offices downtown.

“Our students have a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the democratic process in action and to report on it,” Yancey says. “There will be using new tools to create a documentary record of this historic election and learning the importance of journalism in the whole democratic process. This is what journalism is all about.”

It’s also another step forward for the Journalism Department as it continues to strengthen its industry connections and raise its profile. In addition to the work for the Enquirer he’ll be doing, Lambert has been asked to assist a Chicago-based correspondent for China’s CCTV News with election night coverage.

“Some important news out of this operation beyond the election coverage is the partnership,” Lambert says. “With the UC journalism degree only a few years old and the department only a couple months into existence, it’s important to build these connections with external media outlets.”

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