Multimedia class partners with Charlotte paper for DNC coverage

Seniors traveled to North Carolina’s largest city to contribute to Creative Loafing Charlotte's accounts of the Democratic National Convention.


An Elon University journalism class partnered with the largest alternative weekly newspaper in Charlotte this month to assist with coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina’s biggest city.

Led by instructor Colin Donohue, seniors in the fall semester “Multimedia Journalism” course conducted interviews, captured photos, filmed video and engaged audiences via social media on Sept. 6 as part of their work with Creative Loafing Charlotte. Their visit took place just hours before President Barack Obama’s party nomination acceptance speech.

The Queen City’s largest alt-weekly focuses its coverage on news, features, culture, arts and entertainment, and Elon students tracked down stories that ranged from hard news, such as local reactions to the move of Obama’s acceptance speech into the Time Warner Cable Arena, to lighthearted features exploring the types of political merchandise hawked at the convention – and why people decide to buy it.

The Creative Loafing partnership offered students an opportunity to take what they learn in the classroom and use it for a professional media organization covering one of North Carolina’s biggest stories of the year. Creative Loafing distributes 46,000 copies each week to hundreds of locations in Charlotte, and combined with its website, stories reach more than 276,000 readers.

“I appreciate Creative Loafing giving our students a shot, that they trusted them to come here and do a good job, that they bought into this idea and helped set our students up for success while they’re here in Charlotte,” Donohue said. “The big thing for me is that these senior journalism majors had the chance to enhance their portfolios with interesting coverage of a major political event. It’s a bonus that they get a professional byline. The stories and videos and photos they turn out make them more marketable.

“I always tell people to get a variety of work samples together when they apply for jobs. Creative Loafing is giving them that opportunity.”

Working in teams, the multimedia students roamed the Uptown region surrounding the Time Warner Cable Arena, documenting their observations on Twitter using the #cltnews and #clclt hashtags. For some members of the class, visiting the Democratic National Convention made “real” the top national political story of the week.

Others said the ability to do “man on the street” interviews built a self-confidence they hadn’t yet had the right opportunity to develop. “I got a lot more experience today, and if I get to come to a convention again, I’ll know how crazy they can be,” said senior Brittany Washington, who worked on a story and photos about downtown businesses hurt by the convention.

“This is really awesome, and that we wrote for a professional publication? That took it to new level,” said senior Ashley Fahey. “It was such a large event, and we had so much freedom with our assignments. It was nice to go out and run with it!”

Then there were the small surprises that students discovered in their travels. “A lot of protestors were surprisingly nice,” said senior Derek Wickham, who worked on a video of unusual demonstrators in the city for the convention. “That was a lot of fun. It’s nice to have an idea for a story, go out and see what you can find, then run with it.”

Creative Loaving Charlotte Editor in Chief Mark Kemp said his newspaper appreciated the assistance and enthusiasm of Elon students who “brought an energy to the newsroom” of a publication that employs a small staff.

“It’s been extremely helpful,” Kemp said. “I wish we had this every day! We had beat reporters getting different stories, and I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen.”

Donohue and his multimedia journalism students were joined in Charlotte by Eric Townsend, director of the Elon University News Bureau and a former newspaper reporter. Townsend helped initiate the partnership with Creative Loafing by working with the newspaper’s news editor, Ana McKenzie, and at the convention he provided editorial guidance for students.

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