Hampton U. classroom becomes newsroom

By Lapraya McCoy


Jacqueline Flowers, a junior broadcast journalism major from Charlotte, N.C., woke up on Tuesday morning dreading the events that were to come. She had already sent in her absentee ballot, so instead of voting, she spent time at Barack Obama’s campaign office on the edge of Hampton University’s campus and recorded history.


“At that point,” she said, “I was tired and I didn’t see the point in doing it.”


Because Flowers bit the bullet, she can now say she a was a part of the first group of Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications students who worked Election Day to provide print and live broadcast coverage of Obama, now the president-elect.


“We gave up our Homecoming and a lot of time for that moment right there,” she said “and it made it all worth it.”


When Van Dora Williams, a Scripps Howard professor, first came up with the idea to have her students write radio or TV stories about the election, she did not realize how much the experience would mean to them.


“I didn’t think they could scream like that,” said Williams.


Williams encouraged other professors like Wayne Dawkins and Drew Berry to jump on board to challenge students to step out of their comfort zone. They were receptive.


So, Tuesday night Nov. 4, several Scripps Howard classrooms became one big newsroom and the students worked in teams to produce radio broadcasts for WHOV FM and live 10-minute newscasts that aired on Channel 52 across campus every 30 minutes from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.


For Chris Swails, a senior broadcast journalism major, it was inspiring to be around students who are capable of running the show, he said.


“I get a lot of confidence from these people,” said Swails, who aspires to host his own radio show.


Swails worked on a piece that ranked the top five battleground states based on the complaints they received at the polls.


The story was read on-air by Sharise Darby, a junior broadcast journalism major from Atlanta, and McKenzie Harris, a junior broadcast journalism major from Austin, Texas.


“Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous,” said Harris. “It was like another practice day for me.”


Harris, like many of her peers, said she experienced a few difficulties where the video malfunctioned and she had to ad lib.


Berry, professor of media management, said he was pleased that the students remained positive and did not point fingers when things did not go the way they planned.


As Berry looks forward to doing more to prepare students for the work field, Williams is already planning coverage for the January inaugural speech.


“This is a great year for students overall,” she said.



The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.