WASHINGTON – McKenzie Marshall, a broadcast journalism student at Howard University, wasn’t able to vote in the 2012 presidential election. Eleven months shy of her 18th birthday, Marshall wasn’t old enough.
This year, however, she will not only be a voter but also a member of a team of Howard University students that will be providing unprecedented university coverage of the Republican National Convention.
The students will be writing, shooting video and reporting for the Howard University News Service, a student-fueled news wire that serves nearly 200 National Newspaper Publishers Association member newspapers
Marshall and her team, which will include Howard University journalism faculty as editors, will travel to Cleveland July 18 to provide continuous print, broadcast and social media coverage of the convention for scores of newspapers that cannot afford to be there.
“It is so exciting,” said Marshall, 20, a senior from St. Louis who is interning this summer at the Chicago Defender. “I get to vote this year for the first time in a presidential election and at the same time, I can actively participate in it by covering this really important political convention. Who gets a chance to do that?”
Howard will be one of a handful of university news services covering the convention and the only news service from a historically black college or university. Howard Associate Professor Ingrid Sturgis, the journalism sequence coordinator for the School of Communications, is responsible for securing the press credentials that made it possible for the news service to cover the convention.
The news service, part of the School of Communication’s Department of Media, Journalism and Film, provides a broad range of coverage to media across the nation, including coverage of the White House, Congress, national news, local Washington news and previous presidential campaigns.
Ron Harris, an adjunct professor at the university and director of the news service, said the coverage is part of the university’s continuous effort to have its students cover major stories so they learn journalism on a very high level.
“This is an incredible learning experience for a young journalist,” said Harris, who covered Congress, presidential campaigns in the U.S. and Brazil and the war in Iraq. “I was 36 before I ever got close to a presidential campaign, and here they are in their doing something few get to do.
“Additionally, we have the privilege and responsibility of being the eyes and ears to scores of weekly, black-oriented newspapers and their thousands of readers.”
Tatyana Hopkins, 21, is a print reporter interning at the Michigan Chronicle in Detroit. Hopkins, Marshall and the other two student reporters going to the convention are part of a special arrangement between Howard University, the NNPA and Chevrolet to provide young journalists with experience and a $10,000 scholarship.
“This year’s election is so different, so charged up and so many people are engaged,” said Hopkins, who spent a week in Flint, Mich., covering its water crisis for the news service earlier this year. “I get to cover an event that very few journalists ever do, especially in a year where there has been so much coverage.
“I know one thing; it won’t be hard to find a story.”
Sidnee King is another broadcast journalist covering the convention. King currently is providing broadcast and print news stories for the web pages of the Michigan Chronicle before returning for her final year at Howard.
King said covering the Republican convention will be new for her, and challenging.
“I am definitely stepping out of my comfort zone,” said King, a native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “Donald Trump is so different and his views offend many people, but it’s important for us as reporters to cover perspectives that may not be common to our readers. That’s our job, to give viewers fair and unbiased coverage.”
The faculty team will include Associate Professor Yanick Rice-Lamb, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film, Assistant Professor and photojournalist Milbert Brown and Assistant Professor and broadcast journalist Fredric Kendrick, Sturgis and Harris.
Briahnna Brown, a Baltimore native, has covered a wide range of stories for the university news service, including Congress, prison reform, Maryland elections, college athletics and rampant murders in her hometown. Still, she said the convention will be a challenge.
“It’s such a big stage and so many people are paying attention to what you write and broadcast,” said Brown, who is interning at the Chicago Defender. “It is tough, because you are working from sun up to sun down, and then you do it all over again.
“As young reporters, we may stumble a bit along the way, but I’m sure we won’t fall. We have been trained well and we’ve got people we trust to watch our backs.”