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Hofstra Votes set

Hofstra Votes Live 2018
Watch the 2020 Broadcast

By Alexandra Licata ‘19

The once-empty Lawrence Herbert School of Communication NewsHub was packed with students on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Some were editing video packages created by classmates earlier in the week. Others were tracking the polls for broadcast and still others were beginning to develop story angles for an issue of The Hofstra Chronicle that would take all night to complete. Over 100 people, including students, faculty and staff, filled Lawrence Herbert School of Communication that night. 

That was the scene of Hofstra Votes LIVE, the first ever live, multi-platform Election Night broadcast, simulcast on Hofstra Today and 88.7 FM WRHU Radio Hofstra University. Never before had students collaborated in such a way – working together to cover the 2018 Midterm Elections.
“For the students here at the school, we are in a multimedia world. [They] are all graduating into a cross-platform world,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication.

Hofstra Votes Broadcast

“The idea of bringing people who are experts in television and radio and written journalism and digital journalism all together to create a single package, a single simulcast that would go everywhere, really appealed to me,” Lukasiewicz said, “because I think all the students and all of the faculty, frankly, are getting exposed to each other and figuring out ways of working together.”

Preparation began around a month prior to Election Night. Many meetings with the leaders of each organization were held with a variety of staff and Lukasiewicz. From the Radio, Television and Film Department, Professors Nicole Franklin and Peter Gershon assisted in all aspects of the visual storytelling. Equipment Room Manager Patricia Szenher created the chyrons – graphics that are superimposed onto a television broadcast – and any other additional necessary graphics. 
WRHU General Manager Bruce Avery and Professional-in-Residence Pete Silverman worked with students to develop their on-air stories, in addition to ensuring the broadcast ran smoothly. 

Journalism, Mass Media and Public Relations Department Chair Cliff Jernigan and Professor Mario Gonzalez joined the team to help student reporters focus on the key issues in the election and create packages to air during Hofstra Today

“I’ve never done political coverage in this way before; neither has [my Co-Producer] Ellen [Boyle],” said Julia Wachtel, a sophomore TV production major and co-producer of Hofstra Today. “Hofstra Today is mostly all Hofstra-based news, so this was a very new and scary experience ... I did a lot of the content writing, met for writers’ meetings and helped create a lot of the scripted content.” 

Hofstra Votes Broadcast

Once Election Night arrived, it was time for everyone’s hard work and preparation to be put into action; yet there were still things that couldn’t be foreseen. 

In states with close races, like Florida, Texas, Wisconsin and Georgia, students needed to be ready for any outcome and be able to talk about the importance of whichever way the vote would sway. 

 “We have a lot of template throws [that say], ‘We’re just getting results from ...’ ‘We now go to ...’,” said senior journalism major and WRHU News Director Kimberly Donahue. “We’ve been watching a lot of other election coverages to see how things on TV go. We’ve just been looking at every possible outcome.” 

When the clocks hit 6:30 p.m., it was time for a run-through of the first hour of the show. This was the time to fix microphones, notice any last-minute technical issues, ensure both control rooms were running properly and help the on-air talent get comfortable before showtime. 

Dozens of students sat in the NewsHub, where the sounds of chatter and typing filled the air. Not a single screen displayed anything other than election coverage. The clock ticked down as it grew closer to 7:59 p.m., when it was time for LHSC to put on its largest broadcast yet.

Students in News Hub

Members of The Hofstra Chronicle kept an eye on state and national races, along with a social media team that monitored the results and posted breaking news throughout the night, while members of WRHU watched the local and regional results. 

For four hours, coverage switched between WRHU, five remote reporters, Hofstra Today and the NewsHub. For some, once the four hours were complete their night was over; but for others, the largest portion of work was still to come. 

Hofstra Votes Broadcast

The Hofstra Chronicle staff spent all night in the NewsHub finishing the paper, putting the paper to bed at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

“I was absolutely exhausted, but it was probably one of my favorite experiences that I’ve ever had here at Hofstra,” said Gabriella Varano, a sophomore journalism major. “Creating something together so quickly ... it was great to see the turnaround and the product that we all made together.”

From the beginning of preparation to the night of action, teamwork among organizations allowed for a historic broadcast from the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, and with that came an experience that prepared all those involved for their careers to come. 

Note: Alexandra Licata is a journalism major, with a concentration in Sports Media and a minor in Fine Arts. She is sports editor of The Hofstra Chronicle newspaper, where this story was first published. It also appeared in the Long Island Herald community newspapers.

Students in Control Room