When President Barack Obama visited MSU's campus Feb. 7, a team of eight College of Communication Arts and Sciences students had the opportunity of a lifetime covering it for Focal Point, the School of Journalism's Emmy award-winning, student-produced newscast.
Each student was issued a White House Press Pool pass and covered the event alongside local and national media, including reporters from all the major networks.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was incredible being there covering it and is something I will never forget," said Micaela Colonna, a sophomore journalism and political science double major. "It is great to be in a classroom and learn about it, but it's another thing to be there covering it."
President Obama was at MSU to sign the 2014 Agricultural Act at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center. After speaking to the crowd about agriculture, the economy and the $956-billion farm bill, he signed the bill into law.
The Focal Point team covering the event consisted of all journalism students, including:
- Three seniors at the airport covering the president's arrival and departure: Tia Graham, Tiara Marocco and Connor Wilton
- Two covering the presidential motorcade and people on the street: Micaela Colonna and graduate student Nick Blaskowski
- Three at the event covering the speeches: seniors Kevin Burrows and Mara Thompson and sophomore Daniel Hamburg.
"I was live tweeting so people who weren't there could experience it too," Hamburg said.
The student journalists interviewed farmers, politicians and protesters; interacted with local, national and White House media; and got an insider's view of what it is like covering the president.
"I am very honored that I got to do something like this. It's not every day that the president comes to campus," Burrows said. "I think this will help set me apart when it comes time to find a job."
Only six times in MSU's history has a sitting president visited campus (Theodore Roosevelt in 1907; George H.W. Bush in 1992; Bill Clinton in 1995, 1996 and 2001; and Barack Obama in 2014).
"A presidential visit is so rare and there are a lot of things that happen that are unique to that. This was a great opportunity for them (the students) to see that whole process from the beginning to end," said Broadcast Journalism Instructor Bob Gould, who is the executive producer and faculty adviser of Focal Point.
The Focal Point newscasts, recorded at the studios in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, provide news and information to the MSU community while giving students the opportunity to learn about broadcasting, from shooting and editing video to writing and reporting.
Students enrolled in JRN 406 anchor the newscasts and produce most of the content. Focal Point also is a registered student organization, which means that any student on campus can come to meetings and taping nights. They also can work various positions in the control room or in the studio.
The newscast with President Obama will be available on the Focal Point website and YouTube on Friday, Feb. 14, by 5 p.m.
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