Journalism and public relations students in the Communications program are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, rubbing shoulders with legislators and award-winning journalists as they report on the 2014 general session of the Utah legislature. It’s all part of an initiative that has been in the works for several years, one that would offer students a bundle of reporting and media classes along with the opportunity to cover the current legislative session and other news around Salt Lake City.
The program, known as “Semester in Salt Lake,” is not only providing them with a unique opportunity to learn in a real world setting, but is also getting them recognized by the seasoned reporters also covering the session. Robert Gehrke, Politics and Government Reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, recently tweeted: “If you’re at the #utleg and aren’t following @CapwestNews, you need to. These BYU students are owning Twitter this session.”
Arguably one of the biggest newsrooms currently covering the session, the group of 14 is made up of students from BYU’s Provo and Idaho campuses and generates stories that are posted on their site at http://capwestnews.org. They are also tweeting the legislative session at @capwestnews. They work from a newsroom housed in BYU’s Salt Lake Center.
Students like Miranda Collette, a sophomore from New Hampshire, are thrilled at the chance to report from the capitol as well as honored at the respect they are receiving from the experienced journalists in their midst.
“Even though I’m just getting started, I feel like I’m doing something important. I get to be the eyes and ears for the public as I share information about what goes on in this building,” said Collette. “At the State of the State address last night, I was able to interview some of our state representatives and immediately write an article. It’s an exciting experience that’s just getting better every day.”
Professor Joel Campbell, professor and director of Semester in Salt Lake, put together the Salt Lake Center newsroom and is pleased with the outcome of the program thus far. He notes that since Monday, their Twitter following has grown from zero to 205.
“We are only on day three and already our students are being recognized as legitimate reporters,” said Campbell. “We are getting good access to stories and our social media following is growing at an impressive rate.”
While participating in the Semester in Salt Lake program, students can choose from classes such as Media Ethics & Law, Research Methods for Journalism, or Advanced Reporting. One offering, Research Methods for Journalism, is taught by award-winning journalist Nate Carlisle from the Salt Lake Tribune.
The students of the Capital West News team will continue to report on the 2014 Utah Legislative Session, which runs through March 13.
Photo: Miranda Collette, sophomore from New Hampshire, stands outside the House of Representatives entrance in the Utah State Capitol building. Photo credit: Campbell