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Don’t panic. Don’t swear. Don’t wear short-shorts. These are the golden rules of broadcast journalism at UNLV, shared by its young reporters, anchors, producers, directors, writers and videographers. Professor Gary Larson shook his head and laughed. After a dozen years of waiting for the perfect storm of resources, he was about to see his “kids” in the ultimate media hot seat—covering a presidential election. Live.
Their ambitious webcast, unfolding over four frenzied hours on Tuesday, was the first of its kind for UNLV and streamed election results, expert analysis, panel discussions and reports from campaign headquarters across the city. Nearly 50 student volunteers contributed to the effort, which was viewed locally and in Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Uruguay and Bangladesh.
Behind the big desk before the big night, we grilled reporter Yeraldin Deavila, senior producer Angelina Dixson and anchors Carl Winder and Elena Pogosyan about the election “experiment,” their work on daily newscast Studio G and their takes on everything from objectivity to fashion.
Your election coverage isn’t about getting ratings; it’s about getting experience. But what’s in it for the folks watching you instead of Tom Brokaw?
Angelina Dixson: They want to see what we know. They want to figure out how we differ from other networks that they’re so used to watching … the big-timers. We’re trying to get as legit as possible so that we can stand up tall with them so [viewers] won’t be like, “Oh, they don’t know what they’re talking about; they’re just students. Let’s go back to CNN.”
Less experience can also mean fresher, more raw perspective.
Yeraldin Deavila: Since we aren’t as experienced as the pros we see, we might be a little more fearless ... At the same time, the fearlessness that we might have may backfire, as I oftentimes find that happening to me! ... I’ve gotten to learn that you’re going to get rejected most of the time when you come up to people with your camera and your microphone. ... Before, I used to be like, “Hey, can you do this for me?” And now, I don’t ask them anymore. I just ask the questions.
Fox News to MSNBC, networks have cultivated some political shows that favor polarizing commentary over “just the facts” reporting. Thoughts?
Carl Winder: I believe political coverage is a chess match. You have to report it, but at the same time, you try not to put your own beliefs into it, and no matter if you like or dislike the candidate, you have to find balance. … I’m going to be wearing red and blue [on election night], just to show my objectivity.
So you can be objective about Ann Romney or Michelle Obama having better style.
CW: I will not comment on that. No matter how I answer questions about dress styles, it somehow ends bad.
The term “camera face” gets thrown around in the broadcast world. What does it mean?
YD: I think personality has to do with it a lot ... But I watch a lot of Univision, and I know that most of the time they’re eye-candies.
Whatever they look like, anchors can come off wooden and melodramatic. How do you go for the gravitas without becoming Ron Burgundy?
Elena Pogosyan: I think, just like actors, we have to get into character. I think about the “Elena” I want viewers to see, and I act it out.
Who is your dream interview?
EP: Celebrities and entertainers don’t interest me too much. The people who work 9-to-5 jobs while taking care of their family and going to school—those are the people with a story to tell.
Even when you’re not covering a presidential showdown, your work often keeps you on campus into the wee hours. How do you survive?
AD:We get our coffee. You know, it’s a religious thing for journalists. No one could ever fathom how much work we put into it or how many hours we spend in this building. It’s beyond ridiculous. … This is our Friday night; this is our Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday night, because we love it so much. … I’m surprised we don’t have sleeping bags in our newsroom.
That has reality show written all over it.
YD: We actually want to do our own show like The Newsroom. … You grow into this huge family. At the end, you see these people more than you would your family, so you do have connections and chemistry with each other.
Families occasionally fight. Did you argue over not all voting for the same president?
AD: I was offered sushi to change my choice, but—
EP: —It didn’t work (laughs). –