Students Work in Media Filing Center

If having presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley on your college campus wasn’t exciting enough, five Saint Anselm students were given the opportunity to work for ABC News in the Media Filing Center ahead of Saturday night’s Democratic Debate.

Working in the filing center and spin room, students Stefan Skalimski ’18, Courtney Pelletier ’18, Phoebe Ferraiolo ’17, Abby Smith ’17, and Emily Dewey ’17, have been watching the political process in action.

“It’s a really good opportunity to see behind the scenes, watch the debate set up, and also network,” said politics major and communication minor Ferraiolo.

Throughout the afternoon, the students checked-in the media and gave out press credentials. More than 400 reporters, photographers, and members of the associated press are expected to check-in by the start of the debate.

For many of the students, having the presidential debates on campus was a main reason for choosing Saint Anselm College. Politics major Skalimski was deciding between Catholic University in Washington D.C and Saint Anselm, but ultimately decided on Saint Anselm because of his interest in political campaigns and the political presence at the college.

“The debates on campus are definitely a reason why I came here,” he said.

For the past two days, Skalimski has set-up the filing center: folding place cards, putting out chairs and hanging banners. Through the course of the day, he has directed the media personnel to their tables and in the process met representatives from Fox News, CNN, and other news organizations.

By the end of the night, Skalimski hopes one of the candidates makes an appearance in the spin room. However, the experience alone has made his time worthwhile, regardless of whether he sees Hillary or Bernie in the building,

“Working at the debates alone is a dream come true for a college politics major and I’m excited to have this opportunity,” said Skalimski.

Students prepare media filing center


Journalist for a Day: A Student's Experience at the Debate

Photo: Gil Talbot

A garden sprung up on the grass outside Stoutenburgh Gymnasium, with big satellite flowers on stalks of wire and cable. The major networks, camped around the campus in big white microwave trucks, weren’t the only ones covering the debate; the Carr Center was bustling with over 700 news media reporters, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other team members from all over the world.

Credentialed by ABC News, I was invited to report on the event for the Saint Anselm Crier. I sat in the front row in the press filing room, watched the debate with a room full of experienced journalism teams, and spoke to governors, U.S. representatives and senators, and directors and secretaries of federal offices who endorsed the Republican candidates for the Presidency. It was an amazing, new, and fulfilling experience for me to sit next to representatives from BBC News, to hear the stories of Occupy protesters and the supporters of the Republican candidates, and to communicate in broken Italian with a trio from a news media in Italy.

The 700 reporters were assigned seats along lines of tables set up in front of giant projector screens. In the hours before the debate, Occupy protesters marched on campus, setting up camp in the St. Joan of Arc parking lot. They carried signs and vigil candles, a coffin hoisted on the shoulders of six men, and beat on drums to lament the death of the American Dream. Vermin Supreme, a satirical performance artist who campaigns for the presidency on the platform of zombie awareness and tooth-brushing, joined the ranks of the Occupy Manchester/Saint Anselm movement. Republican supporters who shared the same space as the Occupiers had shouting matches over their favorite presidential candidate. Just like the garden of satellites, the supporters and protesters created a lush and colorful garden of picket signs. Everyone had a story to tell, including a group of Orthodox Jews from overseas protesting Zionism and an advocacy group for programs and services for children.

During the debate, the reporters focused on typing notes; during commercial breaks, discussions on new media outlets, such as Twitter and microblogging, were ubiquitous. Whenever a candidate would offer up an inspiring quote, the reporters gave a satisfied sigh; whenever there was an effective tack or a scathing side-comment, the reporters would laugh and groan. We were an audience beyond those in the seats in the Dana Center’s Koonz Theatre, and we were bringing this news to the rest of the world. It was fascinating, hearing the responses of the news teams as they prepared to write their stories and condense the information for the viewers and readers of their morning news. When the debate ended at eleven, there was a mad rush to the building next door, where we heard and recorded the words of government officials who reacted to the debate and gave support to the Republican candidates; the candidates themselves also joined the spin room, trying to get the press to hear more of their story.

From the moment the giant screens in our press room began airing the debate, I could feel a sense of pride and joy that my school, my little school in quiet New Hampshire, was at the eye of the world of politics. Saint Anselm College was praised by many for being a welcoming host; the spirit of the Benedictine tradition was definitely in the air during the whole debate process. Every journalist, every reporter, had a story to tell that night. In Manchester New Hampshire—at Saint Anselm College—history was made, and I was there to see it.

View all of the videos from the debates:

Students Get in on ABC Debate Action

People are giving Ryan Sandford funny looks. That's because today, he's a human camera. The freshman criminal justice major is walking around campus wearing a helmet cam, documenting as much of the debate night action as possible. It is part of his job with the Office of College Communications and Marketing.

Other students are working as runners, greeters, assistants and stand-ins. Burke Bero and Alicia Blanchard were part of a panel of "wise men," or political analysts, on a set in the Dana Center. Bero stood in for Jake Tapper, ABC News' senior White House correspondent, and Blanchard was political strategist Donna Brazile. ABC camera operators practiced their angles as the faux pundits conversed about the candidates. At the same time, six students stood at podiums on the main set, acting the parts of the Republican candidates. When the debate begins at 9 pm, the lighting, cameras, and audio will be honed to perfection.

GOP Debate Week: Tuesday

Amanda Sharon '15 and Ashley Scoville '15 work as runners for ABC News at the Radisson Hotel on January 3.

With four days to go before the Republican Primary Debate on January 7, the campus is soon to become a media maelstrom. In the Dana Center, where the event will be hosted by ABC and WMUR, Christmas wreaths came down and aluminum trusses went up. Lighting technicians hung and cabled 175 lights. Cushing Student Center was becoming FOX News “command central,” and a FOX News studio set was being created in Davison Hall.

Four miles away, in Manchester’s Radisson Hotel, dozens of Saint Anselm students worked as runners for CBS and ABC, laying cable, putting up signs, and setting up chairs and tables. Tom Snow ’14, a politics major, sat in for anchor Scott Pelley on the CBS set and has also sat in for TV talk show host Charlie Rose. Tomorrow morning, he and Gabriella Servello ’14 report for work at 4:30 to work the “green room” before the 7am show airs.

It’s fairly calm right now, one runner remarked, but once the candidates and journalists arrive from Iowa, where the caucus is taking place today, they expect to be literally running.

Check out the complete photo gallery below.


Students Tell Their Stories to the Wall Street Journal

After her morning exam, English major Amanda Brahm sat down in the NHIOP and told a Wall Street Journal reporter about an experience she will never forget: standing in for presidential candidate Mitt Romney during rehearsals for the June 13 Republican primary debate on campus. She learned the candidate’s position and gave accurate answers to the moderator (a classmate standing in for CNN chief national correspondent John King). Meanwhile, technicians did sound and lighting checks in preparation for the live national broadcast.

Amanda Brahm

Amanda Brahm stands in for Governor Mitt Romney at the June 2011 presidential primary debate.

The reporter, Jennifer Levitz, wanted to know what it is like to be at Saint Anselm College during a presidential election cycle. These students had numerous up-close-and-personal experiences to relate.

“I have friends who go to college in Washington, D.C. and they’ve never had experiences like this,” said Lyndsay Robinson. “I’ve met every single candidate at least three times.”

Although she is a Romney supporter, Robinson will be assisting candidate Newt Gingrich during this afternoon’s Lincoln-Douglas style debate with Jon Huntsman.

Jake Wagner talked about being an intern in the Huntsman campaign. The passionate politics major and Huntsman supporter (with a minor in campaign management) has been a political addict since the age of eight, and is executive director of the Saint Anselm College Republicans.

Unlike Robinson and Wagner, Brahm is more interested in the election process than in a particular candidate.

As the students chatted with the Wall Street Journal reporter, MSNBC’s broadcast of political coverage played on the NHIOP’s wide screen TV in the background. For Saint Anselm students who want to get a closer look at politics in progress, the opportunities are unlimited.

Journalist Balz Shares Primary Insights

“This is one of the strangest primary years we’ve ever seen,” said Washington Post journalist Dan Balz at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) Friday morning. “Almost nothing we predicted is playing out the way we might have expected.” He addressed an audience at the Politics and Eggs series attended by business people and members of the faculty and student body, and even a Parliamentarian from Belgium.

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz (photo by Bill O'Leary /TWP)

Washington Post reporter Dan Balz (photo by Bill O'Leary /TWP)

Balz, the co-author of The Battle for America 2008, discussed the ups and downs of various contenders for the Republican primary nomination and the American people’s current disenchantment with President Barack Obama.

This primary process started out much more slowly than in previous years, he observed. “We have had the most fluid Republican lineup any of us can remember. There was almost as much attention to people who decided not to run as to people who decided to run. In almost every case, there was a great deal of discussion and commentary about them that created another story, which was, ‘What’s wrong with this field?’”

He also stressed the importance of this election cycle’s primary debates, saying that “virtually every debate has been consequential and has had significant impact on people’s impressions of candidates.” Saint Anselm College hosted one debate in June and will be the setting of another Jan. 7, just before the first-in-the-nation primary.

This is in many ways a high stakes election and a crucial election, Balz noted, as it plays out against the backdrop of a terrible economy and dissatisfaction with the way things are done in Washington.

He pointed out that a lot of Republicans are still reluctant to embrace Mitt Romney, who has a strong organization in New Hampshire. A poll released last month by the NHIOP and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University put Romney 18 points ahead of his closest rival in New Hampshire, Herman Cain, at 38 percent to 20 percent. The institutes will issue a second poll shortly before the Jan. 10 primary.

“I don’t know yet how much affection there will be for Mitt Romney,” Balz said, “but the party doesn’t have to love its nominee. It has to believe they are capable of winning in the general election and rally around that. The passion issue is going to be created on the Republican side by President Obama.”

He said that even unlikely candidates are valuable to the process by creating discussion around certain issues. “Things always change when the voters begin to vote. Let’s remember that come January, something is going to happen that we don’t expect.”

Asked by a listener how social media is affecting this campaign, he said, “with Twitter and the rolling, running news cycle, journalists run the risk of getting out ahead of where the story really is.”

Video Tour of the CNN Election Express

Joshua Rubin, producer on the CNN Election Express, gave Saint Anselm College an inside look at CNN's mobile news bureau. The bus, which has become a familiar backdrop during live shots in front of Saint Anselm's Alumni Hall, has found a home on the quad this week in advance of the June 13, 2001 New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate at the college.

Four years ago, the CNN Express arrived at Saint Anselm for its first public appearance. The state-of-the-art bus, which has seen substantial upgrades since its last appearance at the college in June 2007, is designed for on-the-go reporting and serves as news gathering resource for the network. Since its last visit to campus, the bus has been across the country, covering politics, the economy, and deploying to breaking news stories.

You can follow along with Joshua Rubin, and the bus on Twitter, @CNNexpress.

Thanks for the tour Joshua!