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SJMC students to cover presidential inauguration


When President Barack Obama is sworn in Monday, Jan. 21, at the 2013 presidential inauguration, five students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) will be in Washington, D.C., covering the events live for local newspapers and via social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The trip is the brainchild of junior journalism student Anthony Cave and would not have been possible without the support of SJMC, the Society of Professional Journalists, an anonymous donor and the students themselves.

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Freedom Writers (From left to right) Anthony Cave, Brittny C. Valdes, Jonathan Simmons, Michae Baisden, Julissa Alberquerque, Neil Reisner and Barbara Corbellini Duarte (photographer) comprise the team of reporters that are covering the events of President’s Barack Obama’s second inauguration as they happen.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the students take this on and decide to make it happen,” says Neil Reisner, SJMC professor and a veteran newspaper reporter and editor. Reisner will accompany the students on the trip. “That kind of passion is about as gratifying as it gets.”

Cave, who says he’s “always looking for something journalistic to do” pitched the idea of the roadtrip in an email to SJMC instructor Christiane Delboni during winter break. Delboni is the news director of the South Florida News Service, an independent and supplementary program to the SJMC journalism curriculum that provides an opportunity for SJMC students to publish their work in major South Florida newspapers.

“I like covering politics because it’s complex,” says Cave. “There are a lot of good stories at any given time.”

Within two weeks of proposing the idea, Cave and fellow journalism students Julissa Alburquerque, Michae Baisden, Barbara Corbellini Duarte and Brittny Valdes had formed a partnership with the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee (MLKCC) of West Palm Beach to accompany them on the group’s bus ride to D.C.; written a funding proposal and budget; and developed a coverage plan.

Because the student journalists had passed the deadline to apply for press credentials, their coverage of the events won’t be standard news stories. Instead, the experience will be told through the eyes of the MLKCC members, individuals who refer to themselves as Freedom Riders, a reference to a group of men and women in the 1960s who boarded buses, trains and planes to the deep South to challenge that region’s non-compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited segregation in all interstate public transportation facilities.

“I want to feel their energy and put that energy into the story,” says Valdes, a senior. “I want to show their story and their travels. It’s going to require on-the-spot reporting, which I don’t have a lot of experience in. I’m looking forward to this trip making me a better reporter than I am today.”

Reisner says the students will be editing and filing stories from the bus, and Delboni will coordinate production and distribution of their work. One student will focus on video since the group plans to produce a documentary of the trip upon their return to Miami.

Check out this link to read the student stories as they are filed.