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Student journalists work just as hard as non-student journalists and deserve recognition.

As the 2020 presidential election continues to make headlines across the country, it’s important to note that student journalists have kept up with recent updates and numbers. On top of their academic life, these journalists have kept their peers and superiors up to date on election news, whether it be through print, online or broadcast. 

At JMU, student journalists who work for The Breeze’s print, online, and broadcast teams, as well as other college journalists at UNC and Syracuse, have put a great deal of effort into their election coverage. This election has been a difficult one to cover because of the mail-in ballots that are still being counted, and the many other ways COVID-19 has impacted this election. Many people go to mainstream news sources for information on the election, but there should be recognition for student journalists and their coverage. 

Many of these student journalists have worked in student media for a couple years, but this election is a first for most of them. Although politics is covered in its own separate section in print, online and broadcast journalism, this election caused many students to stray away from their normal coverage and focus on a challenging event. According to Bailey Hostetter, a studio director for the Election Night broadcast by BreezeTV, covering politics was a challenge, but once the studio got the hang of it, it ended up being fun. 

“I’m so glad to have this opportunity, and that we have a good studio here to be able to put on productions like this,” Hostetter said.

Both The Breeze, and its broadcast branch, BreezeTV have worked tirelessly to publish content surrounding the election, and to see that hard work paid off by having their articles and stories recognized around campus is rewarding. 

Ross Metcalf, who covered some of the statewide trends and compiled the results on election night, said that although this experience was out of his normal comfort zone, it was a rewarding process watching production come together. 

“For a group of 16 students and 3 professors to be able to cover a very broad range of candidates and issues was impressive to watch and amazing to be a part of,” Metcalf said. “I have found a renewed interest in the journalistic progress.”

Sometimes reaching out to political figures in the area was tough because of lack of responses, and these journalists had to make due with what information they had. Metcalf said it wasn’t easy to work around not hearing back from both senatorial candidate’s campaigns for information to broadcast. 

“I had to get creative in terms of sources and how to frame the two stories,” Metcalf said. 

For many student journalists, this wasn’t only their first time working with politics, but also journalism as a whole.  

Chandler Bagwell, a freshman SMAD major who volunteered to help on election night and played a key role as a field producer, said this experience has led her to want to be involved more with BreezeTV.

“Being a freshman, I thought it would’ve been good exposure for me to get involved in BreezeTV early,” said Bagwell. “I am not really interested in politics, but being there on election night was an amazing experience.”

This important event has given student journalists a pathway for their future careers. Having been able to cover a momentous election and keeping up with all the recent updates isn’t easy to do, but these journalists have proven that they’re professionals and can handle any obstacle put in their way. 

Most people often brush off the work of student journalists because they see them as being young and naive, but this is proof that no one should underestimate the work that a student journalist has in store. Just last year, both Breeze and BreezeTV won more than two dozen awards in state and regional competitions.

Kylee Toland is a junior Media Arts and Design major. Contact Kylee at tolandkm@dukes.jmu.edu.