For student journalists, political conventions are a glimpse at media spectacle

CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention is a window onto wildly fragmented media with dozens of organizations that didn't exist even a few years ago.

And then there's a small cadre from a tried-and-true staple of youth-driven journalism: college newspapers.

Say hello to a quartet of kids from the The State News, the student newspaper from Michigan State University, who are among the throng.

(Image by James Warren via Flickr.)
(Image by James Warren via Flickr.)

"It's a great opportunity for student journalists," said Nic Antaya, who'll be a junior in the fall and is a photographer. "It gives us an experience like no other."

Antaya was hanging out in what normally is a garage next to the Quicken Loans Arena, site of the convention, which has been turned into a temporary "media row" largely inhabited by radio, TV and live-streaming organizations.

So you could stumble Monday afternoon into mainstream media icon Dan Rather doing a show for SiriusXM Radio, chat with him as I did, then watch him amble past scores of young folks surely clueless as to his identity or pedigree.

And whereas he was once part of a rather privileged broadcasting universe, he's now operating in a world in which, it seems, everybody can broadcast, be it via YouTube, Facebook or various other platforms. This is the world far beyond the establishment broadcast and cable news networks.

Antaya is joined by another photographer, Carly Geraci, and two reporters, Stephen Olschanski and Rachel Fradette. They drove to Cleveland and are staying in a dorm at Case Western Reserve University, a lot closer to the action than many A-list journalists who are 30 to 40 miles outside of town due to a housing crunch.

Two of them are covering the action in the arena, while two others are dealing with the anti-Trump protests. Since it's the summer, the print edition of the daily comes out just once a week, on Thursday, so most of their handiwork is for the website.

It's been fun in just the short amount of time they've been here. Antaya showed me some of his work, including a "pretty crazy" scene of a gentleman who had another guy on a leash, with the second fellow posing as a dog called "Little Trump."

The sort-of master was asking people to kick "little Trump" and promising that the "dog" was theirs if they kicked him four times.

It's all part of the spectacle of a political convention. And, like covering fires, murders, high school volleyball games and garden parties, it's table stakes for learning a craft.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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