DANBURY, CONN. — In this extraordinary year of pandemic that has transformed the educational experience, members of a spirited student crew at Western Connecticut State University are taking full advantage of their technological tools and social media expertise to present WCSU’s 10th annual “Election Connection” production providing comprehensive election coverage and exploration of important issues.
Since its debut in November 2011, “Election Connection” has provided election night coverage of news and results from national, state and local contests, featuring an anchor team of student, faculty and expert commentators supported by student reporters covering key races and voter concerns. An exclusively student anchor team will host this year’s show on Tuesday, Nov. 3, from 8 p.m. to midnight, with up-to-the-minute coverage of the presidential, congressional and Connecticut General Assembly races as well as discussions of important issues facing Americans today. Candidates are invited to participate in live interviews during the show. A new feature of the 2020 production will be a live post-election show on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Both shows will stream over the “WCSU Studio Election Connection” YouTube portal and over the WCSU website at www.wcsu.edu/live. A radio simulcast will air on WXCI-91.7 FM. Social media access is available on the Facebook page “WCSU Election Connection,” on Twitter “@ElectionCT” and on Instagram “#electionCT.”
The “Election Connection” crew kicked off its 2020 series with presentation of a live-streamed virtual debate on Oct. 5 featuring the candidates in the state’s Fifth Congressional District race, which remains available at the program’s YouTube portal.
Executive producer Dr. JC Barone, WCSU professor of Communication and Media Arts, observed that students participating in the interdisciplinary course that produces “Election Connection” have been staying late after class and working weekends because they are driven by a commitment to the program.
“The pandemic has placed stressors on how we usually do things, but we are meeting that challenge with much enthusiasm and a robust can-do spirit,” Barone said. An important edge in adapting the production during the pandemic year has been its unique “technology cocktail” blending a state-of-the-art 4K television studio on the WCSU Midtown campus in Danbury with video conferencing, social media and traditional media tools. Presentations on this distinctive combination of media and digital technologies will be delivered at educational conferences during the academic year.
“Beyond, that, I think the core values we promote and share in ‘Election Connection’ — respect for one another’s views, teamwork, individual responsibility and a willingness to tackle novel problems — are what power us through the long hours involved and the technical challenges of producing this program,” he said.
Under Barone’s supervision, the student production team is led by associate executive producer Samantha Saalborn, of New Fairfield; news director Audrey Nielsen, of Higganum; and assistant news director Jack Dutt, of Danbury. Anchors for the shows are Emily Rovillo, of East Hampton, and Jacob Schultz, of Danbury. Sequoia Lowe, of Brookfield, will provide analysis of key election races, while Anna Adebambo, of Danbury, will produce social media coverage. Other students in leadership roles include producers Sydni Frisch, of Redding, Kevin Salguero, of Danbury, and Juliana Boldrin, of Wappingers Falls, New York; director Calvin Savoia, of Newtown; assistant director Zachary Cummings, of Danbury; and technical directors Bianca Pasqualone, of Bethel, and Seku-Baye Kariamu, of Danbury.
Other students performing various reporting and production roles are Madeline Bocchino, Siobhan Brown, Patrick Carlone, Kristen Conrad, Austin Davis, Sara Delucia, Brian Emro, Peter Falcone, Jeff Hess, Hannah Hirsch, Davanta Horner, Vivian Jimenez-Rijo, Dustin Martin, Jonathan McManamy, Gordon Moccio, Spencer Shaw, Mikayla Silkman, Jacob Smallwood-Garcia, Richard Stefan, Devin Trotta, Stephen Vogel and Adam Wolfe. WCSU alumna Jessica Ann Catena also will participate in the production. Technical support will be provided by WCSU staff members Scott Volpe, assistant director of Media Services, and Jason Esposito, user services manager in Information Technology and Innovation.
Barone has drawn from his extensive professional experience to design the course as a vehicle to train students in media, journalism and liberal arts for the demands of today’s job market. “Ironically, most students who enroll in this course are not initially interested in politics or news specifically,” he said. “Word has spread that this is an educational experience that will help them in their careers regardless of what their discipline is. Managing 30 to 40 students every year is daunting, but we need a large crew to handle all the positions including on-air talent, control room and studio crew, social media gurus, researchers, and field reporters assigned throughout the state.
“This year, I shifted to a more collaborative approach to teaching, giving students more responsibility, and they have stepped up,” Barone said. The team brings together media novices and veterans, with students staffing key positions including the news director in charge of working with all reporting teams, various producers in charge of overseeing their respective areas, and department chiefs.
“The mixture of in-person training, online technology and peer mentoring within a demanding, high-stakes environment gives them skills they will use beyond ‘Election Connection,’” he noted. “Much of the success of the class is due to the high level of engagement students are investing.”
WCSU’s “Election Connection” productions have earned recognitions from professional organizations in the communications field, including first and second place honors in the category of Studio Multi-Camera Production at the national Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts for three years as well as numerous top awards from the prestigious National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Additional recognitions include Telly Awards for Live Coverage and a Communicator Award of Distinction from the International Academy of the Visual Arts. “Our goal is consistently to deliver quality programming to the community and Connecticut,” Barone said.
For more information, contact Barone at email@example.com or Sherri Hill of the Office of University Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.