Students from Southern’s School of Journalism and Communication travelled to Lombard, Illinois for the Society of Adventist Communicators (SAC) Convention October 20-22. They expected the typical sessions on photography and editing, and plenty of networking opportunities. What they didn't expect was the opportunity to experience a national news event firsthand.
One of the highlights of the SAC Convention was social networking. On the first night leaders announced anyone wanting to connect via Twitter could use the hashtag #SAC2011. Already a Twitter fan, senior mass communication major Nathan Lewis joined in.
“I connected with a lot of people [using the hashtag],” he said. “Twitter and social networking were a great emphasis the whole weekend.”
Coincidentally, the night the meetings ended, Nathan was browsing through his Twitter timeline when he saw a tweet from Breaking News, a global news site, on the Occupy Chicago demonstration occurring at Grant Park.
Nathan had heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests before, but he and the rest of the group had no idea they’d be so close to one during their trip to Illinois.
After missing the train to the city, Nathan, along with Tiffani Caldwell, sophomore broadcast journalism major, Chris Jantezko, junior mass communication major, and Aaron Snelgrove, freshman journalism major, rode down with another SAC student attendee. As they travelled to the site, the students kept tabs on Twitter updates.
While reading news on arrests in the park, the students agreed to find out why people were being arrested as soon as they arrived, and avoid these same mistakes. They learned that the demonstrators who were taken by police were occupying the park though it had closed at 11 p.m.
The students remained outside of the actual park while they were on the scene, but that didn't stop their journalistic instincts. They whipped out cameras to document the scene; a picture and a video even landed on CNN’s iReports. The biggest question in their minds was about the people: what was bothering them to the point of protesting?
“It was cool!” Nathan said. “I love being out in the middle of the action. Being a part of a national news event like that was new to me.”
Students especially enjoyed the fact that the experience was so relevant to their college studies.
“Being a journalism and political science major, it was huge to be witnessing history,” Tiffani said. “Actually getting the chance to talk with [the protestors] was fascinating.”
After watching the scene, asking protesters questions, and taking pictures, the group left around 3 a.m. Sunday, just a few hours before their drive back to Southern.
“I applaud our students’ desire to learn from firsthand accounts and experiences,” said Greg Rumsey, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.
As informational as the SAC Convention was, both the students and faculty agree that there is no better way to learn the spirit of journalism than to experience breaking news firsthand.