Journalism students hit the campaign trail

Journalism and Media and Cultural Studies

ECU journalism students have become part of Australia’s largest newsroom, reporting on the 2016 federal election campaign through the UniPollWatch project.

With students from 28 universities, the project aims to cover every lower house seat in the country with electorate and candidate profiles and reporting on key policy issues. It will also feature key Senate candidates and “explainer” articles to make politics accessible to readers and especially first-time voters.

Via online and social media platforms, and in partnership with Guardian Australia, student work on UniPollWatch has the potential to reach a diverse and wide audience.

Dr Kayt Davies ECU, Senior Journalism Lecturer and UniPollWatch WA Co-ordinator, said she had embedded the work in the ECU political journalism unit so the articles and candidate profiles the students are writing are for assessment.

“They are learning as they go, dealing with real world challenges involved in getting people to speak on the record about politics in a way that makes sense,” Dr Davies said.

“I also have five senior students who have taken on the role of being editors on the electorate level, managing groups of students, sub-editing their work and ensuring that all relevant issues are covered.

“The project is exposing those students to a whole different level of media work,” she said.

The first UniPollWatch project was conducted in Victoria for the state election of 2014. Journalism educators saw that the success of that project could be extended nationally to provide coverage of the 2016 federal election. ECU Journalism and Broadcasting student Mathew Dower said that the project has helped broaden his understanding of politics.

“As someone who hasn’t been as aware about politics as some others, my understanding has grown in spades over the summer and throughout the first ten weeks of semester,” Mathew said.

“The project has enhanced my interest in day-to-day politics so much that it’s made me want to pursue a career in political journalism in the near future.”

The UniPollWatch project is published by The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA).