Student media cover all angles of presidential debate; live screening draws 350 to USC Annenberg lobby

A live screening of the first presidential debate of the 2012 election season drew a crowd of more than 350 members of the Trojan community to USC Annenberg on Wednesday night, and the various student media kicked into high gear to cover the news.

The event, which included a panel discussion co-hosted by the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, was “the largest ever debate viewing on the USC campus,” according to CCLP.

As hundreds, including reporters from NBC, CBS and the Associated Press (story here), packed USC Annenberg’s east lobby, student media organizations hustled to report, tweet and blog their live coverage of both the debate and record-setting event.

Reporters and editors at Neon Tommy, Annenberg’s digital news site, packed the newsroom Wednesday night to put together a package that featured more than 20 debate-related articles.

For each round of questions, staffers published a piece summarizing key points and quotes, ensuring that headlines were updated every 20 minutes. Post-debate coverage included the responses of political blogs and journals to Romney’s “victory,” fact-checking of the candidates’ statements and opinion pieces detailing the night’s best and worst moments for both parties.

“I’ve never been more impressed with our staff,” Neon Tommy Executive Director Paresh Dave said. ”In our four-and-half-years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group this engaged, this self-motivated and this talented. We’re showing students can learn a lot on the job, do real work and make a positive effect on helping readers and viewers understand what’s happening in the world.”

A television segment for Annenberg TV News used the large crowd to paint an overall picture of political involvement and partisanship within the USC student community, interviewing representatives from both the USC College Democrats and USC College Republicans. The piece also focused upon the effect of Romney’s “Big Bird” comment upon social media.

“I saw that it was trending on Twitter, 17,000 tweets per minute about Big Bird” student Charles Epting told ATVN. “So it’s obviously not a serious political issue, it’s not the Middle East or tax policy, but I think to pull one catchphrase out of tonight’s debate it would be ‘Big Bird.’”

A follow-up ATVN story further detailed the trending popularity of the Sesame Street icon and debate moderator Jim Lehrer.

The Daily Trojan also covered the debate and CCLP-Unruh panel. Following the panel, reporters conducted a private interview with communication professor Tom Hollihan.