BGSU was beamed into the living rooms of America by ABC News and Charles Gibson when the “Great American Battleground Bus Tour” stopped here Oct. 7. The campus was the site of ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” and part of the network’s national coverage of the second presidential debate. Twelve students watched the debate with Gibson in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union and then shared their responses to what they had heard.
A remarkable 9.92 million people watched the post-debate coverage that night, according to the Nielsen ratings, the highest viewership of any network.
“The University was in the national spotlight when ABC visited, and it truly put its best face forward,” said Interim President Carol Cartwright. “I am very proud of our students, who were so thoughtful and articulate, and our faculty, who opened their classrooms. Planning and preparing for the day’s events was a campuswide effort, and everyone came together to show Bowling Green at its finest. From the facilities staff who worked so hard to spruce up the campus and provide technical assistance to the crew, to the Student Affairs staff who helped identify and organize the students, to the Union staff who graciously hosted the event, to Marketing and Communications, who oversaw the entire operation, it was a tremendous collaborative project, and I heartily thank everyone involved for their participation.”
The lawn outside Williams Hall was a mass of cables, lights, cameras and equipment the afternoon and evening of the broadcast, while dozens of students, faculty and staff looked on. In addition to the national ABC news broadcast, the local affiliate, 13ABC, aired its 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news shows, with Diane Larson and Lee Conklin, from the lawn next to the Gibson set. Larson returned to campus for the 11 p.m. newscast.
Also covering the event were BGSU student news organizations, including the BG News and BG 24 News, plus reporters from The (Toledo) Blade, Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, the Northwest Signal in Napoleon, KISS-FM in Toledo and the University of Toledo student TV channel 10.
The evening was the culmination of days of preparation on the part of Marketing and Communications, which worked with ABC and the campus community to coordinate the visit. The facilities staff, Student Affairs, Information Technology Services, faculty in political science and communication studies, the union staff and many others across campus all played important roles in ensuring a smooth operation.
Student panel shares opinions
For the student perspective after the debate, ABC sought students from a variety of class years, majors, backgrounds and interests, including a balance of Obama, McCain and undecided voters. University deans and others helped solicit participants.
After interviewing about 45 students, Marketing and Communications submitted all their information to ABC, which made the final decision on the panelists, each of whom spoke after the debate.
On the panel were Nicholas Gamero, a senior from Medina majoring in liberal studies; Tommie James, a junior from Cincinnati majoring in biology and pre-medicine; Maggie Long, a freshman from Kenton majoring in political science; Christie Cruise-Harper, a doctoral student from East St. Louis, Ill., majoring in higher education administration; Jeffery Wilmoth, a middle school education major from Beavercreek; Jessica Precop, a senior from Livonia, Mich., majoring in human development and family studies; Brittany Fiffick, a junior from Hinckley double majoring in Spanish and political science; Tony Hunter, a junior from Coshocton majoring in applied economics; Sarah Henderly, a sophomore from Elmore majoring in music education; DJ Swearingen, a senior from Columbus majoring in political science; Quinten Wise, a senior from Waterville majoring in political science and economics, and Jacob Smith, a senior from Sandusky double majoring in political science and history.
Those who were not chosen for the panel were hosted by Cartwright at a reception in the union, where they watched the debate with University administrators, board members and friends.
Students get inside view
The BG Experience political science class of Dr. Melissa Miller was also highlighted during the news broadcast. About two weeks before the debate, “World News with Charles Gibson” producer Karen Zucker had visited to interview the students about their view of the issues facing the country, which Gibson then showed and commented on during the broadcast.
In return, ABC staffers were generous in sharing their experience with BGSU. Bob Wheelock, senior producer for special events, spoke to a large group of School of Communication Studies students who joined Efrem Graham’s Journalism 100 class for his presentation. Later, Wheelock gave a tour to students from Dr. James Foust’s online journalism class.
Conklin also talked with the students about broadcast news.
Dr. Terry Rentner, director of the school, said she was happy the students had the opportunity to see a major news operation in action and was grateful for the valuable professional insights they received from the experience.