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Student journalists cover federal shutdown

By Dan O'Brien
October 15, 2013

Journalism students

Abigail Collins '15 and Jackie Tempera '15 worked with several other Journalism students on two stories about the government shutdown for Boston.com. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

A group of Journalism Department students has advanced local coverage of the federal government shutdown by producing original multimedia articles for Boston.com—all in a partnership between the Boston Globe and several area colleges with journalism programs.

“You’re writing for a real news outlet, so the stuff has to be good,” said Abigail Collins ’15, who put together an interactive map of the Boston tourist attractions that are closed due to the shutdown.

Associate Professor Jerry Lanson, formerly an editor at the San Jose Mercury News, assigned the government shutdown story to the students with deadlines similar to that of a news outlet—pitching the story during a Monday class, and giving the students until the next class on Wednesday to turn in their work.

“What I thought was exceptional,” Lanson said, “was how quickly the students sorted out who was doing what.”

Two articles and an interactive map came out of the assignment. “How the government shutdown has affected some Boston historical sites” went online October 10; and “Charlestown Navy Yard community scuffles to deal with government shutdown consequences” was posted October 11.

Jackie Tempera ’15, the lead writer of the former story, interviewed tour guides at Boston’s Freedom Trail, which was not affected by the shutdown, unlike most other tourist sites.

“The story showed how this business was still going, and was actually picking up more business because of the shutdown,” said Tempera, who is the news editor of the Berkeley Beacon, the Emerson student newspaper, and interned last summer at USA Today.

Carl Setterlund ’14 co-authored the article on the Charlestown Navy Yard, which focused on the nonprofit U.S.S. Constitution Museum that was not closed by the shutdown, but could not open because it is located on government property in the Navy Yard.

“It’s almost become a prison, whereas before it was in a great location next to the ship,” Setterlund said.

Setterlund, who covers the New England Revolution as a freelance writer for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, said Lanson’s class has broadened his reporting and writing skills.

“Sports writing can become a formula,” he said. “I’ve covered a lot of sports games and the writing comes naturally. But I’ve learned sports features are different from news features.”

Boston.com is the most visited news website for New England. Journalism students at Emerson and other colleges write articles that appear on the website as part of regular class assignments. The stories appear under Boston.com’s hyperlocal “Your Town” or “Your Campus” pages, but oftentimes appear on the main homepage and are sometimes used in the Globe print edition.

“This is a website that has more than [6] million distinct readers each month. You’re in the big time,” Lanson said. “For students, they have to double check everything and act professionally. It encourages them to put out an ‘A game.’”

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