What I learned: Covering a presidential debate

In this edition of “What I learned,” senior staff reporter Kathryn Cargo shares her notes on covering a presidential debate, a session she attended the College Media Association/Associated Collegiate Press national convention in Austin. Thanks, Kathryn, for sharing your advice to help move The Shorthorn forward.

How to cover a presidential debate 

  • Before the debate, do pre-coverage: gather information about candidates, logistics and issues you know they might cover.
  • Live tweet, but not too much. Tweet the important points. If you tweet too much, your audience will stop reading them.
  • Be ready to run and push.
  • Keep your eye on the audience.
  • Interview the people who ask interesting questions. Ask them whether they were satisfied with the candidates answer.
  • Write your story as you go to keep from missing deadline.
  • Watch for trends. Is one side stronger than the other?
  • A general debate lede will include main points in the debate.
  • Don’t worry about chronology of the debate when writing your story. Put the most important news at the top and the least important at the bottom.
  • Avoid bias and put aside any personal opinions. Make sure to represent each candidate equally.
  • Send out a quick social media summary. You can add a photo of the audience or candidate departing.  Save the analysis and full story for later.

The Shorthorn can use this advice when covering any debate on campus or upcoming presidential debates.

Note from Beth: What are your thoughts? Add to the conversation by posting below. 



This blogger shares some good basic tips for selecting your profile picture. Please note I disagree on her comment that there is a difference between personal and professional accounts (employers and internship coordinators … and your professors … don’t see a difference). Please read, and let’s schedule a professional portraits day for the newsroom so that we can all go pro in our profiles.

These Profile Photos Make You Look Bad – Jenn’s Trends.

Social media resources for on-campus groups

UT Arlington has helped make your job as journalists a little easier. Check out this page for a list of student groups, departments and more that have social media outlets that you can join or follow to keep up with their news.

For example, if I were the Science reporter: I’d review the list, then find and follow all groups on facebook that are associated with the College of Science (student groups, etc.). That way, I can monitor and keep in touch with members in addition to the leadership.

Reporters, editors and photographers, I would take time to do this today and include it as part of your beat reporting.

Connect with UT Arlington – UT Arlington.

TIPA Notes: Using social media effectively

Over the next week, your colleagues will share their thoughts and notes from what they learned during the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association convention in Fort Worth last weekend.

How to effectively use social media (to keep your journalism job)
Led by: Daniel Rodrigue, Dallas Observer contributing writer/photographer

Description: In the past five years, the branded icons and buttons of various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Reddit, started popping up on the websites of nearly every major media outlet. Nowadays, every “like” or share means more readers interacting without content, and most editors expect staff to be active on social media sites. We know “sharing” our stories online is one of the most important ways we can funnel traffic to our work, but how can we effectively use social media to bump up our page views.

Rodrigue started out the session telling the eager minds of college journalists adapting to this digitally-driven world; he said at least four really great journalists he knows have been fired from their reporter jobs for not getting enough online hits to their stories.

In this day and age he said even email is too slow.

Speaking of a constantly changing media: Last semester we learned a lot about SEO and how important it is to the online story. But Rodrigue says that it is not as important as something else.

Sentences such as “Oh my God you’ll never believe what so and so did/wore/ate” will get more clicks than articles loaded with keywords.

So here is a breakdown of the session

– Hashtags are great, but make sure you are using the one that has the most traffic (do your research). For example he brought up the whole “what’s the tipa hashtag” controversy. People are using both #tipa13 and #tipa2013

– Chart Beats is a good app to use for measuring analytics
– Facebook: Old People
– Pinterest: Woman
– Reddit: Young Men
– Tumblr/Instagram: Teens and hipsters

– Spelling
– Know your readers (and engage them)
– Lead with the news
– Trickle the news

– The magic hour for posting is  p.m. (3-4:55 to be exact). The second best time is 11-12:30 p.m.
– Repost your top stories more than once a day, especially on Twitter. On Facebook it is recommended to repost them by sharing a photo because photos trick the algorithm to make the story last longer and show up more. He also suggested using this (ICYMI) with reposts. It means in case you missed it.
-Tag everyone and everything involved in the story on Twitter and Facebook.
– With Twitter pull out unusual facts and quirky moments from the story to lead with.
– Putting NSFW will automatically get more hits

Finally, the last thing he said was that trolls are GREAT because they get people talking. He posed the question that would you be more likely to click on a story with two comments or 76?