By: Courtney Lyons, Contributor
Canisius University’s Spring 2024 Course Catalog welcomed a novel and unique journalism class entitled, “Special Topics in Journalism: Electing a President” (JRN 380). Per the course description, the class “will focus on the history and practice of political journalism, with a special focus on national journalism about presidential elections.” But Assistant Professor Dan Higgins, who chairs the journalism department and is eager to teach JRN 380, candidly sums up the course, stating, “This is not going to be a normal class, and I could not be happier about it.”
The course’s unconventionality arises from its apogee: attending the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer, where Canisius students will be working journalists. Equipped with media credentials, enrolled students will report on the conventions by curating multimedia coverage to be uploaded on a public website. Professor Higgins states that classmates will be a team and “function like a newsroom,” collaborating on pieces each convention day.
The Republican and Democratic National Conventions — held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois, respectively — culminate an intra-party political battle already well underway with the recent Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary. The conventions are pivotal in the electoral process, for they officially declare the two major political parties’ official presidential candidates.
Until the highly anticipated trips, students will be studiously preparing in the classroom. From following the candidates’ current campaign trail to analyzing the convoluted American presidential election process — from the primaries to the electoral college — these students will not be lacking coursework.
The course’s sui generis nature converges students with journalistic and political passions. The Griffin’s top brass — Editor-in-Chief Ava Green and Managing Editor Jon Dusza — are JRN 380 students who were drawn to the class for different reasons. For the politically-savvy Dusza, the class is “literally a dream come true.” He states, “Being at a political convention has been a low-probability bucket list item for me for years, so to have that opportunity given to me at any time, and for it to earn me credit towards graduating, is incredible, and I’m grateful for it.”
On the other hand, Green, who possesses a greater interest in narrative journalism than election coverage, states, “Even though I don’t really plan on focusing on political writing in my future, taking this class and attending these events does nothing but build up my writing credentials, experience and professionalism.”
From granted wishes to practical, substantial field experience, Green encapsulates the sentiments of Professor Higgins and students towards JRN 380 alike saying, “It’s just so exciting, regardless of your interests, to get a taste of the action and literally watch history happen.”