Communication Studies, National Conventions 2012

In fall 2012, SMU students are attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of a political communication studies program in Meadows School of the Arts. They are attending with Professor Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, and Dan Schill, assistant professor of communication studies, who are conducting “Dial Test” research for CNN.

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First impressions

 An update from Amanda at the Republican National Convention:

Out on the veranda, your motley crew of cameramen, stage lights and microphones border the Tampa Convention Center. With perfectly posed palm trees and a crisp Tampa Bay Harbor, viewers might even forget that Hurricane Isaac is headed our way.

Cable news appears to be a seamless production. With affiliates in New York and headquarters in Atlanta, CNN streamlines live coverage of the convention with special guest interviews. Whom, you might ask, does CNN solicit to interview at this crucial convention?

My job here at CNN, as intern extraordinaire, is to coordinate the swift entrance, interview, and exit of CNN’s VIP guest interviewees. On paper my duties include escorting the guests to and from their secure drop-off locations to CNN’s live broadcasting areas at the convention.

However, I’ve never been one to stick to my script. I certainly was not raised to meet expectations, and I didn’t get where I am today by doing what was merely expected of me. Rather, I opt to exceed expectations and seek opportunities. There are hundreds of interns here, each with similar duties and menial task lists. How am I to go above and beyond, to be the student SMU has educated me to be, and to be the professional I hope to become?

Anyone can escort Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to his car; I, however, can carry a conversation with him above and beyond the typical “Isn’t this weather a bummer.” In our brief walk back to his arranged transportation, I was able to establish common ground. In just seven short minutes, the Attorney General and I discovered that I was studying abroad in Spain at the same time as his daughter. While this common ground may seem trivial, it led to a conversation of significance.

Mr. Olens and I agreed that communication is vital to our future – to our future as Americans and our future as global citizens. In addition to being nearly fluent in Spanish, Mr. Olens’ daughter and I are attempting to master a third language. He was pleasantly surprised to know I too believe that first we must seek to understand before we can be understood, as language is the bridge to cultural understanding.

Our walk quickly ended and conversation cut short. He handed me his credentials and went on his way, presumably another interview. It was not until 4 that afternoon, seven hours after our exchange that I saw him again. This time he didn’t just shake my hand and say, “Nice to meet you.” Instead, he said, “Good afternoon, Amanda, I want you to meet a few of my colleagues…”

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