By Bryan Hay
Undeterred by limitations with technology and remote teaching, students in Mark Crain’s Policy Studies Leadership class interviewed national experts in a thorough examination of the political issues in this primary election season.
Six video essays will be featured in the next edition of Lafayette Lens: Voting Your Voice, which will be broadcast May 21, 7 p.m. on PBS39, a community-owned station that reaches 3.28 million households in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The others will air June 2, 10-11:30 p.m., during the station’s primary election coverage.
Students aimed high throughout the semester.
Some examples of the far-reaching video essays include Drew Jansen’s ’20 interview with CNN panelist and former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent and Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai about their views on political polarization at the state and local levels.
In interviews with Erik Avakian, chief information security officer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Amy Cozze, chief registrar of elections for Northampton County, Katrina Ruggiero ’20 explored the protection of election integrity in a political climate plagued by online misinformation and cyber threats.
Mark Anderson ’20 interviewed Pennsylvania state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-132nd District, about what issues motivated him to get involved in politics.
Tori Yordt ’20 focused her video essay on why more women aren’t running for political office, reaching out to Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University and a national spokesperson on the issue.
“Considering the many challenges we faced this semester with meeting remotely, the students displayed remarkable creativity and perseverance as they reached out to officials and experts across the political spectrum to produce compelling content for this latest edition of Lafayette Lens,” said Crain, William E. Simon Professor of Political Economy and chair of policy studies at Lafayette College.
Crain’s class met twice a week throughout the spring semester, meeting by Google Meet after classes moved to remote sessions in March.
As classes progressed, Crain and Monica Evans, PBS39 executive producer, provided equal measures of encouragement and tough love along the way to keep everything on track.
Crain made sure the content was unbiased and objective, and insisted his students read their scripts aloud for flow and clear pronunciation. Evans made sure they understood the importance of word choice and tight script writing to ensure that the most vital material would be delivered up front in each essay to immediately grab the attention of viewers.
“This is difficult work, even for professional journalists and production teams,” Evans told the class near the end of the semester. “Your work is very good, and I’ve enjoyed the process. Most people don’t have the opportunity to have their work showcased on television, especially on topics that are so impactful. Despite the challenges, you’ve worked through them. I’m proud of you.”
“I can’t thank the staff members at PBS39 enough for their professionalism and encouragement throughout the semester,” Crain added. “They’ve been with us every step of the way, offering advice and support as students in the Policy Studies Leadership course refined their storyboards and scripts. This will be a semester we will long remember.”
Crain, along with Nicole Crain, who is now professor of economics at the National Defense University, formed a partnership with PBS39 in 2012 to produce coverage of the national elections. The partnership expanded with Lafayette Lens, a half-hour series covering issues of global importance, including cybersecurity, immigration, autism spectrum disorder, autonomous vehicles, and gene editing. The widening influence of artificial intelligence was the topic for the fall edition of Lafayette Lens.