College coverage of the primaries

There are two kinds of events that get every editor’s adrenaline pumping: The highly anticipated and the completely unexpected. Tuesday night at The Daily, we got a little bit of both.

Today you will see three full pages of stories, charts and maps covering what we believe is the most exciting election of our generation. At the risk of sounding like Obamaphiles, we have an opportunity to push for political and social change. Unless you are a Democrat from Florida, your decision yesterday was a weighty one that would either undo or carry on the legacy of the Bush administration.

That is if you weren’t busy studying under a the red glow of an exit sign in the library last night.

At about 6:30 p.m., the power went out in several buildings across campus, including two floors of Norris University Center and the library. Internet and cable cut out as well, leaving the Daily offices bereft of basic mode of communication. Because of a power line fire on Emerson and Dewey Streets, we had no way to e-mail or, more importantly, check the incoming results of the national and local elections.

It was a journalist’s worst nightmare.

We scrambled to cover the power shortages. We scrambled for a photographer and for scant information from city officials and students.

At the same time, we had a battalion out covering Chicago’s political soirees.

Needless to say, we were somewhat short-staffed. As a student newspaper we have a limited number of resources and a finite – a very finite – number of reporters.

But that’s what makes working at a paper like The Daily so exciting.

Two reporters phoned in their stories from Senator Barack Obama’s downtown shindig. As I write this, they are about to hear him speak. Another reporter rubbed shoulders with Hillary Clinton’s best friend, who talks regularly to The New York Times. During this particular event, the reporter encountered a lot of people schmoozing and boozing, chanting tawdry ad hoc slogans.

Another three reporters were covering local elections including the tense, six-person race for the Cook County State’s Attorney. Larry Suffredin, the Evanston favorite for the State’s Attorney race, lost by a small fraction. But that wasn’t the only close local race. An Evanston referendum to increase the city’s real estate transfer tax to aid the budget deficit also was defeated. One reporter overheard a local alderman say the referendum’s loss was Northwestern’s fault.

You might ask why The Daily is even bothering to cover a political rally that has attracted reporters from all over the country and, probably, the world, to cover races with results that tomorrow will be plastered over media outlets from CNN to the Chicago Tribune.

Partly it’s because we can. As students, it’s thrilling to be offered a spot in the Obama press corps. More important, our reporters offer the closest thing to a college perspective found in the business.

Days as eventful as this are unusual, especially at a college paper. Whenever our Development Editors speak to each year’s new crop of students, we advertise ourselves as not only the local newspaper, but a teaching newspaper. Each mistake, misquotation and omission teaches us something about what some people call an art form and what others call the journalism “biz.”

But when days like Super Tuesday-slash-Blackout Night force us to kick it into high gear, we learn what a newspaper like The Daily can be.

– Deepa SeetharamanCity editor

– Christopher DanzigForum editor