CSU students in Australia’s largest election newsroom

Sunday 15 May 2016

student headsCharles Sturt University (CSU) journalism students are part of Australia's largest newsroom, reporting on the 2016 federal election campaign through the UniPollWatch project.

Journalism lecturer Dr Margaret Van Heekeren in the CSU School of Communication and Creative Industries in Bathurst said the UniPollWatch project is a groundbreaking national project with journalism students from 28 universities participating.

"The project aims to cover every lower house seat in the country with electorate and candidate profiles, and reporting on key policy issues," Dr Van Heekeren said. "It will also feature key Senate candidates and 'explainer' articles to make politics accessible, especially to first-time voters.

"The students' work on UniPollWatch will be published by the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) and has the potential to reach a wide and diverse audience via online and social media platforms, including in partnership with The Guardian, Australia."

The first UniPollWatch project was conducted in Victoria for the 2014 state election, and journalism educators saw that the success of that project could be extended nationally to provide coverage of the 2016 federal election.

Second- and third-year CSU journalism students will work on the 2016 UniPollWatch project. Third-year students are reporting on electorates, candidates and news in eight NSW electorates including Calare, New England, Farrer, Riverina and Parkes. Second-year students are developing cutting-edge data visualisation of electorates.

Three CSU journalism academics - Mr Harry Dillon, Ms Isabel Fox, and Dr Margaret Van Heekeren - are also actively involved in the project. In addition to her on campus involvement, Dr Van Heekeren is on the national editorial team as one of two NSW editors.

"UniPollWatch is a great initiative for journalism students around the country, and it is now the biggest university student journalism project ever undertaken in Australia," Dr Van Heekeren said.

"It brings the classroom to local campaign events and the electronic tally room, enabling students to learn-by-doing in a live environment that will sharpen their professional practice skills and ensure they contribute to a key national event.

"Throughout the election campaign it will offer insights into relevant people and issues through the eyes of journalism students, many of whom will be voting for the first time in this election.

"This is where journalism education is heading in the 21st century. Journalism schools and their students can play an important role in providing comprehensive coverage of newsworthy events and issues in a way that no other media organisation in the country has resources to undertake.

"It is wonderful for Charles Sturt University students to be part of this ground-breaking national project. The University is well known its high quality journalism program, and our work with UniPollWatch 2016 will continue to demonstrate the excellence of our students," Dr Van Heekeren said.


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, (02) 6338 6084

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Dr Margaret Van Heekeren.

A media photo opportunity exists on Monday 16 May when Ms Isabel Fox will be running three workshops in the CSU Media Centre (building 1399) from 10am to 11am, 11am to 12pm, and 12pm to 1pm, during which second-year students will be working on their data visualisation, while the third-year students work on another project.