SCU students covering the federal election via UniPollWatch

Published 18 May 2016

Journalism students at Southern Cross University are part of Australia’s largest newsroom reporting on the 2016 federal election campaign through UniPollWatch, a groundbreaking national student journalism project launched yesterday.

UniPollWatch aims to cover every lower house seat in the country, with students from 28 universities producing electorate and candidate profiles and reporting on key policy issues. It will also feature key Senate candidates and ‘explainer’ articles to make politics accessible to readers and first-time voters.

Around 15 SCU students will be covering the Page, Richmond and Cowper electorates that sit within the University’s footprint.

UniPollWatch editor-in-chief Andrew Dodd, of Swinburne University of Technology, instituted the first UniPollWatch project in Victoria for the 2014 state election, with four universities contributing.

Journalism educators saw the success of that project could be extended nationally to provide coverage of the 2016 federal election.

“UniPollWatch is a world first,” Mr Dodd said. “It is now the biggest university student journalism project ever undertaken in Australia.

“Throughout the federal election campaign it will offer insights through the eyes of journalism students, many of whom will be voting for the first time.”

Via online and social media platforms, and in partnership with Guardian Australia, student work on UniPollWatch has the potential to reach a diverse and wide audience. It is published by the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA).

UniPollWatch coordinator at Southern Cross University is journalism lecturer, Jeanti St Clair.

“I’ve been proud of the quality of the work the students have produced for UniPollWatch. It’s been very worthwhile mentoring for publication on this national website,” Ms St Clair said.

“SCU students’ articles covering the Page, Richmond and Cowper electorates have been ambitious and there has been some excellent investigative research conducted.”

The students’ feature stories include: candidate and electoral profiles; farmers’ reaction to foreign investors buying agricultural land; impact of the federal government’s ‘no vaccination, no payment’ policy in Richmond, where Mullumbimby reportedly has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country; housing affordability in Page; and coal seam gas policies.

For SCU student Nada van Kempen, UniPollWatch was an exciting opportunity.

“With an election coming up, this project is very relevant, it’s fast-paced, it’s the kind of things we’ll be doing in the workplace, so why not start now?” said Nada, who’s studying a Bachelor of Media majoring in journalism.

Karlyn Major, a student in the same degree, said the process of sourcing and writing the stories was a great way to get informed about the issues.

“It’s given us political knowledge which is invaluable. I’ve learned a lot. I encourage students at SCU and across the country to read our stories and be informed.”

Other SCU students said experiencing a newsroom environment was an important outcome.

“It’s good to understand the process of publication, especially with the tutorials where we had to edit our work. It’s real time writing and submitting stories, we had to turn it around as quickly as possible,” said Jessica Neal.

Cloe Jager said: “Creating pieces worthy of publication has been really beneficial and to put something in our portfolio that has been published online is really good.”

Photo: Media students, from back left, Nada van Kempen, Jacqueline Munro and Karlyn Major. Front from left are Jessica Neal and Cloe Jager

Media contact: Brigid Veale head of Communications and Publications Southern Cross University, 66593006 or 0439 680 748