By Katie Taybus and Kim Corriher
When Ohio University junior Christina London heard Chelsea Clinton was going to be on the Athens campus, she jumped at the chance to cover the story.
"I knew this was a big story," said London, a reporter for Athens MidDay News. "This election is not just important here at Ohio University, but it is meaningful for the nation. I knew it was a story that I wanted to be a part of."
London and fellow MidDay reporters Julie Cannold and Julie Hartz camped out in the Baker University Center Billard Lounge for close to two hours before Clinton arrived, waiting side-by-side with news crews from an NBC affiliate in Huntington, W.Va., and the Ohio News Network.
"This is a pretty significant thing, just in terms of being a student here," Hartz said this year's election, which has prompted visits to Ohio University campuses by Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton as well as Michelle Obama. "But in terms of work, this is probably the biggest story we will be a part of as college students."
Mary Rogus, associate professor of broadcasting and Athens MidDay instructor, said the campaign has offered lots of hands-on experience to her students.
"This is a great opportunity for our students, especially with so many of the candidates coming to the surrounding areas and their family members coming right here to Athens," Rogus said. "It's very exciting to see what the events are like. With it being such a contested race, it also reinforces for the students the need to be careful and balanced with coverage.
"It is also interesting to watch them as they learn how to curb their own excitement and detach themselves from being too interested personally in the story and the campaigns," Rogus said.
The team at Athens MidDay represents just a fraction of the students gaining professional experience during this year's election cycle. Some, such as senior Meghan Louttit, are making an impact across the country.
Louttit is one of the two national managing editors for Scoop '08, the first "daily national student newspaper," a blog-style Web publication devoted to the 2008 presidential election. Last week, Louttit headed the paper's coverage of the Democratic debate at Cleveland State. Covering the event meant a 12-hour day for Louttit and fellow Scoop '08 team member Emily Angell, a University of Michigan senior.
"Unfortunately, I didn't get to actually meet anyone really big," Louttit said. "I did see Chris Matthews from a far distance and almost ran into Chuck Todd, MSNBC's political director. They're two people I really respect. I did get to meet a few other Ohio bloggers who are doing some great things."
Louttit has been covering as many election events as possible for Scoop '08, paying special attention to the youth vote and college students' involvement in the process.
"Especially for young people, we need to make sure that they realize they have a choice, that there is a simple way to exercise your voice and that, as a people, we really do have the power to choose," she said. "It's a matter of getting people interested when they're young."
Senior Lynn Walsh has been covering the campaign -- and specifically Ohio -- for ThePalestra.com, another student-run Web publication. Last week, she was on hand to interview students when Bill Clinton made a campaign stop at the Athens Community Center.
"It was fascinating to see and hear a past president," Walsh said. "It's always exciting to talk to students about it and what they think."
Through her involvement with Palestra, Walsh is witnessing how her generation is bucking the view that young people are disinterested in politics, the economy and other issues facing Americans.
"This site proves (that idea) wrong and shows that they are really interested in news and campaign topics," Walsh said. "College students will be the ones making a difference."
Walsh likes the front-row view her involvement with Palestra has afforded her. "I'm not just sitting here. I get to listen to both sides and hear everything," she said. "This is something I want to keep being involved with."
Ohio University students also are taking the initiative to get involved in the 2008 elections outside of roles with the media.
In early February, Lancaster campus students organized, moderated and filmed a debate involving candidates for Fairfield County offices. The event was open to the public and has aired on local cable channels more than a dozen times.
"It was important in order for students to experience politics in a practical way," said Linda Trautman, associate professor of political science. "They were able to see on a first-hand basis how theory applies in practice."
For Lauren Logan, president of Students Teaching About Racism in Society on the Athens campus, her advocacy during the 2008 election isn't about one candidate over another. It is about the ways that her generation can help take care of the next.
Logan created an event, "We're Bringing Voting Back," at which she and fellow STARS member answered questions and registered fellow students to vote. And helping to boost voter turnout is good cause, she said.
"The election affects everyone. By voting, you're expressing your opinions and beliefs, and you have some control over the issue," Logan said. "If you don't vote, your voice isn't heard."