Opening Remarks for #COMM360

Welcome to COMM 360: Charlotte and the Convention!

On behalf of my colleagues in the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, I am pleased to welcome you to an innovative learning opportunity like none we’ve tried before at Queens.

Next week, Charlotte will play host to a nation as the Democratic National Convention comes to our city. Following the oratories, hurricanes, and grand old celebration of the Republican Party this week in Tampa, the nation’s news stations, media personalities, and cameras are arriving in Charlotte as we speak.

The media spectacle of political conventions might only be watched live by 20-30 million viewers across our nation, but every national and local news station in America, and many others around the world, will feature at least a few minutes of coverage, suggesting that everyone in America will be able to see something about the convention in their living rooms or on their mobile phones.

And all will reference Charlotte, North Carolina.

So whether you are a flaming liberal or a social conservative, a passionate moderate or a Tea-Partier, a Whig, Democrat, Libertarian, or Republican – whether you identify as red, blue, purple, green, or exist in the various shades of gray in between – for the next week, this city and this convention will exist together.

This city and this convention will be reported on together. The people who come to attend this convention, to report on it, and to protest it, and those who watch it through media eyes, will all be coming to this city. And Charlotte will share in the spotlight of a sitting President facing a competitive re-election in just two short months.

This learning experience is not about who you vote for. It won’t be about Democrats or Republicans. And it will neither sing the praises nor cast suspicions on Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Instead, it will focus on a city, a convention, politics, and the role that major, national events play in the life of an American city.

The Charlotte metropolitan area has 1,750,000 residents, 751,000 of whom live in the city limits. This makes Charlotte the 17th largest city in America by population, and places it in the top 25 media markets in our country. And it is growing.

Over the next two days, you’ll think and learn about Charlotte, communication, politics, social justice, social media, protests, conventions, history, technology, and citizenship.

Today and tomorrow, we have speakers including the premier Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett; social media and journalism innovator Jason Silverstein; leaders of the Democratic National Convention Host Committee; and engaged Charlotte citizens (in addition to some of Queens University’s most engaging and beloved faculty and staff), all of whom are listed in your program.

Then, you’ll go out into the city. Four of you have placements at ABC News. Another dozen are working with the Charlotte Observer. Thirty of you will be on the ground with the convention’s host committee in their press gallery. Some of you earned prestigious placements on the podium committee, with the foreign press gallery, or as convention hosts for dignitaries from the White House.Thirty more of you are placed in the heart of Charlotte with the PPL, home to a cultural, arts, and media experiment yet untested. Still others are working with local media and local organizations including the Ritz-Carlton, WCNC, WBTV, and QCityMetro. And, five of you are working in the production booths of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

One of our faculty members told me the other day that he has lived in 4 major American cities in his lifetime, and never has he been in a city while it has hosted a major political convention. For most of us, this is a once in a lifetime event, and we hope that our city, and you, treat it as such.

We cannot wait to hear about the stories, experiences and learning that emerge from this one week. You’ll be archiving your experiences on Pinterest, on our course Moodle site, and on the pages of local and national news. And we will be cheering you on.

But for now, let’s get started. Welcome to COMM 360.

For students who are taking this class for credit, here are few technical items we need to discuss before we get started.

  1. In your programs, you’ll see the full lineup of events for the next two days. Students receiving course credit should attend all of the sessions. If you need to miss one session to attend another class or engage in your placement, please let our volunteers at the registration table know about your time conflict so we can excuse you from that session.
  2. Your Nametags. Your nametags are your tickets into the event. In some sessions, we’ve invited the general public to attend and this room could be filled to capacity at some times and have plenty of seats during others. That’s why we are asking you get your nametags at registration and turn them in whenever you leave the auditorium. They’ll be waiting for you when you return, and you can just pick them up without having to sign in.
  3. Course requirements. You’ve received multiple emails about this course, all of which have pointed you to our course page on Moodle. There, you will find the syllabus and instructions for the 3 assignments for this course. All assignments must be completed by September 15th. If you have any questions about the syllabus or the assignments, ask at the registration table or send me an email.
  4. Your convention placements: If you have any questions about your convention placement, please contact Jennifer Hull who is standing right over here. She’s your go-to person for any information about your placement.
  5. Finally, enjoy the next two days: The beauty of a two-day lineup like this is obvious. You’ll hear from over 30 different speakers about their impressions of this event. The topics will be diverse, the styles will be many, and the session formats will change. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy all the sessions, but rest assured that if one isn’t striking your fancy, a different one will be on the way. We’ve worked in times for you to eat, converse, take breaks, and ask questions. So please do.

Whether you’re joining us in person today, over the Internet, from your placement sites, or on the floors of the convention, please continue to connect with us. We’re using the hashtag #COMM360 for this 2-day conference, and you can connect with us on Twitter and Pinterest. We also have people here who will be live blogging, tweeting, and recording these sessions to share them with others. You’re invited to simply listen, to take notes, to critically reflect, to ask questions, to tweet, to blog, and to share these sessions on Facebook and Pinterest. We hope that you will.

I’d like to begin our two-days with a thank you to all of the speakers who have graciously volunteered their time and expertise for this opportunity and a special thank you to Jennifer Hull who has been working tirelessly this summer to ensure that all of you have an amazing week during the convention.

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