On Tuesday, October 16, 2012, Meg Heckman, Chad Graff, Dean Barker, Tom Haines, Marc Fortier, Dan Tuohy, and Elliot Gault joined together to form a pre-debate discussion panel for students in Union Court of the Memorial Union Building. They each gave a description of why they were there and what they had to put forth to the debate conversation, mostly about how social media influences politics. The panel of students, journalists and bloggers took the stage to answer any questions from approximately 20 students, most with their phones handy, prepared to tweet any responses.
The question of “can an election be won through social media?” was answered by the panelists – most said it does help a lot in an election, but it does not decide the outcome. People who “like” candidates on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter can engage others online to discuss key points of each campaign, which puts the candidates under the light in social media.
Once the panel was over, and the debate just beginning, about 30 more students showed up to watch the broadcast. It was easy to see that the crowd was split for who was supporting each candidate, due to the shouts and cheers over rebuttals and the feisty display from the candidates. Reporters from Patch.com and The Boston Globe were present to cover the event and student reactions to the debate. A live series of tweets containing the hashtag #nhdebatewatch, were streaming on a screen next to the stage to show everyone’s immediate reaction to the debate. Students left lively and ready to discuss the topics brought forth in the second Presidential debate. As they marched down the hall, many pondered who it’s produced winner would be.
It was a great experience having Patch.com and other local journalists give insight to reporting about politics and the impact of social media on this year’s election. As a Journalism major, I think it was influential and beneficial advice that the panel passed on, especially for reporting the election in the next couple of weeks.
Written by Máiréad Dunphy, UNH Class of 2013