Sunday, November 23, 2008

Election '08: Where I Have Been for the Past 18 Months

OK, so I haven’t blogged in a while. A year and a half, to be exact. I’ve been a little busy with one of the most amazing personal and professional experiences of my life. If there was ever a year to cover politics from a youth perspective…THIS was it, and I got to help run the campaign that invented the very notion of youth-oriented election coverage: MTV’s Choose or Lose.

I watched—and loved—MTV News as a kid, and to run this particular project was literally a dream come true. I was Supervising Producer on a groundbreaking collaboration with the Knight Foundation and the Associated Press, wherein 51 state-based citizen journalists covered the ’08 elections from a youth perspective, across all media platforms - web, mobile, broadcast, and virtual. I managed all details and logistics of the program's development, launch and operations, including hiring, training, supervising and mentoring a diverse and talented group of producers from all over the country.

This project had some major highs and lows for me, and it was REALLY HARD WORK, but in the end, we pulled off an incredible experiment in newsgathering and distribution. We combined new reporting tools—blogging, mobile videos, geotagging, Twittering—with good, old-fashioned reporting. We even did some first-evers, like the first-ever large scale mobile-to-web reporting by a broadcast news entity. We covered the under-reported stories of America’s youth, and the campaign we were part of ultimately won a Public Service Emmy!

We all know how this historic election ended earlier this month. There is SO much I could say about this year when the youth vote really mattered, but I thought the best way to sum things up would be to share the emails I sent to my friends and family, punctuating the year’s highlights. I wanted to at least get something on the ol’ blog before Seth and I set off on our next adventure, as I will definitely want to post blogs from…CHINA!

Mon Jul 10 22:01:09 CDT 2007
Sender: "Liz Nord"
Subject: Great news!

Hi family,

In case you hadn't heard through the grapevine...

Just wanted to share some great news that I got just in time for my 30th birthday (today)!!

I just accepted a position at MTV News. Starting next week, I will be a Supervising Producer on a new initiative for the Choose or Lose campaign, which encourages young people to vote and get involved with politics. MTV is hiring 51 aspiring journalists to cover the '08 presidential campaign in their state for the year leading up to the election, and I will be getting the program off of the ground and managing and mentoring the 50 young producers. I am really excited about it!

In other news, Seth had a really fun birthday yesterday and now is back to the books for the quickly approaching NY and NJ bar exams, which he'll take at the end of the month. We are really enjoying NY and trying to take advantage of all of the fun things that the city summer has to offer.

Hope you're all well!

Much love,

NOTE: In case you were wondering, Seth passed both the NY and NJ Bar Exams with flying colors!

(Speaking at the Street Team '08 Orientation at the MTV Headquarters in NYC)

Thu Dec 20 23:29:50 CST 2007

Sender: "Liz Nord"
Subject: Street Team coverage - day one round up

Hey y'all,

Some holiday reading material...

A big press release went out today about the MTV project that I am running (Street Team '08), and we got a handful of writeups already! Many of you have been asking for more details about my job, so I thought that some of these articles might be useful. I think the CNET article explains the program pretty well.

It's a lot to read--I suggest a quick skim! Thus far, coverage has been very positive overall --here is my favorite (and pretty humbling) line of the batch:

"MTV, the Associated Press and the Knight Foundation today unveiled "Street Team 08," a stunning collaboration that could help define newsgathering, distribution and news-business models into the future."

Here are a few other really nice quotes:
  • TechPresident: "To be honest, I think this is awesome. This effort, in addition to their running series of candidate dialogues, shows that MTV has been improving their already impressive election-year coverage to include new technologies andvoters. Their focus on mobile is especially smart."
  • FutureMajority: "As I've reported before, MTV is really stepping up its game this year. Their candidate forums are clearly one of the best innovations this cycle in using social media to improve upon what is still essentially a broadcast politics event. The launch of Street Team '08 seems like another step in the right direction for them, and it's hard to doubt that at least in the youth political space, MTV is working hard (and perhaps succeeding) at recapturing the political relevance they held after their initial partnership with Rock the Vote in 1992."
  • Institute for the Connected Society: "The project serves as a real-time lab that promises to reveal insights into media usage, youth culture, civic engagement, the prospects for pro-am journalism, and opportunities from non-traditional partnerships. We admire the project and look to learn from it."
1/ CNET: MTV's 'Choose or Lose' announces citizen journalism

2/Associated Press: MTV Recruits Youths to Cover Elections
3/ PaidContent.Org: AP And MTV Collaborate With Student Journalists On Local Election Coverage
4/ Broadcasting & Cable: MTV Launching Citizen Journo Initiative
5/ Editor & Publisher: AP Joins MTV For 'Citizen Journalist' Campaign Coverage -- Former 'E&P' Intern Picked
6/ MTV Latches Onto Citizen Journalism for 2008 Elections
7/ Daily Digest
8/ Fear and Vlogging on the Campaign Trail, 2008
9/ Contra Costa Times: Oaklander joins MTV's "Street Team '08"
10/ Win, win, win
11/ CMSWire: Citizen Journalists and MTV to Cover 2008 Elections
12/ Briefly Noted

(Me and Seth outside Hillary Clinton's final campaign speech)

Note: Once in a while, MTV News’s “regular” politics producers were scattered about and I got to leave my desk and go out to cover events myself. Hillary Clinton’s final solo speech of her political campaign was one such event. I am a great admirer of Hillary’s and was happy to do it. Seth even came as a Hillary-supporting audience member, and it was fun waving at him from the press pit. Another piece that I was proud to produce off the beaten track of my day job was a video package about a young Muslim-American vet.

6/4/2008 2:04 PM.
From: Nord, Liz
Subject: My MTV blog from the Hillary event...

Here's the blog...

And pics, too!



(N.E.R.D. performing in Denver at the Rock the Vote Ballot Bash)

Tue Aug 26 21:29:54 CDT 2008
Sender: "Liz Nord"
Subject: Live from Denver!

Hi my friends & family,

I know I’ve been tough to reach…so I just wanted to let you know that things are going really well here in Denver at the Democratic National Convention!! It’s been absolutely non-stop from morning ‘til night, mostly dealing with complicated logistics by day and, you know, partying with celebrities at night ☺ I am positively exhausted already.

Check out my Street Teamers’ coverage at I think the live, mobile-to-web videos are the best things they’ve done so far, esp the Colorado guy.

I’ve been posting some photos and will continue to do so here.

I’ve spent most of my time inside at the computer and haven’t even been in the Pepsi Center (where the speeches are) yet, but there is a ton going on everywhere. This city’s definitely been taken over!! Our workspace is right across from the Pepsi Center and next to the CNN building. The space itself is pretty unglam, but it is really exciting in a nerdy way to be sharing the space with the Washington Post and Newsweek, two great publications.

A few highlights (and one lowlite) so far…
  • You know that hotel you’ve been hearing about where one of the guys who planned to assassinate Obama jumped out of a 6th floor window? Yeah. That’s my hotel. I’m staying on the 7th floor. Thanks, MTV.
  • On Saturday, Kristin and I covered the Rock the Bells concert and talked politics with some of my parents’ favorite artists (haha) like the Wu Tang Clan and the Pharcyde. It was really cool to connect with these guys on a topic other than music. Here’s our (highly edited by MTV News) blog entry.
  • Fourth row at Rock the Vote’s Ballot Bash (Jakob Dylan, N.E.R.D., Fallout Boy) last night with our Oregon Street Teamer. We were sitting next to this white haired man who kept standing up and pumping his fists and generally rocking out. We were like,”Who IS this guy?” Turns out it was Patrick from Fallout Boy’s dad!
The best news so far is that, although I am going straight to Minneapolis from here to cover the RNC, Seth is coming out to meet me there this coming Saturday to hang out for just one night, BECAUSE HE’S THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE WHOLE WORLD!!!

Tonight, I’m headed to a myspace/SAG party where Nelly is supposed to perform…
Love from the DNC,

(Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver.)

Fri Aug 29 23:47:43 CDT 2008
Sender: "Liz Nord"
Subject: Headed to Minneapolis!

Hi friends & fam,

Thanks for all the supportive notes this was amazing but at times challenging and overall EXHAUSTING so it was great to hear from you!!

I have many stories to tell but for now I've posted a bunch more pics.

An easy way to go through these is to choose the little grey "Slideshow" link on the top right of the page, and then when the slideshow window opens, click the "Info On" button on the top center of the page to see the titles.

The first pics are of our dear friends from Denver and their awesome little dude, Logan, but soon you'll get into the pics from amazing last night at Invesco field with me and 74,999 of my closest friends.

As corny as it sounds, I was very moved by a very American experience. I was at the speech with my Korean friend Virgil, my bi-racial AP Kristin, a Latino Street Teamer, and a crew consisting of black, Greek, Indian, and Jewish dudes. And there we all were witnessing and documenting an historic moment of racial harmony. It was really something.

There is SO much, what a week, but I've got to pack up to head to another week of (a whole different kind of) craziness!


(Front and center to hear a "pitbull in lipstick" speak at the RNC.)

NOTE: I didn’t send an email after the RNC, but I did blog about it as part of the PBS MediaShift Idealab as we were required to do as part of our grant activites…I’ve excerpted a bit below:

(Street Teamer Anthony of Florida Gets Tear-Gassed, Live from the RNC)

The difference between our coverage and that of the mainstream networks is striking not just because of the technology, but also because of what we captured. While the major news networks of the world were safe in their on-site studios, our team was literally on the streets getting the under-reported stories. This was particularly true at RNC, where the thousands of protesters and, more importantly, heavy-handed police reactions, were not well-documented by other media outlets. In one particularly dramatic live-to-web clip, which you can see above, we witnessed one of our reporters going through the physical reaction to being tear-gassed while covering a protest. The most dramatic example of how our mobile coverage played out was on the final night of the Republican National Convention. While thousands were preparing to cheer McCain's speech inside the convention center, our Wisconsin reporter, Charlie, was hot on the trail of an anti-war protest gearing up outside. His "tweets" began...
  • Anti war protest @ capital starts with 2 arrests 02:17 PM September 04, 2008
  • **The whole world is watching, protesters chant **@ police 04:52 PM September 04, 2008
  • Protest on the move 05:40 PM September 04, 2008
  • March goes 2 Marion and University 06:01 PM September 04, 2008
At the same time, we were watching Charlie's Flixwagon reports, wherein protesters, bystanders, and reporters alike, were being rounded up on a bridge. With smoke bombs visible in the background, Charlie told our audience, "We were just told that this is an unlawful assembly, and we must move Southbound or be subject to arrest," and then... Nothing. An hour or so went by with no more Twitter or video reports, and we realized that Charlie had probably been arrested. After many calls to local jails, our suspicion was confirmed around 12 AM. Despite his media credentials, Charlie was carted off to prison and separated from his equipment. If it had not been for the pause in his live, mobile, reporting, we would never have even known to ask. Charlie's arrest, along with hundreds of others, occurred right during McCain's speech, when the rest of the worlds' lenses were focused on the presidential nominee. Charlie was released from jail around 6 AM...but his backpack full of gear was still inside. The police needed to hang on to the video camera, tapes and other equipment, "for security purposes." As I type, his equipment is still being held in St. Paul and our attorneys are working on getting it released. If the police had it their way, his footage from the protest would still have not seen the light, and by the time it came out, it would be "yesterday's news." Fortunately for us and our audience, Charlie was reporting live from his cell phone, and we all witnessed another side of what was happening in St. Paul while John McCain was accepting the presidential nomination.

(My Associate Producer, Kristin, and me in Times Square on Election Night)

Wed Nov 05 20:34:40 CST 2008
Sender: "Liz Nord"
Subject: Election Night

Dearest Friends & Family,

As my 77-year-old dad just said to me on a deliriously happy phone call…OMG.

Yesterday was one of the greatest days of my life and I’m sure many of you share the absolute joy with which I embraced the announcement of our new president. Election Day was one that I had
been thinking about all day, every day for a year and a half, and to have the outcome that we witnessed made it all worthwhile!!!

I’m proud to say that early figures show that more young people voted this year than in any election since 18-year-olds won the right to vote in 1972, and they favored Obama over John McCain by a two-to-one margin. Naysayers, begone! The youth vote mattered.

I thought I’d send out a few links to share my experience of being at MTV News and in Times Square on this historic occasion. I worked from 7 AM-3 AM yesterday and came back in this morning. Long hours, but the work was very exciting. My Street Team reporters got a lot of good exposure and airtime, and Times Square truly did feel like the “Crossroads of the World” last night!

Here are my pics.

Here’s an on-air hit that I produced around 2 AM, compiling some of the first reactions we got from our Street Teamers around the country. We asked them to attend results watching parties so they could get immediate responses from young voters once the president-elect was announced.

Here’s a short blog entry I wrote about the scene in Times Square last night (There’s a great video in here that shows it way better than I could tell it.)

And just for fun…the hilarious “Election 2008 in 60 seconds,” as written and read by my friend Jim Cantiello (with a l’il help from yours truly!)

Some of you have been asking about what’s next for me when this project is over. Well, I have a busy couple weeks wrapping up the project. My last day at MTV is two weeks from Friday and Seth and I leave two days after that for Thanksgiving with the Hymans in Florida. From there, off to China until late December!! And then…?!

Thank you all again for the much-needed support during this intense project and for all of the efforts, donations, phonecalls and volunteer hours that you put in this year to help ensure that
it would be “a new day in America!”