It started with an e-mail Florida International University journalism major Anthony Cave sent to South Florida News Service news director Chris Delboni asking whether a group of students could go to Washington, D.C., and cover the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“I was doing some research about the inauguration and thought it would be too late to get media credentials to go to the inauguration,” said Cave, a junior at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “I emailed Chris during winter break to see if there was something we could do.”
Delboni forwarded the e-mail to the Society of Professional Journalists’ FIU student chapter, enlisted the assistance of her frequent collaborator professor Neil Reisner and immediately began hearing that there wasn’t enough time or money to organize such an ambitious endeavor.
That’s when six students decided to do what they could to raise – in a short time — the $1,875 cost of the trip to head north.
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And, with the help of the SPJ national office, SJMC Dean Raul Reis and an anonymous donor, they did it.
Early Sunday, the team of students and Reisner set out to Washington, D.C., traveling on a charter bus sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee of West Palm Beach.
The six South Florida News Service reporters and editor will cover the experiences of the 38-member group as they happen on the bus and during the inauguration.
Their work will be available on the SFNS website, sfnsonline.com, on Twitter , at hashtag #spjfiuDC, and in several local newspapers. At the trip’s end, they plan to produce a mini-documentary about their experiences.
The MLK Coordinating Committee travelers refer to themselves as the Freedom Riders, commemorating the original Freedom Riders, the civil rights activists from throughout the country who took buses to the segregated South in the early 1960s to fight for equal rights.
Journalism students Julissa Alburqueque, Michae Baisden, Barbara Corbellini Duarte, Jonathan Simmons, Brittny Valdes and Cave, who call themselves Freedom Writers, are reporting, writing, shooting photos and video on the bus and at the inauguration.
Reisner, a veteran newsman who also edits the SJMC’s Liberty City Link, is serving as editor while Delboni handles web production in Miami, along with other SFNS staff working on this team coverage.
Alburqueque, a student in Delboni’s Advanced News Writing class and a member of SPJ, jumped on the opportunity to take part on the trip. “We will be writing down what we see on the bus, and what goes on when we get off of it,” Alburqueque said.
Corbellini Duarte hopes to find stories that are not being told and to be able to tell those stories in a way that captures other people’s attention.
“We are not just going to witness history, but we will be part of the people writing it,” she said.