Poynter's News U is an online project of the Poynter institute that offers newsroom training for journalists and journalism students. As part of my journalism classes over the past two years with Herbert Lowe, I have had to take many online classes and webinars, and usually find them informative and helpful. This most recent one covering Religion in Politics I found to be dull and annoying.

It should be noted that my aggravation was not at the content of the presentation, but rather its setup. The video in the corner did not buffer well, and therefor lagged the entire time making it very difficult to follow along. Now that we have that in the open I can actually respond to what I experienced in the presentation.

The webinar, officially titled "Reporting on Religion and Political Candidates," was presented by Howard Finberg, the founder of News U, and Kelly McBride, a former religion reporter who holds a masters in religious studies from Gonzaga University.

At first I found the information to be a bit obvious. There wasn't exactly any shock or surprise when McBride listed context, accuracy, authenticity, nuance and fact checking as "journalism values that help." As these are core values in all facets of journalism, i was not provided any new information when I was told they helped here.

It wasn't until later when McBride began talking about how reporters cover religion that I felt like I was really learning. McBride discussed how the stigma surrounding discussing other people's religion often affects good reporting. She brought up coverage of Newt Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism, and how different questions may have furthered the public debate a bit more.

Overall the webinar was a potentially good project, that was felled b
 
 
It would be refreshing to get a brief respite from the madness of presidential election coverage if it didn't come on such a sad  day. Looking at my NBC News beat assignment I am reminded of how I spent that day. 

I was in Mrs. Stevens' fourth grade classroom with my good friend Michael Klunder. We were in extremely good spirits that morning as I had turned 10 years old the day before, and his birthday was that day. I remember our teacher leaving for the school office early in the morning, and coming back in a panicked state, and trying to explain what had happened to a group of hyper children. My mom picked me up from school a short while later and we spent the rest of the day watching the news.

As a ten year old, a tragedy like that was difficult to comprehend. It wasn't until much later that I really understood the immensity of what had happened. Looking back, my 9/11 experience was mostly watching the shocked adults around me react.

This is why I always find it interesting to see the coverage of 9/11 anniversary services. 11 years later we are winding down the wars that the attack started. We caught and killed those who were most responsible. Memorials have been erected and stories have been told. Yet there is still a great amount of pain in this country. 

NBC News does a good job showing this pain in their coverage. Their photo streams and articles show the hurt that still remains in those most affected by the attacks, and the solemnity with which we all handle this day. With many relatives working in Washington DC and New York that morning, I can't help but think of how the events of that day could have been so drastically different for me. 
 
 
Sherrod Brown is an important man in the democratic party. As a senior senator from Ohio he has been one of the leading liberal voices for labor, and one of the most ardent supporters of the president. He is a democratic rock star, so why is he tied in a senate race against a 34 year old with no national government experience?

Josh Mandel is a rising star in the GOP. He is the current treasurer of Ohio and a former Ohio state representative from Cleveland. He is a tea-party affiliate and many people believe he will become the next Marco Rubio.

It is this stark contrast to Brown that has Mandel so close in this race. Brown is falling victim to the recent trend in which rich conservative donors give massive amounts of money to conservative candidates for the sake of ousting liberal ones. In 2011 the National Journal named Brown the most liberal member of congress, and since then there has been massive support for republican candidates who have proposed to run against him.

And with money coming in from all over the country to support Mandel, Brown is finding it difficult to keep up, even as the incumbent. In April, the Huffington Post reported that over 5 million dollars had already been spent on negative ads against Brown by outside groups.

With all this outside money it will be interesting to see if
 
 
Although I am a bit disappointed that I did not manage to draw my hometown newspaper The Washington Post as my semester beat assignment in my elections class, I am glad that I managed to pull down another one of my favorite news agencies in NBC News. As an avid watcher of Meet the Press and fan of the network's Nightly News program, the home of Brain Williams and Chuck Todd has always been good to me. As one of the world's most respected news outlets NBC News should provide extensive coverage of the 2012 election from a national point of view.

So on a night when former president Bill Clinton presented one of the most memorable political speeches in years at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, I expected the website to be in full swing with coverage. I was not disappointed.

Shortly after the speech was completed, NBC News had posted a video of the speech online, along with reaction from pundits on the floor, including Chris Matthews and Darrell Hammond, who used to portray Clinton in Saturday Night Live sketches.
I also have to point out how much i love NBC's video player. In my apartment where every video player I have ever encountered lags due to slow internet, NBC's works seamlessly.

Beyond general news gathering, NBC News also offers a lot of tools for examining the election. There is easy access to polls right on the front page. A color coded map of the United states breaks down where the battle grounds are and which states are likely to fall to which party. One thing that is very intriguing is a chart showing President Obama's voter confidence index, which is a tool used by NBC News to measure the electorate's confidence in the president at any given time.
Most importantly, NBC News has an entire section of its website devoted to election coverage, which will make my beat a whole lot easier.
 
 
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Photo pulled from mattrothphoto.com
The selection of ABC news Senior Foreign Correspondent Martha Raddatz as host for the Vie Presidential debate has created quite a stir. GOP loyalists have been quick to point out ties between her and the Obama administration, as well as between the Obama administration and the Commission on Presidential debates.

Raddatz was formerly married to FCC Chairman and former Obama classmate Julius Genachowski. The concern of the conservative right is that the Obama administration was able to muscle in a moderator that they chose, or that Raddatz may have biases of her own. It is unclear weather Raddatz ever even met the future president while married to Genachowski.

Members of the Obama Administration have been slow to comment on the situation. In an article by Josh Peterson of the Daily Caller, Mike McCurry, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates is quoted as saying "We selected the moderators based on their reputations for integrity and journalistic impartiality among other things. What counts is the quality of their work, not who they have been married to in the past."

In my humble opinion, this is nothing more than opposition rabble rousing. It is not unique to any one party, as I can guarantee the liberal side of politics would be doing the same thing if someone with Romney connections had been chosen to host the debate. What is more important is Raddatz's ability to control the flow of conversation during the debate. Too often candidates are asked questions and then allowed to sidestep the answer to avoid bad press, or are given softball questions. If Raddatz can hold the candidates to the fire and make them answer questions then
 
 
The relationship between journalists and political campaigns is a symbiotic one. The two sides perform necessary actions for each other to be successful. The press serves a the people's connection to a campaign, collecting information and serving as a watchdog over the actions of the operation. The campaign, for its part, provides the press with news.

The press's role as the "fourth estate" of government is always important. During a campaign the people rely on journalists to keep the candidates ans their campaign's honest and report on what is said by a candidate and where a campaign's money is coming from, although this important function rarely makes front page news.

Perhaps the most important function of the press during a campaign is the vetting of candidates. Vetting is essentially the evaluation of a candidate's abilities and ethics through inquiry into their personal lives and professional records. Many candidates have risen and fallen with their ability to handle this process. Just this past winter former GOP hopeful Herman Cain was destroyed by reports of his extramarital affairs and his inability to answer a simple question on a prominent current event. 
However, vetting has often failed in the past. Particularly in the debates, journalists have not held candidates as close to the fire as some would like, often tossing irrelevant softball questions into the debate. If candidates are not held on trial in a public forum than the people are not properly being served by journalists.

It is vital that journalists maintain this duty so that it is always the best candidates being elected to office.