Otterbein Students Work with CNN on Debate Night Program

Posted Oct 02, 2020

As viewers across the United States watched the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Otterbein was again in the national media spotlight as our students had the opportunity to lend their talents and opinions to a national news production.  

CNN came to Otterbein to host a focus group of 14 undecided voters, which included three Otterbein students. The student panelists described the experience as insightful and surreal.  

“Preparing for this potential once-in-a-lifetime experience was so easy thanks to Otterbein’s faculty.” 
Felicity Boykin
First year, Public Relations major 

Otterbein CNN post debate panel
Frandie Francique ’21 is interviewed on CNN during post-Presidential Debate panel

“It was really interesting to see national news operate from the inside. It wasn’t as chaotic as TV and movies sometimes make it out to be. I think students should always take advantage of opportunities on campus that they are comfortable with, even if it may be a bit unusual.” 
Frandie Francique
Senior, Psychology and Sociology major, Race and Ethnic Studies minor 

“Coming into this nationally televised event had me anxious because I didn’t know what would be expected. Some things I learned from this experience were: 

  • The amount of preparation it takes to make sure a news operation like this happens successfully.  
  • Being open-minded and listening to others develops more of a discussion.  
  • Being a better spokesman and how to collect your thoughts from others as well as presenting your own feedback with the questions being asked.” 

Blake Sitch
Senior, Sport Management major 

Otterbein CNN post debate panel
Otterbein students take a picture with CNN’s Ana Cabrera (red jacket)

The chance to experience a national story up close and personal extended beyond the student panelists, as another small group of students got to help field technical support as crew members. Additionally, CNN professionals visited several classes giving students meaningful insight into the work of national media.    

“I would say that getting to meet and closely work with the video production crew was my favorite part considering that’s the career path I’m looking to take! I met a ton of amazing professionals who I hopefully made a lasting impression on and know I can reach out to in the future.” 
Zeke Hannon
Sophomore, Journalism and Media Communications major, Sports Communication minor 

“This opportunity was one of the best and coolest experiences I have ever been a part of. If you ever get the chance to be a part of something that you wouldn’t get to otherwise get the chance to — DO IT!”  
Allison Fritchen  
Senior, Organizational Business and Communication Studies major 

“Any experience is great experience, and any connection is a great connection — I now have two people from CNN who offered me references!  The entire crew was so kind and willing to answer every question I had. Working with CNN opened my eyes to more opportunities. It honestly was probably the coolest thing I have ever done.” 
Joseline Martinez-Cortez  
Junior, Global Studies and Public Relations major, Communication Studies minor 

“The best part was that even during a global pandemic Otterbein was able to still give students an opportunity to see what their career choice could lead to. I truly am proud to be a part of a university that still puts its students’ college experiences first!” 
Elijah McCutcheon   
Junior, Political Science major, Legal Studies and Criminal Justice minor 

“I was able to be right in the action of the filming for CNN. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to learn from people who at the top of their field.  I’ve always been interested in how news works, and it was such a great experience to see how a massive media outlet like CNN put on the news.” 
Becca McMillen   
Sophomore, Public Relations major, Psychology minor 

While Otterbein prides itself on its commitment to the value of hands-on experiences for students, even faculty members say this opportunity was particularly meaningful. “‘Experience’ is more than a buzzword at Otterbein. When CNN said our students could be involved, we worked together to seize the opportunity. We’re always proud because our students are prepared, confident and ready for any challenge — including a national media organization,” said Senior Instructor Dan Steinberg, Department of Communication. 

This was  CNN’s second visit to Otterbein  in less than a year. In October 2019, CNN hosted the fourth Democratic primary debate on a stage in Otterbein’s Rike Center. More than 120 students had internships with CNN for that production, while dozens of other students met with New York Times reporters, participated on panels, assisted with related events, and represented Otterbein to viewers across the country.