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Journalism students map coverage of Halloween on State Street

October 26, 2006 By Dennis Chaptman

As the celebration of Halloween on State Street unfolds this weekend, a corps of University of Wisconsin–Madison journalism students will cover the event live under the guidance of professional reporters.

Twenty-three intermediate reporting students — under the direction of School of Journalism instructors Steven Walters and Andy and Dee Hall, who all work as newspaper reporters — will fan out in the State Street area to chronicle the event from a number of perspectives.

Their articles and photos will be edited at Vilas Hall and posted to a Web site, providing as-it-happens coverage of the traditionally raucous and sometimes unruly event. Helping with the editing will be Stacy Forster, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter volunteering her time to help the project.

All of the students involved in the project have been cautioned to be safe. Project rules state “if you have to make a decision between putting yourself at risk or going deeper into a story, always choose your own safety.”

Coverage of the Halloween celebration will provide students important hands-on reporting experience of a live and sometimes unpredictable event. Student reporters will be on the street covering the event and its aftermath on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I’ve geared the entire first part of the semester toward building skills that will help students cover the big Halloween event,” says Dee Hall, a Wisconsin State Journal reporter who conceived the project.

During the course of the semester, her students have followed the issue and have covered city council, profiled businesses on State Street and interviewed some of the planners of this year’s event, dubbed “Freakfest.”

“The goal is for the students to gain the skills and self-confidence to handle breaking news and to write quickly — skills which should serve them well covering the Halloween event on State Street,” Dee Hall says.

Walters, the Madison bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, says student reporters will monitor the mood of State Street, non-State Street parties and events, and the impressions of city officials, and cover any unrest associated with the event.

In addition, they have worked on advance stories about the history of Halloween in Madison, what’s new for 2006 and the psychology of crowd behavior, he says.

Andy Hall, another Wisconsin State Journal reporter, says the weekend coverage will also help the community understand whether the measures the city has undertaken to keep the event under control actually work.

“We’re preparing our students to be skilled journalists,” Andy Hall says. “That means they’re able to observe — and report on — chaotic situations. They’re able to talk with anybody. They remain cool under tough deadlines and rugged working conditions.”