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‘WORK HARD NOW AND PLAY LATER’: PHOTOJOURNALIST AL DRAGO VISITS ELON TO SPEAK ON NETWORKING UP THE LADDER

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | March 31, 2017

Al Drago is a photojournalist and class of ’15 Elon alumni. He is based in Washington, D.C. covering all things politics and currently works for the NYT as a contract press photographer for President Donald Trump. He visited journalism professor Janna Anderson’s class this Friday to talk about his experience at Elon and networking.

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Al Drago in Philadelphia at a Hillary Clinton event in 2015 taken by one of his friends that he shared on Facebook.

Al Drago has been working since he was 16-years-old and by the age of 17, had daily bylines. It was a family trip to Boston more than 10 years ago that provided the 2015 Elon University journalism alumni with his first photography experience. Now, after delving into photography and journalism in high school as well at Elon, he works as a contract press photographer for The New York Times covering all things politics.

During the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, he traveled with the then-president as a pool photographer covering the transition, the inauguration and first 100 days of President Donald Trump’s term. Currently, he and two other selected photographers are responsible for following the president everywhere he goes.

This Friday March 31, Drago revisited Elon to speak and share his wisdom on branding and networking to other journalism students.

Drago's Top 8When Drago was a student at Elon, he knew that internships were key. To remain focused on them, he made a piece of paper listing the different publications he could potentially work at ranking them on the level of achievability. He knew that he could work at The Burlington Times-News easily, but at the top level he listed the ones that were his dream jobs: The New York Times and the Washington Post.

“I knew I was going to work there someday,” Drago said. “And now I am.”

He didn’t know how it would happen, but something he had learned from journalism professor Janna Anderson stuck with him: if you want to be at the top, start out on top.

“You can advance your career in the first five years out of college more than you can in the 15 years after college,” he said. “Then, when you’re 30 you can have your cushion job and relax and go to Ibiza.”

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Al Drago speaking during his presentation.

Drago kept his career goals at the forefront of his college career spending most days outside of class and in the community shooting real stories with real people.

“My Elon experience was based around the journalism I did, the journalism I committed,” he said. “And it was great because I got a four-year archive.”

He hit the ground running joining on-campus news organizations such as The Pendulum and Elon Local News, but knew outside experience was everything.

Some advice an editor gave him was, “You’re not going to get hired off of shooting on campus because it’s a bunch of 18 to 20-year-olds and that’s not what the real world looks like.”

“I started networking day one and cold-emailed editors,” Drago said. “Of course I said I want to work for you but also, ‘I love your photos. What camera settings did you use? Hey, these are the photos I took this month.’”

Eventually, editors took notice of his work and noticed that he was improving.

“I ferociously worked,” he said. “I knew what I wanted so I worked non-stop.”

Ultimately, his drive to work and ability to put himself out there got him hired at The New Times doing what he loves for a living at the age of 24. His multiple internships at the Durham Herald-Sun, Burlington Times-News, Raleigh News & Observer and the Baltimore Sun set him apart and gave him the opportunity to continue developing new skills.

His biggest piece of advice for aspiring journalists is to put yourself out there and “know your worth.”

Find his Twitter and Instagram here.

 

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Polar Extremes: Elon Community Connections Panel discusses the effects of America’s two-party system

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 22, 2017

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Photo by Mariah Posey | Moderator and panel members (left to right) Naeemah Clark, John Hood, Carrie Eaves, Chris Fitzsimon.

Regardless of political standing, questions regarding the current state of American politics stump many people. Is it fair? Is it what the Founding Fathers envisioned? When thinking about the results of the last election and how Americans are voting, Carrie Eaves, assistant professor of political science, says she learned we are “extraordinarily polarized” under the two-party system. She described what took place as a “social phenomenon.”

“We did see — and continue to see — because our political debate is so charged, people are hesitant [to voice their opinions],” Eaves said. “It makes it a lot harder to have those discussions.”

To create a safe space for that conversation, Elon University in collaboration with the Burlington Times-News presented a panel themed “The Role of Government and the Future of the Traditional Two-Party Political System” Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in McKinnon Hall. It was the second installment of their Community Connections forum series, aimed at initiating thoughtful dialogue surrounding the contemporary political environment.

The event ran as a Q&A session where both moderator Naeemah Clark and audience members were free to pose questions regarding government and panel members took turns responding.

Q: What role did third-party candidates play in the election?

Although third parties don’t have a strong history of winning elections, Bernie Sanders (who ran independent during the 2017 election) received more votes than third parties usually get according to John Hood, political commentator and president of the John William Pope Foundation. When Republican leaning voters weren’t sold on Trump and democratic voters lost fervor their candidates, they turned to Sanders.

According to Hood, third parties begin to underperform when they gear their campaigns towards appealing to crowds that are firmly for another party instead of the people who will likely vote for them.

Regarding presidency, Eaves didn’t see room for a third party to win anytime soon.

“The bar is set by the two existing parties, intentionally very high,” she commented.

Hood agreed that the likelihood of a presidential win for a third party was slim, but maintained that they could have a significant effect on politics.

“I think we’re going to see three parties actively competing for presidency [in the future],” Hood said.

Q: Does the Republican party now sign off on Trump’s ideas?

Associate Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark, moderator of the event, identified President Donald Trump as “a third party candidate who was smart enough to join the Republican party.” Afterwards, she posed a question regarding what a future Republican party will look like.

Hood said he didn’t believe Republicans had a singular party anymore.

“I think it’s the Republican parties,” he said, referring to them as the grassroots republicans, capitol hill republicans and Trump republicans. He described the three parties as three wrestlers in a ring.

“One hasn’t thrown the other to the ground yet,” he said.

But Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch, disagreed that there were Republican parties and said rather, that Trump was appealing to the other two.

Q: What is the role of the government and different political parties in a non-election year?

Until it became a political liability in the 90s, Hood said that senators used to live in Washington and have families and churches there. They went to church with Democrats. Because that doesn’t really happen anymore, the opportunity for mature verbal exchange is limited.

“That reduces the social ties that allows people to argue with each other without bickering with each other,” Hood said.

Because of this, Hood says the two political parties are more ideologically sorted than they used to be. But Eaves believes it’s the job of the people send them back if they don’t serve our needs.

Q: How is Twitter and the trope of mainstream media changing our democracy? 

People are too able to block out ideas that don’t align with the ones they already perceive to be true according to Hood.

“The internet allows us to cocoon ourselves in our own little worlds,” he said. “People will simply read more and more things that reinforce their preconceived notions.”

The problem with that, Eaves said, is that “people just take in that information and don’t even realize their consuming it.”

Furthermore, the overload of sources gets mixed into the conversation according to Fitzsimon.

“Obviously with the internet, all you need is a webcam and a microphone and you’re a news source,” Fitzsimon said. “We’ve gotten to a point where that’s a part of the debate somehow.”

Q: Would it be better devolve power away from the national government? 

According to Eaves, there’s no clear answer from the Constitution regarding how much power states should have and that laws only work to confuse and muddle them further. But she thinks that giving the power back to the states to determine elections wouldn’t work.

“Some states are very solidly red and solidly blue,” she said. “Other states are pretty evenly split … so devolving power back to here wouldn’t really solve that problem”

Fitzsimon also agrees that giving states too much power could be problematic.

“Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of geographic entities bumped up against each other,” he said.

Q: Is the new protest system sustainable? 

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Photo by Mariah Posey | John Hood responds to a question asked by moderator Naeemah Clark.

Clark commented on the new protest system that was emerging as of the latest election and asked whether or not it could last the next four years. According to Hood, its redundancy would eventually lead to apathy.

 “We see it all the time,” Hood said. “Every week there’s a new protest. ‘What’s the cause this week?’ I’m not so sure it’s a trend that’s going to continue in its current powerful form.”

Eaves agreed that four years was a long time to sustain the protests, but recognized their power when they lead more progressive actions.

“One of the things I was intrigued by with the Women’s March is that after the Women’s March, the next few days they held conferences to train women how to run for office,” Eaves said. “So instead, giving people tools to put these things into action and step out and attempt to run and serve … Those sort of kernels and seeds that are being planted, we could see those effects in two to four years down that road.”

What’s left unsaid

Amongst the many topics brought up — the role of third-party candidates, the impact of the internet on the election, protest culture— Fitzsimon was most amazed by the one discussion that was missing from the conversation.

“Imagine if I would’ve sat here four years ago and said, ‘Guess what’s going to happen in the election?” Fitzsimon said. “Russia is going to break the law, commit felonies, steal private information and publish it to try to influence our election to elect one candidate or not. You guys would have thought I was out of my mind and you would have said, ‘That would be the biggest story in politics ever and it’ll cause a dramatic national investigation and we’ll have all this huge uproar in America about it.’ It hasn’t even come up tonight.’

“That’s amazing to me if you really stop and think about what that means for our democracy and our republic and our future … It’s unbelievable to me.”

“I’m starting to think this audience is really full of Russian agents,” Hood said.

Fitzsimon nodded before responding. “They might be,” he said.

Elon University President Leo Lambert expects 2017 to be an exciting year as he plans to step down as president

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 13, 2017

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Leo Lambert

Since 1999, Elon University has seen enrollment grow from 4,000 to more than 6,700 and full-time faculty more than double under the leadership of President Leo Lambert. But even great success is deserving of great change.

For Elon, that change looks like Leo Lambert.

During his board of trustees meeting Feb. 10, President Lambert announced that he plans to step down from his presidency sometime next year after Elon’s ninth president has been hired.

“I expect 2017 will be an exciting time at Elon,” Lambert said. “We have important goals to pursue and much to accomplish in the months ahead.”

He assures that in recruiting a new president, the continuity of leadership for Elon’s key initiatives will not be lost as his team anticipates what the university’s next strategic plan will look like once created and implemented.

Program assistant for fraternity & sorority life Margie Watkins says the succeeding president will have large shoes to fill, but is confident that Lambert will make sure the selection is done properly.

“I’m hoping and I’m sure that he will help to guide that selection process so that his vision and the university’s vision will continue in what we already had accomplished,” Watkins said. “And I’m sure he’s looking as well as the selection committee for someone who will broaden the vision and take us further.”

In order to find Elon’s ninth president, a 15-member search committee consisting of eight trustees including one young alumnus/alumna, three faculty members, two students, one staff member and one member of Elon’s senior staff is being formed by Elon’s Board of Trustees. Set to chair the committee is trustee and former board chair Wes Elingburg.

“President Lambert has helped create an optimistic and collegial culture that promotes continual progress and innovation,” Elingburg said. “Our goal is to find a leader who is ready to embrace the exhilarating challenge of building an ever-stronger Elon, continuing to expand our university’s influence as a leader in higher education.”

Since the start of Lambert’s presidency Elon has risen to the No. 1 ranked Southern University by U.S. News & World Report, up from its No. 16 spot. He has also been a huge proponent of the university’s campus expansion with more than 100 buildings having been added during his tenure.

But with that expansion has not come a loss of focus. Lambert has remained a dedicated advocate for the highest levels of academic excellence. With a priority to fund increased student financial aid, the university’s endowment has quadrupled to $230 million. The number of endowed scholarships has also more than doubled to a total of 613 since Lambert’s presidency.

Though Lambert has undoubtedly remained busy during his years at Elon, he’s still been able to form important connections with both staff and students alike. Senior Sophia Berlin says that having attended some of his dinners, she recognizes his large impact.

“He’s super personable and I think he’s a great leader for Elon,” Berlin said. “It’ll be a big change … People are very accepted in his presence.”

Once he has officially stepped down, Lambert plans to take a sabbatical year dedicated to writing and afterwards continue serving Elon as president emeritus and professor. From his new role, he will work primarily to back the university’s advancement office and alumni engagement efforts.

“We have created a nationally distinctive university renowned for experiential and engaged learning, with a premium on the quality of human relationships,” Lambert said. “Our success has been a team effort, the result of a committed Board of Trustees, brilliant faculty and staff, loyal alumni and generous and supportive parents — everyone working together with a shared belief that we are building a university that is making a profound impact.”