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A lesson outside the classroom

Close to a dozen Portland State students had an opportunity to attend a lesson in media, law and politics with front row seats to the KGW Democrat Gubernatorial debate Monday evening.

This classroom didn’t have a chalkboard, bolted seats or poor acoustics. The instructor wasn’t a PSU professor and students looked more like business professionals than pupils.

The stage lights burned bright as a news producer welcomed an audience of campaign supporters, community members and students to the studio. News anchor John Donlin fixed his mike as the group of 60 settled and the three Democrat candidates – Jim Hill, Ted Kulongoski and Bev Stein – received final powderings before the cameraman cued the start of the debate.

Communication studies instructor and official timekeeper Chris Carey extended an invitation to the event to his media, law and politics class earlier this month.

“Students must understand that communication is bigger than the (Neuberger) basement, it’s a bridge to the community and this was a perfect example of that,” Carey said.

The debate offered students a chance to extend their studies from lectures and textbooks into the arena of real life politics. The application played out nicely for many of Carey’s students.

Emily AhYou, a senior history major, attended the debates to get a better idea where the candidates stood on particular platforms.

“I didn’t know much about the candidates and I wanted to know who to vote for,” AhYou said.

Four press representatives from the Oregonian, Associated Press, radio station KEX and KGW Channel 8 posed questions to the candidates on a variety of issues. Members of the panel were given one to two minutes to address each point, from education cuts to health insurance and the state budget.

“It was great to actually see them under incredible pressure,” AhYou added.

Wade Nebeker, a senior public relations and marketing major, had always been interested in politics and its role in Oregon’s development. But like AhYou, Nebeker found the live event was most memorable.

“Seeing their interactions out there, watching it first-hand, allowed me to get a good grasp of how they felt on specific issues,” Nebeker said.

Carey stressed the importance of PSU’s motto “Let knowledge serve the city.”

“This fulfills the mission of the university and provides students a unique opportunity to see how the media operates and the window behind politics,” Carey explained.

Another group of students will attend the Republican debates next Monday. The event will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on KGW.