Published: November 29, 2007
As University of Tampa students bustled to and from classes Wednesday
afternoon, some were surprised to find themselves in the background of a
national TV broadcast.
The students looked on curiously as
cameras rolled outside UT’s Plant Hall and CNN news anchor Erica Hill
told how the University would play a major role in the Republican
presidential debate in St. Petersburg later that evening.
debate, Hill explained, would be watched by a focus group of 24
undecided Republican voters – 12 men and 12 women – who would use
electronic ballot devices to periodically declare their opinion of what
the candidates had to say. The real-time results of the balloting would
appear in the form of a scrolling graph as the debate was broadcast live
on CNN’s Headline News channel.
All of it, including a
subsequent live interview with the focus group, later took place inside
Fletcher Lounge in Plant Hall, thrusting the UT community into the
“It’s a very beautiful school,” said Craig
Broffman, a producer from CNN’s Washington D.C. bureau, who coordinated
the focus group broadcast. “Obviously, the architecture and history here
made it very captivating visually. It just felt right for what we
wanted to do.”
CNN producers first set out to find a location to
host the focus group about three weeks before the debate, Broffman
said. The idea was to assemble the group at a college or university in a
city near where the debate would take place.
After meeting with
UT administrators and touring Plant Hall as well as the ninth floor of
the Vaughn Center and other areas of campus, producers decided that the
colors, historic architecture and wide range of space inside Fletcher
Lounge would be ideal for the focus group, Broffman said.
crews arrived early Wednesday to begin transforming the Lounge into a
makeshift TV studio – complete with numerous video cameras, microphone
booms, lights, camera dollies, stages, mixing boards and plasma TVs – UT
senior Tara Parian stood in the middle of the project. Parian, a film
and media arts major, was hired by CNN to work for the day as a
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can, even if it’s just through watching other people,” Parian said.
along with other student volunteers, spent the day helping the crew in
various ways, including acting as a source of information about the UT
campus as well as helping instruct the focus group when and how to use
the polling devices.
“You never know who you could meet here,”
Parian said, adding that the experience was a good way to develop