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Cronkite hosts ABC election town hall

November 01, 2010

ABC News, Facebook and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University will host an election night town hall that will be streamed live on the network and on Facebook.

ABC News anchors Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will break away to a live audience of ASU students, faculty and staff throughout their national televised coverage of election night. The event also will be shown on NewsNow, ABC News’ 24/7 cable channel, and It is the only town hall meeting that is part of ABC’s planned election coverage.

“There's extraordinary interest in this midterm election across the country, and we want to harness that enthusiasm,” said Andrew Morse, executive producer for innovation for ABC News Digital. “We want to be able to reach our viewers and users wherever they are, and our live-streaming coverage will do just that. We also couldn't be more excited about our partnership with Facebook and the Cronkite School at ASU. The town hall is a unique chance to dive deeply into the key issues and races driving this election, and to engage our viewers and users in new ways, on air and online.”

Cronkite student Natalie Podgorski will join ABC News correspondent David Muir and Facebook’s director of marketing Randi Zuckerberg in hosting the event from the Cronkite Theater on the second floor of the school’s state-of-the-art building in downtown Phoenix.

Podgorski is a news anchor for Cronkite NewsWatch, the school’s nightly 30-minute newscast that airs statewide on PBS. She is also a reporter for ABC News on Campus, which provides broadcast students at six universities with the opportunity to report on stories in their region for ABC News’ digital and broadcast platforms.

A select group of 140 ASU students, faculty and staff will be present at the town hall to join in a lively discussion of the election and issues facing the country.

The event bridges several media platforms, with audience members interacting via laptops online and through Facebook on the ABC Facebook page ( and the U.S. Politics page ( The town hall begins at 4 p.m. PST in Phoenix and will conclude at about 11 p.m.

"As Election Day nears, candidates across the country are using Facebook to communicate authentically with voters as well as organize supporters in ways unimaginable a decade ago," said Randi Zuckerberg, marketing director for Facebook. "Today, voters also want to engage with candidates on Facebook – and tell their friends who they are supporting – in addition to learning about candidates through trusted news organizations like ABC News. We're pleased to partner with ABC News and the Cronkite School at ASU to deliver an innovative election night experience."

Podgorski said the chance to be part of the network’s election night coverage is “truly a once-in–a-lifetime opportunity.”

“It's a little nerve-racking working with the best in the business, but the Cronkite School has prepared me for this,” Podgorski said. “After reporting and anchoring for NewsWatch and working for ABC News on Campus, I can't think of a better way to prepare for a lengthy broadcast. It's also great for students at ASU to have their voices and concerns heard this election season.”

The election night partnership with ABC is part of the school’s ongoing relationship with the network. The Cronkite School and ABC partner on initiatives that prepare students for professional positions in the media. While ABC News on Campus provides broadcast students with regional and national reporting experience, Phoenix’s local ABC affiliate, KNXV-TV, airs Cronkite student stories and offers student internships. And on Nov. 12, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer will be in Phoenix to accept the school’s 27th Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.

“The Cronkite School and ABC News have built a very strong partnership over the past few years, and this town hall event is a perfect example of how well we work together,” said Cronkite School Assistant Dean Mark Lodato. “Our outstanding students and state-of-the-art facility make Cronkite the perfect location for a program of this magnitude.”

The Cronkite School was last the site of a network broadcast last fall when NBC News anchor Brian Williams hosted “NBC Nightly News” live from the rooftop of the school.

In addition to the town hall event, the Cronkite School will produce three hours of live election night coverage that will air on Eight World, the digital PBS channel that can be found at 8.3 and Cox 88, as well as on

Cronkite crews will be stationed around the metropolitan Phoenix area, including satellite trucks at the Republican and Democratic headquarters in downtown Phoenix. Approximately 50 Cronkite students will work the election.