UniPollWatch was the largest student journalism project ever undertaken in Australia. Approximately 1000 students from 28 universities worked to cover the 2016 federal election. The project aimed to provide effective training on political reporting in a work-integrated learning environment. Utilising a combination of analysis and descriptions of the project and a survey research methodology, the results of this project suggest that by placing student reporters in the midst of a fluid and highly contested election environment they learn by observing and doing. The project demonstrated that students’ attitudes to, and aptitude for, covering politics varied greatly, but that the skills needed for political reporting can be improved through projects such as UniPollWatch.

Practitioner Notes

1. Teaching utilising a hospital-style, work-integrated leaning model can be effective in training journalism students to be political reporters. 2. The pedagogical aims of the study – learning skills through practice, and honing the craft of reporting – were a success, with students’ general understanding of politics and the election process increasing. 3. The combination of academic and industry mentoring with real-world, hands-on learning allowed students to work as journalists on a nationally important issue, providing them with published work and enhanced employability. 4. This unique, wide-scale project strived to be both experiential and authentic, while developing a unique model of WIL through pop up or fluid journalism. 5. Evidence of this project’s benefits as a training tool should become apparent when the next generation of political reporters reflect on their formative moments.