Elon in Iowa

Ben Carson: Behind the Scenes

Posted January 12, 2016

Elon University student Ashley Bohle interviews Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson as he campaigns in Iowa on Jan. 11, 2016.

— As a student journalist, I’m often overlooked at large events. I don’t have the largest camera or fully formed questions because I am a student. I am learning. But I do not let that stop me from doing my best or acting my bravest to ask questions. Whether those questions are merely guidance from a fellow journalist or actually interviewing someone with high prestige, I do care A LOT. The experience is what matters most because, ultimately, I am a storyteller reporting on the facts and opinions said by leaders and common people that change lives for better or worse.

I have covered large events in the past. In October 2014, I attended a Kay Hagan rally in Charlotte, N.C., to re-elect our then-U.S. Senator. Hillary Clinton attended to endorse her. In March 2015, I traveled to Selma, Ala., to cover the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights March and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Just the day before, I attended a speech given by President Barack Obama.

Today was different though. I was in snowy and humble Iowa. I was in a church as opposed to a coliseum or outdoors. I was in the back of a medium-sized room with no more than 200 hundred people. My producer, Elizabeth Bilka, and our Elon Local News adviser, Rich Landesberg, joined me with a couple of photographers as opposed to 50 or more.

Other than the kind people that greeted us at the door and a simple security check, I forgot where I was briefly and just felt like I fit in. Elizabeth, Rich and I made small talk with a local NBC-affiliate station journalist named Roger Riley. He gave us oodles of advice, reassuring us it was OK to make mistakes and never be afraid to ask questions.

But before we could continue to talk about Iowa and our dreams of journalism and his past experiences, the event began. Elizabeth was the videographer and producer, and I was the reporter. I took still pictures and live tweeted the entire event with over 30 tweets in about an hour. Listening. Covering. Observing. Reporting. Engaging.

But I did not entirely care about what Ben Carson said. I cared about what he said in relation to all the other candidates. What made him stand out or not? How could or couldn’t our college community in Elon, N.C., care about him? Why did his town hall event matter for first-time young adult voters? What could he do to help the millennial generation preparing for college, in college and after college? What could he do to help the millennial generation that chose to not attend or could not financially afford a four-year college?

These questions are not just for him but for all the candidates. And when I did get the golden opportunity to ask Dr. Ben Carson two questions, I focused on student loans and how his five-step “streamlined” education plan could help alleviate some of the burden on college students’ finances. I felt empowered to ask a potential president not one, but two questions.

Today proved that I have the confidence to interview leaders. I felt proud, from researching Dr. Ben Carson on the car ride over to creating a package for Elon Local News by the time the 6 p.m. show began. Ultimately, I know that I am a student now. Not “only” a student. I am a journalist. I may be viewed as a “journalist-in-training,” but I still have thoughts and questions like other reporters, and even Americans.

I do not want to be overlooked, but I do not want to blend in. I am a simply striving to be fearless even when she feels like she cannot. Because I know that even when I feel terrified, I must act fearless. Much like video and much like life, people believe what they think see.


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About this Blog:

Elon University students are in Iowa, covering the presidential campaign and caucuses are part of their coursework.