Elon in Iowa

I don't mind that I can't feel my face right now

Posted January 20, 2016

Media is corralled into a small area at an Ames, Iowa, event on Jan. 19, 2016, where former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

— Sitting at the airport and looking at the forecast for Elon, I found myself thinking to myself not just that the 30 degree high for Thursday wasn’t bad, but also that it was quite warm. This is a thought that would have never crossed my mind before spending 10 days on the frozen tundra of Iowa, and it still seems laughable to me that I could call sub-freezing temperatures quite warm. During my time on the trip, I came to the conclusion that the song "Can’t Feel My Face" was written during a January in Iowa, because that was a pretty common saying among our group for anyone that spent more than a few minutes outside at a time. But while the negative temperatures and the wind chills that sunk below -30 degrees were certainly memorable, there was so much more to be taken out of the trip.

My adventure through Iowa – I call it an adventure because I never really knew what I was going to be doing the next day or even the next hour – was an opportunity I’ll never forget. It gave me a chance to work alongside and pick the brains of some of the best in the journalism business, a chance to see and learn about a part of the country I may never have gone to, at least not for several several years, and it provided me with the ability to meet and discuss politics with an intelligent and engaged group of young people.

One of the big things that really stuck out to me on this trip was how well the national media worked together. Obviously, at the end of a speech or for a press gaggle, people would fight for positioning, but they always seemed to be able to squeeze in one more tripod or one more photographer no matter how small the space is and how many press there were (looking at you Donald Trump).

It also stood out to me how small of a business the journalism world is. I’ve always known that it was small, but everyone seemed to know each other, or a former boss or a co-worker, something you really don’t see in a lot of businesses. It was also interesting to see how few people are actually producing the majority of the content. It always seemed to be the same 10 or so photographers and the same 10 or so cameramen, which is incredible because of the sheer amount of coverage out there.

Another thing that it was very interesting to see is how the media is on a leash for several of the major candidates and always ready at their beck and call. For instance, on the day of Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump, the media was told there was a special announcement at 10:30 in Winterset, so they all rushed there hours beforehand just to see John Wayne’s family throw its weight behind Trump. Then, everyone rushed to Ames for a 5 p.m. event just for Trump to work the media so his announcement would come during the nightly news shows on the East Coast.

Spending time in Iowa during the buildup to the 2016 caucuses was one of the best experiences of my life and an experience I hope to someday do again, but next time as a paid professional. I’ve talked to several presidential candidates, met people I’ve looked up to and was in the building for the most important endorsement of the election cycle so far.


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About this Blog:

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