Elon in Iowa

O'Malley, Clinton and Sanders, oh my!

Posted January 11

Reporters meet with candidate surrogates following a Jan. 11, 2016, Democratic forum in Des Moines, Iowa.

— Monday January 11th, has been quite a busy day. I started the day attending a town hall event hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders in Perry, Iowa, with Gary. Perry is about 45 minutes away from Des Moines. The reason I bring this up is because the scenery on our drive was exactly what I had anticipated: fields and farms. As we drove along the rather barren highways, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the area surrounding me.

Upon entering the community center where the Sanders event was held, I didn’t know what to expect. After checking in and receiving our press passes, we got to work setting up all of our equipment. The auditorium was maybe filled halfway when we arrived with less than an hour until show time. Yet, without fail, the entire auditorium and the risers on stage were filled with smiling Sanders supporters. I spent the majority of the town hall taking photographs and live-tweeting from my personal account. I was able to interact with several members of the audience ranging in ages. I spoke to several millennials (recently turned 18, one still 17) who were very educated in politics and had strong views. Upon interviewing one of the young men, he spoke about having fear of something all of us students fear: debt. This high school student is already thinking about debt and voiced his concern about being able to afford a college education. His knowledge and truly passionate responses were inspiring. It is refreshing to meet a millennial who is strongly rooted in his beliefs.

After the Sanders town hall, Gary and I made our way back to Des Moines to attend the Democratic Forum hosted by Fusion. Similar to the Sanders event, we had to check in and receive our press passes. From there, we entered an auditorium-sized conference room that had dozens of long tables with power strips, information booklets, journals, pens… aka the press filing room. This room was filled with various journalists, videographers and reporters from across the country. I was amazed by the variety of stations and levels of media in the room. In one corner, there was a videographer for the local Des Moines ABC affiliate station, and in the other was NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker doing a live shot. It was a really surreal atmosphere. Following our equipment set-up, Gary and I prepared to do a live shot from the forum press room to the Elon Local News evening broadcast back in North Carolina. Our technology worked swimmingly, which resulted in a huge sigh of relief (because let’s face it… technology never works when you really want or need it). During our little amount of down time, we were able to work on our various articles or videos and were provided with snacks, beverages and eventually pizza for dinner! I’d like to comment on how well I think Fusion did with the forum. I enjoyed that it was only one candidate at a time for the same amount of time. All three candidates were faced with questions that really made them think or made fun of them a little bit, which was refreshing to see.

After the forum ended around 9 p.m., we made our way into the spin room with the dozens of other reporters and journalists. Between myself, Gary and Andrew, we were able to get footage and interact with some really interesting people. I personally felt like my interaction was the most ironic for a specific reason. While at the Sanders town hall, I took a little too much authority with my press pass and made my way back stage to take some photographs. I was eventually questioned by a member of the Sanders team and politely asked to leave the back stage area (politely asked, I may add!). Fast forward about seven hours later, and the same woman sought me out in the spin room at the Democratic Forum. Thanks to this woman, I was able to interview former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a big supporter of Sen. Sanders. What I took away from this experience is that is truly is easier to seek forgiveness than ask for permission!

All in all, today was a wonderful day. The main highlight was being able to be less than a foot away from one of the presidential candidates because not many people can say that! Whenever I have the “what are you doing when you graduate?” talks, a lot of professional folks, family members or professors say that, if you’re doing what you love, it won’t feel like work. And for me, today was truly a verification of that fact. It was a long, tiring and very cold day, but I never felt once that I was bored or would rather be somewhere else. I am thrilled to see where the rest of the week takes us because I think we’re all in for a great treat from this great state.


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About this Blog:

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