A group of Columbia College Chicago journalism students are getting the experience of a lifetime covering the U.S. presidential race this semester, first from the Iowa Caucus and then from South Carolina.
Under the guidance of journalism professor Suzanne McBride, students were tasked with tracking down Illinois politicos who had travelled to Iowa to support their favored candidates. The reporters attended rallies, caucus sessions, and press conferences for the candidates they were assigned to cover.
Texas-native Nick Garcia, a student in the journalism graduate program, covered Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). At a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Garcia said he was excited because it put him in the same space as professional, big-network journalists.
“Being a student journalist, I thought I would have to wait in line like everyone else,” Garcia said. “But I was greeted as a part of the press, allowed to roam free and interview whoever I wanted.”
Garcia, who is blogging about his reporting experience on his blog, also managed to nab an interview with Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
Eleven students are enrolled in the spring semester course called Covering Politics: 2016 Presidential Election.
Elaine Rojas-Castillo, a graduate student in the journalism program, has always been “fascinated with politics” and jumped at the opportunity to cover the election process “from a hands-on” approach to political reporting.
For Rojas-Castillo, the experiences that stood out most for her in Iowa were attending the Bernie Sanders rally and getting to speak with Commissioner Chuy Garcia
“The confidence I got having him look at me as a journalist with a voice that mattered through talking to him will stick with me for a long time.”
Lebanon-born Nader Alghoul, another graduate journalism student, brings more than a decade or experience covering the Middle East for BBC and other networks.
“I always loved politics and I know it’s dirty,” Alghoul said. “But in the end, it has big impact on us, especially if you are from the Middle East.
Alghoul covered President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign for media networks in the Middle East. He wrote his articles in Arabic so people in the region could understand the elections from the context of their cultural and political surroundings.
For Alghoul, covering U.S. presidential elections will hopefully become a regular assignment in the future, but covering the Iowa Caucus was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Listen to a video interview with Nick Garcia.