Covering a primary, squeezed between CNN and the Wall Street Journal


Covering a primary as a college media organization is an experience like no other. On one hand, there’s a sense of privilege that comes with wearing special media badges and being ushered into the press box. On the other, it’s very humbling to report alongside journalists from ABC and the Washington Post.

Though my six fellow Daily Pennsylvanian editors and I were decried at every rally we attended as the “liberal media,” — even earning nasty glares and boos at Trump and Cruz events – the way we were treated by other journalists ranged from odd maternal kindness to all-out hostility.

There was the kind lady who asked us to borrow a band-aid and then gave up her seat for us later (what seemed like a rare show of gentility in the midst of a Trump rally). There were the people who laughed with us as we were made the butt of multiple jokes by Sean Hannity at a Cruz rally and then at a Rubio rally. There was a young reporter from a small news wire who struck up a conversation with me, crammed into the Trump press box, and emailed me information about an event he was attending the next day.

But there were also journalists who literally shoved us out of the way. An organizer at the Cruz event had to be told several times that we were press, not student volunteers. And more people than we could count were shocked that we, The Daily Pennsylvanian, had trekked to South Carolina to cover a presidential primary.

Being at the center of an environment dripping with media potential and overflowing with journalists means that if you’re not from a news outlet that people know about, people won’t take you seriously. Especially if you look young and you travel in groups of seven and your laptop is adorned with a sorority sticker.

It’s generally a mix of friendly people who see us as the future of their industry and want to help us and sour adults who’ve been to far too many political rallies and don’t want student media getting in their way. We’re seen as either students or journalists, but rarely both — a fact that’s on occasion convenient but usually frustrating.

It’s not a far cry from what it’s like for us to navigate the Penn administration, especially in my own experience as administration reporter and Campus News Editor. It’s hard for administrators to separate our identities as students from our jobs as journalists, and all too often, the former is the one we get stuck with.

And that’s something we've come to expect. But while we’re in South Carolina, scrambling to cover the presidential race that’s dominated headlines for months, our Trump press pass is just as shiny as yours.

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