An election season in review

An election season in review

The Pitt News staff

The Pitt News has covered the 2016 election from the very beginning, when the Republican party still boasted a lengthy list of potential candidates and Bernie Sanders’ political revolution seemed an imminent possibility. Our reporters, photographers and videographers have documented about 30 rallies, stump speeches and protests, not including the stories we’ve done on student campaign workers, groups and voting preferences.

As college journalists on a metropolitan campus, we often bear witness to the extremes of political discourse. Yet for many of us, this election has been especially poignant, bringing together all of the issues that define this particular moment in time: climate change, immigration, the wealth gap, police brutality, student debt, education and healthcare reform, to name a few.

The purpose of a newspaper — or a news outlet in general — can vary. But largely, reporters are responsible for keeping a historical record. When asked, many TPN staffers said they felt like part of history reporting on this election. They’re right. Future Pitt students may someday wonder what campus was like in the midst of one of the most contentious, vitriolic and polarizing election cycles in recent history. Well, we’ve been here for all of it, beginning to bitter end, and here’s what we’ve seen and learned.

Lauren Rosenblatt:
News Editor

I remember talking about how to cover the election season back in May when I accepted a position as an editor at The Pitt News. We didn’t have a clue how to cover it and scrambled to see what Pitt Newsers had done four and eight years ago. But eight years ago saw a different election — historic for a different reason and tense between the two candidates. Nothing could prepare us for the significance of this election.
We’ve spent the past months reading political reporting, from the unbiased to the thinly veiled bias to the blatantly biased. We’ve watched the polls fluctuate. We’ve listened to countless campaign speeches. But even with all the time we have devoted to learning about these candidates, the future that will unfold with the new president is still a mystery. As a reporter, I am looking forward to making a record of that mystery as soon as it begins, whichever way it goes.

Rachel Glasser:
Staff Writer

At my first two political rallies, I had the opportunity to cover Donald Trump and Chelsea Clinton. My press passes from these events now hang proudly from my bedpost — reminders of the Downtown protests, the enthused crowds, the impassioned rhetoric and the stress of the events. My inexperience coupled with chasing after supporters, dissenters, candidates and speakers sometimes made me seriously consider getting a prescription for Xanax. I certainly can’t say I’m upset that election season will soon be over. But I am glad I had the opportunity to be a part of all the fun while it lasted.

Emily Brindley:
Assistant News Editor

The first political event I covered this election season was Trump’s April visit to Pittsburgh. I interviewed Trump supporters in front of Soldiers & Sailors, tried to interview a man who turned out to be an undercover cop and then marched with hundreds of protesters on a three-mile trek from Oakland to Downtown. I was captivated by the energy flowing from both sides.
Seven months later, and angry people fill the rallies and protests, hurling insults at each other and at reporters when they try to ask simple questions. It’s invigorating to hear honest opinions, but the effect begins to wear off when those opinions center around hatred.

Alexa Bakalarski:
Assistant News Editor

My political event coverage for this election began in April. During Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh, I covered a protest marching from Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall to the David Lawrence Convention Center downtown. Since then, I’ve covered two Hillary Clinton rallies and one Donald Trump rally as well as the outside going-ons of the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention.

The different ways people would show support or protest — singing on the street, cosplaying as Captain America — captivated me while I reported and wrote. I appreciate the chance I had to play a role in history — even if that role is just a small blip in the entirety of the election and its coverage.

Amina Doghri:
Staff Writer

I wanted to report on the rallies so I could be part of American history. Having a news pass, you get to have a pretty great view and access to the candidates, which is a completely different perspective than being just part of the crowd. The crowd itself always seemed to be mostly supporters tinged with a few undecided people, but I’ve never had a negative experience with any of them. Some didn’t want their name published — and refused an interview — but most were more than willing to talk about their views. I think maybe it’s because very few people, being a small part of a larger event, have been told that their views are important. So for them, it was a chance to have their opinion matter, their voice heard and their name to be part of history as well.

Wesley Hood:
Staff Writer

There’s almost an overwhelming amount of activity going on at all times during these events, so it’s hard to find a focus. But once you become focused and you figure out who you want to talk to, everyone is generally overly happy to voice their opinion and say why they’re in attendance at the event. More often than not, those you ask for comment or question generally want to talk with you. But some don’t, and often, their reasoning is because they don’t trust the media.
A lot of people I encountered had negative perceptions of the media because of how their candidate was covered. So being able to portray that you are nonpartisan and just there to tell a story was key in getting to those who might not necessarily want to talk.

Tristan Dietrick:
Staff Writer

The 2016 presidential election has been competitive between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but it has also perhaps been the most polarizing election we’ve seen to date. For many, it’s not an election of typical Republican/Democratic platforms — rather, it’s about ethics, personal beliefs and, regretfully, selecting the “lesser of two evils.” Third party voices are prevalent, proclaiming that there is another option, but they seldom hear a response that isn’t “you’re wasting your vote.”

While the electorate may be able to agree on some basic principles, as shown in the Pitt Republicans/Democrats debate, both sides know there can only be one winner, thus stirring the pot of political unrest.

Stephen Caruso:
Online Visual Editor

When I think about covering the 2016 election, I’m reminded of George C. Scott’s famous opening speech to the movie “Patton,” when the namesake general preps his soldiers for battle.
“Thirty years from now, [you’ll be] sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee,” Scott said. “And [he’ll ask] you: ‘What did you do in the great World War II?’”
Scott continues that his men wouldn’t have to feel they did nothing but transfer horse manure by spade when embroiled in a world of turmoil. I know in the grand scheme of this election, my handful of quotes and captured moments don’t mean much and might still be akin to shoveling sh*t. But knowing I could tell any future grandkids about waking at 5 a.m. to drive to Cleveland and the RNC, or skipping classes to follow an anti-Donald Trump march through Downtown Pittsburgh or the time Hillary Clinton walked smiling and waving into my camera eye makes me proud of the role I played.

Theo Schwartz /
Senior Staff Photographer

 Theo Schwartz:
Senior Staff Photographer

About this photo: So much yelling with so little being said. [I remember] Trump supporters and protesters clash[ing] outside the David Lawrence Convention Center on April 13. In some cases, when the thin line of police officers separating the factions couldn’t stop it, the shouting match devolved into physical conflict. With no bystanders to witness, and all participants seemingly set in their ways, I kept asking myself, what’s the point of all this?

Dale Shoemaker:
Managing Editor

We as reporters have had to learn some hard lessons over the past year and a half, both about ourselves and how we do our jobs. No longer is it enough to just report what one candidate says, balance it with what the other candidate says and go to print. Rather, we’ve had to take a more assertive role, fact-checking both sides, deescalating alarmist rhetoric and providing necessary context. Our role as journalists is to provide readers and voters with true information so that they can make decisions, and we fail to do that with standard “he said, she said” reporting. We’ve had to learn how to aim our reporting to a deeper level and get to what is undisputably true. We’ve had to draw lines and stand up for shared morals and learn that straight objectivity can harm.

This has, of course, incited charges of partisanship and bias against journalists. Hate for and distrust of reporters has spiked. Just the other day, a man was photographed wearing a shirt that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” While it’s easy to balk in the face of opposition, we as reporters must assess what we stand for and remember to aggressively pursue what is true. We must remember that the truth is greater than the sum of facts and talking points.

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