Covering Trump on the Campaign Trail
Our Kid Reporter describes what it was like to cover her first big political event—a speech by Donald Trump in South Carolina.
On November 20, I covered Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speech at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I prepared for the event for a week, but only found out that I had media credentials the night before.
The day of the event, I got up at 5 a.m. because members of the press were allowed to start setting up at 6 a.m. By 6:30, I was the third person inside, setting up my tripod. I put my camera on the tripod, securing a good spot on the risers set up for the media. They call that area the “press pen.” During the event, you are not allowed to leave it.
I also reserved a seat at a table in the press pen, where you can take notes on your computer and charge your electronic devices. There, I met other members of the media. Reporters from CNN, NBC, CBS, WSPA, The Associated Press, The New York Times, and Time magazine were there. Even someone from French Television covered the event. The journalists were friendly, and two of them answered my questions about reporting. Some of the reporters cover Donald Trump's presidential campaign every day. They are called embeds.
INTENSE SECURITY MEASURES
Before Trump spoke, we had to wait outside for two hours. Trump recently got Secret Service protection, and the security surrounding his events is intense. During the security sweep, I saw dogs, police officers, and dozens of Secret Service agents checking for guns, explosives, and anything else that might be dangerous.
While waiting, I met a Trump volunteer, Gayle Britt, who told me that she drove four hours that morning so that she could help the campaign.
By 9 a.m., the doors of the college opened for the media, a full half-hour before the public was allowed inside. I stayed outside to interview people waiting in line. “He is a very interesting character,” Ryan Bridges said of Trump. “I just wanted to experience him live."
As I moved down the line, I encountered a woman named Mary Freedman. “I think all of the Republican candidates this season have very diverse ways of dealing with what they would do as president," she said. Volunteers sold books that Trump has written and campaign merchandise, including buttons and T-shirts.
I then got a tip that David Beasley, the former Governor of South Carolina, would be a surprise speaker. I knew where to go and timed it just right to land the only interview with him before the event.
My big question was: Would he be endorsing Trump? Beasley said that he has not yet made up his mind. “I think Donald Trump is leading in the polls for a pretty simple reason," he added. "He’s saying what the American people are thinking. Right now, that might be what's needed.”
I had to rush to get into the press pen so that I didn’t miss Trump speaking. Afterwards, 14-year-old Julianna Robbins, a Polk County High School student, told me, “I really liked his ideas about immigration and building [a security wall along the U.S.-Mexican border]. I think he would be a really good president.”
Covering the event was a great learning experience.