ON THE TRAIL
Covering the 2016 election
Presidential hopefuls typically visit Florida numerous times in an attempt to win the state’s 29 electoral votes. This year was no different.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made many stops in Florida, four of which I covered.
As I climbed onto my first press riser, hours before the Republican nominee was scheduled to speak, I stressed over where to place my tripod, if I should leave my bag inside and whether I’d be able to move later. I’d covered stories before, but certainly not of this magnitude.
When I walked back outside the pavilion, I realized that those concerns were minimal: the live updates I could provide on social media were just as important as what I submitted for publication the next day.
I spent the rest of the election season tweeting as news broke and traveling more than 900 miles to see the candidates in person while hearing from their supporters and opponents.
As I continued to report on social media, my Twitter following grew and I began to reach even more people around the globe — many of whom I’d never met. But as a journalist, I worked to answer their questions and keep them engaged, informed and interested.
Here’s what it was like covering campaign season as it happened.
. . .
Oct. 12, 2016: Donald Trump
I woke up extra early to gather my equipment and prepare for the day. Shortly after, I headed to Ocala, Fla. where Donald Trump was scheduled to speak that afternoon.
Once I put some of my belongings inside the pavilion, I snapped a picture of the crowd that had began to form outside.
I interviewed people in line to see the presidential hopeful. Here are some of the tweets from that morning:
After these tweets, I began writing a story and entered the pavilion for the noon rally. Here’s the story I wrote:
OCALA, Fla. - Days after the Washington Post released a video of Donald Trump making lewd comments towards women on an “Access Hollywood” bus, thousands came to Ocala to show their support for the Republican nominee.
Of the first eight people in line, seven were women.
“We’re coming out in numbers,” said Kandy Christiansen of Belleview. She was the first in line, arriving at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion around 10:15 p.m. the night before — nearly 14
hours before Trump was scheduled to speak. Christiansen’s two children, Katelyn and CJ, joined her the next morning.
For Christiansen — and thousands of other women at the rally — the comments didn’t bother her.
“Personally, I think it’s locker room talk,” she said. What mattered to Christiansen was that “He’s a real person. He’s not a polished politician.”
Farther back in the line, Mary Hubing eagerly waited to see the Republican nominee. She said used to tell her husband that Trump needed to run for president back in 2009. When Trump announced his presidency, she was ecstatic.
The “Access Hollywood” video hasn’t changed Hubing’s mind.
“We’re all sinners. We all do things wrong and he has asked for forgiveness,” she said.
Meanwhile, numerous Republican leaders are appalled at the comments made by their party’s nominee for the nation’s highest office.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted Friday evening that the comments were “vulgar, egregious & impossible to justify.” House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement saying that we was “sickened” by Trump’s words and that he would no longer appear at a Trump Rally in Wisconsin.
Finally, Donald Trump took the stage as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” played.
I live-tweeted various quotes and information, from Trump’s speech for the people who couldn’t attend the rally themselves.
At the end of the day, I published a photo gallery online with pictures from the day. Here are a few:
In addition, I uploaded all of my photographs to Google Drive so that the photo editor of the paper could potentially use them. Two of my photos were published on the front page of the Independent Florida Alligator. Others ran inside the paper.
. . .
Oct. 23, 2016: Time Kaine
Two weeks later, I was asked to cover another presidential rally, this time led by Democratic vice-president nominee Tim Kaine.
I decided to live-tweet the rally again, as many had appreciated that at the Trump rally.
I decided to incorporate more live-streaming into my Twitter to help my followers feel like they were at the rally.
Once the rally started, I began sending out pictures, names, and quotes.
Just like I did at the Trump rally, I tweeted out some of the things Kaine said. I also live-streamed part of his speech.
Shortly after the rally was over, I tweeted a few more photos from the event and signed off.
These photos appeared on page 1 of the Independent Florida Alligator the next day.
. . .
Nov. 3: Barack Obama
I began stalking Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaign websites to see if they would return to Florida. While I was in D.C., the Clinton campaign announced Barack Obama would be in Florida Nov. 3.
Jacksonville is a farther drive than Ocala, but I was up for the challenge. At this point, I had fallen in love with political reporting.
With hours to go until President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak, I decided to interview the people in line.
While I enjoyed talking to the different people, I wanted to try and get a few creative angles of the line to show my followers its length. I talked to employees at the University of North Florida’s fitness center and they let me enter the facility to take more pictures. Here are a few of those pictures:
While no protestors attended the Kaine rally in Gainesville, a few came out to this event.
I continued to tweet as the rally began.
Unfortunately, there was not enough signal inside the venue for me to live-stream any of Obama’s speech. Instead, I recorded snippets to share online later.
I also tweeted out a few pictures from my laptop as soon as the event concluded.
While I had covered two rallies on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee, I had yet to cover a rally led by Hillary Clinton herself.
. . .
Nov. 5, 2016: Hillary Clinton
Just four days before the election, Hillary Clinton announced her final Florida stop: South Florida.
I immediately knew I had to cover the event, so I headed south.
On my way down, the Clinton campaign announced the location of the rally.
I tweeted early Saturday morning to let my followers know I would be covering the rally.
Before any of the speakers started, rain began coming down. Supporters gathered underneath tents to escape the water.
Due to the rain, I was unable to live-tweet any of Clinton’s speech. However, I tweeted a few photos at the end of the rally.
I also posted a photo gallery online.
. . .
After this election season, I have no doubt that I want to pursue a career in political journalism. I spent my election night both in the field and in the newsroom, reporting on the general and local elections for the NPR affiliate in Gainesville, WUFT-FM.
It’s an interesting time to be a journalist, but I’m ready for the challenges of the industry in what some consider to be a “post-truth” nation. I plan on continuing to use existing platforms of social media and innovating my work to incorporate new ones. Most importantly, I want to help the American people regain their confidence in the media and diminish the effects of fake news by reporting in an unbiased, factual manner and shedding light what’s beneath the statements and legislative efforts.
NOTE: All of the material was published on-location, with the exception of the infographics and the article, which were finished after. The timeline of my live-coverage is disclosed in the Tweet timestamps.