November 15, 2018

Our experience as journalists at a Trump rally

On Oct. 27, we attended President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again rally in Murphysboro, IL. We did not attend as activists or even as citizens; we went to the event as unbiased journalists hoping to learn and report on the rally.

We thought we knew what to expect. We had heard reports of Trump accusing media outlets in attendance of being ‘fake news.’ This led us to assume people would be cruel, refuse to speak to us or even verbally harass us. We thought the president would dehumanize us as media representatives.

In this one situation, we were pleasantly surprised.

This is not to say Trump did not ‘call out’ the media, but it was done in passing rather than a poignant attack. At no point did the crowd’s attention turn to the media stand. No one heckled or shouted at us like we expected. If anything, the crowd ignored us during the rally to focus entirely on the president.

Afterward, we wanted to interview people for upcoming stories we are writing on immigration. We expected backlash and harsh rejection from the people present. Instead, all but one person agreed to interview with us, and the individual could not stay to talk because she had to leave quickly.

Everyone we talked with answered our questions openly and as honestly as they could, sometimes even admitting they did not know the ins and outs of immigration law or congressional practices. We understand this willingness may have been because one of us is white and the other is white-passing, but among the group we encountered, people treated us with respect. We believe there is something to be said for this behavior, given the usually-negative reaction the media experiences from attendees at these events.

We do understand this is not everyone’s experience. Upon talking with two reporters at the event, we learned two years ago–before Trump became president–the journalists said they feared for their safety at a St. Louis rally. As two students entering the professional world, we understand this could become part of our jobs, but we were happy not to experience it last week.

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