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A Student Reporter Gets a Close Up View of the Iowa Caucuses

Watertown's Satenik Karapetyan – an Emerson student – spent nine days in Iowa covering the GOP presidential candidates campaigning for the Iowa Caucus.

Once every four years, journalists from all over the world travel to the state of Iowa for the first-in-the-nation Caucus. This year, the Caucus results were historic, and I had a front row seat to it all.

On Dec. 27 with 12 other Emerson College students and three faculty members, I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, with heavy equipment, a lot of background knowledge on the presidential candidates and no idea what to expect. As an executive producer on this trip, it was up to my co-producer, our adviser and I to plan out our time there. Each night we met and scheduled the following day’s events.

It was hectic. We were constantly tired, running on very little sleep and always forgetting to eat. We operated like a real news organization, quickly filing and posting all our work to our website and our YouTube page after every single event we covered. 

From the meet and greets in small town diners and pizza parlors, to the large rallies attended by thousands of people, I was witness to the true definition of on-the-ground grassroots campaigning. It was remarkable to see first-hand the candidates interacting one-on-one with the voters. It was also a treat to be in such close proximity to the individuals who could potentially be the next president of the United States, regardless of the election results.

I interviewed many supporters. From the women who stood behind Michele Bachmann shedding tears for their candidate, to the first time young voters at a high school who cheered and stood to their feet for Ron Paul. There were voters who were passionate about their candidate and there were voters who were still undecided, even on Caucus day.

Jan. 3 was historic. Nobody expected that Rick Santorum would gain such momentum. He was tied with frontrunner Mitt Romney right up until 2 a.m. when the head of the Iowa GOP made the final announcement. Mitt Romney won the Caucus with a mere eight votes. While many of the other media outlets had already left the Polk County Convention Complex, we hung in there and stayed to the very end to hear the results. 

The candidates have now gone on, without Michele Bachmann (she's since dropped out of the race), to battle it out for the New Hampshire primary. My work isn’t finished just yet either. Now that we’re back in Boston, my co-producer and I are editing a half hour TV special to showcase all our work in Iowa. Covering the Iowa Caucuses was truly the experience of a lifetime for a journalist just starting out. I got the opporuntity to stand beside the real pros and experience the intricate difficulty of covering politics. I must say that there's no thrill like it.

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