Iowa is the center of the world. That’s how it might feel, at least, to a citizen of the agricultural state during January of an election year, when journalists from every major world news source file in, settle down and pull out their cameras. At a caucus or political rally, one might see a high school student with a printed out press badge and a smartphone standing next to a household name from a major network, doing the exact same job. From students to CNN and BBC anchors, every reporter in attendance must be patient and prepared if they want to get the scoop on the political madhouse that is the Iowa caucuses.
Many international journalists fly across the world to cover the caucuses because their country has a vested interest in who becomes the next U.S. president. Pakistani journalist Ikramullah Basra attended a Bernie Sanders rally Saturday. He says Sanders is currently a favorite contender in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country. He says Pakistanis, especially those who have immigrated to the U.S., have a high support rate for Sanders because they think he respects their religion and freedoms.
“It is very important for us who is going to be candidate for president of the United States,” Basra says. “We had terrible experience with [former President George W.] Bush … I personally like [Sanders]. I think it will be very effective for our religion to have him.”
Reporter Jessie Hellmann of the Cedar Rapids Gazette says for the local media, reporting on the caucuses and preliminary events might be easier than it is for out-of-towners because the faces are familiar and they’ve had months to prepare with the community. Hellmann says this is her first time covering the caucuses, and she says she is going to miss the fast-paced hype once the caucuses are finished.
“All hands are on deck, especially on Monday,” Hellmann says. “We have everyone covering the caucuses. The sports reporters are covering the caucuses. Everyone’s going.”
Hellmann says she and her coworkers have been traveling across the state, attending rallies, field office events, and other campaign events to cover the candidates’ attempts to gain favor with participants of the nation’s first presidential caucus this election year. She says some candidates have evolved their strategy as they continue to camp out in the Hawkeye state. She says Sen. Marco Rubio, for instance, grew firmer about his stances as Feb. 1 approached.
CNN Affiliate Producer Katelyn Petroka says she covered a Rubio rally Sunday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She says her crew has been anticipating the caucuses for months.
“It’s really exciting, because there’s so much buildup,” Petroka says. “We started covering [the caucuses] in August … so we’ve been talking about this for so long that it doesn’t matter how many hours we put in, how cold it is … covering these events, traveling, talking to voters, it’s awesome.”
Petroka says her crew is covering the race for presidency “from 30,000 feet,” focusing on the broadest aspects of the campaigns. She says while covering the campaigns is the same job wherever you are, most of her staff is from large East Coast cities and she wants them to conduct interviews with Iowans differently than they would with a resident of the District of Columbia or New York City.
“When you talk to people, I guess there’s going to be a little bit of a different approach,” Petroka says. “The community feel is really strong out here, so that kind of adjusts the way we talk to people.”