The sixth Democratic debate of the 2020 election season took place in LMU’s Gersten Pavilion on Dec. 19, 2019. The campus was filled with presidential candidates, security, government officials and journalists. Among the many journalists and reporters on campus were Loyolan writers Jacob Cornblatt, Veronica Backer-Peral, Cristobal Spielmann and Alyssa Story.
They spent the entire day at LMU reporting inside the debate hall as well as covering the free speech zone happening on Lincoln Boulevard. Story, a film, TV and media studies and journalism double major, mostly focused on interviewing people in the free speech zone, writing opinion pieces and providing assistance to her peers if needed.
Cornblatt, Backer-Peral and Spielmann produced digital content, including articles for the Loyolan’s website and videos of the journalists and candidates they interviewed. The trio is a part of the Loyolan’s Election 2020 team which covers any and all content related to the upcoming presidential election.
Backer-Peral, a film production, history and computer science triple major said, “We planned a lot, but part of it was seeing in the moment what was happening and being open to taking any opportunities that popped up during the debate."
Prior to the debate, all of the candidates who were expected to show said they would not participate if there was a picket line because Sodexo employees were protesting their contracts with the company. This caused much confusion about whether or not the debate was still happening, leading all the way up to the day before the actual debate when Sodexo and Unite Here Local 11 representatives resolved the concerns of protestors. The four students produced content about the protests and the ongoing negotiations leading up to the debate.
On the day of the debate, the students were able to put their reporting skills into action. They interviewed presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. Additionally, they interviewed Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“If we’re going to have small journalism, we need to make it local,” said Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major, as he referred to topics such as DACA students and student loans brought up by Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer.
“That is something that a student newspaper could talk about, because chances are half the newsroom is going to be in debt 20 years after they graduate from college. Having the opportunity to focus on that and having newspapers report on those specific issues, I think is going to be more important than who won the debate,” said Spielmann.
The Election 2020 team will continue to produce content on the presidential candidates leading up to the election this fall, especially on issues important to LMU’s student body.
Cornblatt, editor-in-chief of the Loyolan, said, “We proved that student journalism is important. We interviewed candidates on something I, at least, have not seen them interviewed on, which is how to tackle problems with mental health in this country because it is so important to students … it’s evidence that other perspectives are needed in journalism and [a] student perspective [is] one of them.”