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Strange looks and scoffs were not what I expected from the national press during my political event coverage this past summer. They remarked when I took notes on a notepad and glared as I put down my pen, picked up my camera and entered the crowd.

Just weeks after their first major public feud, my camera was the only thing between Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and former President Donald Trump. As he spoke to the sold-out audience, I was the only member of the press watching her reactions and noticed her expressionless face was not focused on the person she once campaigned with but on me.

From Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a car museum to former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson at a local coffee shop to entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at Pizza Ranch and a total of 12 candidates, including the former president at Hy-Vee Hall, I have covered candidates vying for the 2024 presidency in various settings across Iowa.

While doing so, I endured thunderous applause following rhetoric directed at the gradual erasure of people like me from the armed forces, library shelves and our nation’s history, and furthermore, I felt isolated from the press corps, who are expected to be supportive.

I hope my generation can positively impact political communication by understanding the social responsibility of covering the current presidency. As an aspiring professional navigating this landscape, I hope my work would continue to be a vehicle for the culmination of informed, nuanced and civil discussion while upholding journalistic integrity and societal accountability.

In a world where political reporting intersects between disdain and divisive language, my experiences witnessing moments between high-profile politicians and capturing the pulse of the nation’s political landscape have reinforced the importance of empathy, inclusivity and accuracy in my storytelling.

Being perceived as an outlier among the press corps serves as a poignant reminder of the necessity to embrace diversity, not just in representation but also in the narratives we craft. These campaign stops have strengthened my resolve to champion balanced reporting that amplifies diverse voices, challenges biases and fosters understanding.

I envision that my work would catalyze informed, respectful and multifaceted conversations that transcend evermore present partisan divides. I want to shed light not just on the rhetoric and policies but also on the human stories and implications behind the decisions made in the highest office of the land.

Embodying social responsibility in covering the current presidency demands navigating complexity with diligence and presenting an authentic and comprehensive picture to the public. It involves advocating for truthfulness, cultivating empathy, and fostering a more inclusive dialogue.

I hope my work covering this presidency would serve as a beacon of journalistic integrity, empowering individuals to engage empathetically and constructively with the political landscape. I aim to restore trust within the media that cover the Oval Office and all who encompass it by embracing the responsibility of political communication.

Cleo Westin

Cleo Westin is a third-year student from Des Moines, Iowa, double majoring in journalism and mass communications and political science. She is working toward a minor in meteorology and a certificate in science communication. She has written for the Iowa State Daily since November 2022 in various roles, including senior reporter and summer news editor, but stepped into her current role of politics editor within the past month. Westin’s work includes everything from covering Ames City Council to interviewing Iowans at presidential campaign stops. Besides journalism, she plays sousaphone in the Iowa State Cyclone Football 'Varsity' Marching Band and is parliamentarian of the Theta Xi Chapter of Tau Beta Sigma, a service-based honorary band sorority. She is also involved with the Iowa State Winter Guard Club, Political Science Club, and Cardinal & Gold.