Shenandoah Student Reporting Labs

Seven students from Shenandoah High School have been participating in the Student Reporting Labs programs in cooperation with PBS NewsHour. During this caucus season, they have attended events for Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich as well as Page County Democratic and Republican meetings, and the famed Iowa caucuses.

The seven students are seniors, Devin Edds, Lindsey Hastings, Jake Doerr, Bailey DeBolt, Ryan Gray and juniors, Spencer Baldwin and Tyler Meyer.

The students answered the following questions as a group after attending the 2012 caucus event.

1.      What was the most interesting thing you learned or saw during the caucuses? Why?  

The caucuses are important because it emphasizes how important individual contact with candidates and neighbors is to the political process. The people who are really passionate are responsible for raising candidate awareness and spreading the word about their candidate. Face-to-face contact with candidates is very important because that is how you can learn the most about candidates. Phone calls, debates, and commercials have little influence on voters’ opinions compared to visits from the candidates to hear their stances and what they want to accomplish. You can build support for a candidate by hearing them speak much easier than from hearing them on television. It is also much preferred to phone calls and commercials because they are annoying and repetitive.

Another interesting aspect was the hometown familiarity of the caucuses. The ballots were passed around the room, then counted by two volunteers. Everyone trusted each other to do the honorable thing, which all participants seemed to abide by.

2.      What did you expect to see at the caucuses? What surprised you about the experience?

On the Republican side, the turnout was higher than expected for our county. Six different candidates received votes from the precinct we observed, but only two individuals spoke up for presidential candidates. Several individuals were still undecided when entering the caucuses, and hearing from neighbors about who to vote for and why was definitely more influential than listening to the phone calls and commercials, as we discussed above. In the Democratic caucus, President Obama addressed precincts via a video call. President Obama also emphasized the need to reach out and speak to your neighbors instead of cable news. He discussed health care, bringing the troops home, and college affordability. The Democratic turnout was smaller than expected, but in viewing the other cities and suburbs, they higher turnout than our rural county.

3.      What were some journalistic lessons or questions that came up while you were converting the event? What was it like being there as a journalist?

We enjoyed learning about people’s opinions firsthand instead of just listening to the media. We also found that recording people’s opinions have helped develop our personal views more. It was nerve wracking to questions people are first, but we are now more comfortable in interviewing and asking for opinions. Furthermore, we enjoyed dressing the part of journalists, especially Spencer who received numerous complements on his bowtie, salmon-colored shirt, and vintage hat.  

4.      What was young people’s participation in the caucuses like? Were a lot of young people participating? Any of your friends or classmates?


There were a few high school students, most likely there because our teacher offered incentives for them to attend. There were also a handful of college students and young families, however most were fifty and over.

5.      If you could do one interview over again that you did today, which one would it be? Why? What would you change?

The biggest learning experience has been technical issues. We have basic equipment so noting light and volume have been key to obtaining quality interviews. We’ve also improved on our interview techniques over time with follow up questions and persuading people to be interviewed.

Shenandoah Democratic Caucus Site, Page County, Iowa, January 3, 2012

Shenandoah, Iowa Precinct One & Two: Republican Caucuses, January 3rd

Results: Rick Santorum 28, Newt Gingrich 15, Ron Paul 13, Mitt Romney 12, Michele Bachmann 5, Rick Perry 3

Newt Gingrich at a meeting in Shenandoah.

Rick Perry Town Hall Meeting

Rick Perry & Michele Bachmann Page County Visits

On a surprisingly warm December day, one week before the Iowa caucuses, two Republican presidential candidates visited Southwest Iowa.

Rick Perry spoke at the Glenn Miller Museum in Clarinda. Introducing him was State Representative Rich Anderson, urging the crowd of approximately 150 to find a candidate who aligns best with their viewpoints instead of simply voting for the current leader in the polls. Also traveling with Governor Perry was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Arpaio, known for his influence on the Arizona immigration issue, supports Rick Perry as the presidential nominee because he believes in their similar stances for a strong border.

When speaking to the crowd, Governor Perry appealed to them as the true conservative in the race, asking, “Why would you settle for anything less than a conservative who would fight for you and your values?” Furthermore, he stated if caucus goers have his back on caucus night, he’ll have their backs for the next four years. Perry proposed nominating strict constructionist justices to the Supreme Court to restrict abortion, allow states to decide gay marriage until a constitutional amendment can be added in support of traditional marriage, and to reform the tax code to a 20% flat tax.

Governor Perry quoted the Bible with applause from the crowd and spent time shaking hands and taking pictures with many audience members.

Later in the afternoon, Michele Bachmann attended a house party in Shenandoah. Representative Bachmann addressed healthcare, repealing the Dodd-Frank finance law, and her recent strong debate showings. Bachmann appealed to the crowd as a seventh generation Iowan, mother, and foster parent. Like fellow candidate Governor Perry, Representative Bachmann also spoke about how it was a critical election to nominate a true conservative.

Wearing jeans and a sweater, Bachmann casually met with supporters for photos and autographs.

In trying to find the pulse of the direction of the upcoming caucuses, Iowans were excited to meet with the candidates in person. This caucus season, candidates have relied more on debate appearances than face-to-face meetings. Many attendees of today’s meetings showed up to both events because they are anxious for answers to help them decide who the nominee should be. There was a wide variety of issues and concerns that compelled the attendees to come out to meet the candidates. Rumor has it Newt Gingrich will be in town later in the week on December 30. Although the caucuses are only a week away, it is never too late to gain Iowa voters’ support for January 3rd. 

Shenandoah High School joins PBS Student Reporting Labs

Our school has been accepted to join the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab Program. Working together, we are going to create a news broadcast over the Iowa Caucuses. We will be posting photos, blogs, and videos of our works in progress.

Shenandoah High School, Shenandoah, Iowa

Teacher: Jennifer Cole

Michele Bachmann event photos

Our first trip out conducting interviews - Michele Bachmann town hall meeting at Drake University