On June 14 Donald Trump came to Greensboro to campaign and my newspaper sent basically every single reporter to cover it. Including me!
The violence at Trump's rallies has been well documented, and I was honestly pretty nervous about being sent to cover one of his events. The campaign also has a contentious relationship with the media, and we were informed ahead of time that we would be granted press credentials only if we agreed to confine our coverage to a fenced-in media "pit" in the middle of the event center.
That type of restriction is strange and pretty unheard of for journalists covering public events. Our job is literally to talk to people, to get their impressions and their thoughts, and it's impossible to do that if you're not allowed to walk around the venue. Because of that, several of my colleagues and I opted to enter the event with tickets like the general public so we'd be able to talk to audience members.
For all of my concerns, my actual experience at the event was very uneventful. I sat in the bleachers with another reporter and the supporters we spoke to were all very pleasant, cheerful, and upbeat. As with other Trump events (and other political rallies), there were protesters who got ejected, there were offensive T-shirts and buttons, and there was some booing and chanting. Other people who attended the rally had a totally different experience than I did. Some people who followed the event on Twitter had trouble reconciling our different accounts, which I understand, particularly given the Trump campaign's repeated claims that the media is misrepresenting what it's like at his rallies. Here are my thoughts.
1. This account, which is the one that got most of the national attention, is not from a member of the media. Saxton is a professor at a community college in Georgia who writes an anti-Trump blog and refers to himself as a "political correspondent." If you are vehemently opposed to a candidate and you are allowed to express that feeling in your coverage of an event, your coverage is naturally going to be negative.
2. That being said, I have zero doubt that awful things were being said all around the event center. I personally didn't hear any. I also have zero doubt that awful things are said at every political event for every candidate or every party. Political rallies are attended by fervent supporters and emotions run high. It's the nature of the beast. There's a lot of bad on display at gatherings like this, but there is also, I think, some good to be found. At the very least, people are excited to be participating in the democratic process, and I take heart in that, regardless of what I believe personally.
3. What I believe personally is irrelevant given my job, but I will say that as a woman and a feminist and a journalist who sees firsthand how differently women are treated in the media, I found this particular button pretty offensive.