Highlights of USC Annenberg reporting at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions

USC and Penn Annenberg students and faculty meet with Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Cleveland

This July, Geoffrey Cowan and the team at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center arranged for some of USC’s top student journalists to attend and report from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA. The trip was organized in partnership with Professors David Eisenhower and Marjorie Margolies of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, who have taken Penn students to the conventions since 2000.

Below is some background on the trip, followed by highlights and original reporting from each convention.


Six USC students had a front-row seat to history while reporting each day for USC Annenberg Media, one of the top student media outlets in the country. The student journalists were joined by Communication PhD student Ruthie Kelly, who studies the role of media in American politics at USC Annenberg. The experience included a number of private meetings and interviews with politicians, journalists and other officials including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, UK politician and Brexit leader Nigel Farage, TX Rep. Pete Sessions, FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel, the Bernie Sanders campaign’s General Counsel Brad Deutsch, late-night Full Frontal host Samantha Bee, and many more.

USC Annenberg alum Elex Michaelson reports on current Annenberg students at the RNC for ABC7 Los Angeles

Students reported from the conventions for Annenberg Media and other national media outlets. For example, Kate Guarino (’17) produced photo essays for NBC that asked RNC and DNC delegates to share their opinions on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in one word. Matt Tinoco (’16) wrote an investigative piece for Politico focused on Los Angeles real estate developer Geoffrey Palmer, “the single largest Donald Trump donor in the United States.” (Matt’s reporting made Politico’s influential Playbook newsletter on August 6.) Sarah Collins (’17) and Hannah Vega (’17) helped produce a video at the RNC for Define American. Tiana Lowe (’18) wrote more than a dozen articles for The Tab and Heat Street in addition to reporting for Annenberg Media on the anatomy of the Trump coalition. And Rachel Chiu (’19) reported on topics including the Democrats in Ohio who switched parties to vote for Trump.

The conventions trip was part of a new USC Annenberg class, Journalism 490: Covering the 2016 Election and the Democratic and Republican Conventions, which is co-taught by Assistant Professor Laura E. Davis and University Professor Geoffrey Cowan, and organized and supported by Ev Boyle and Susan Goelz of the Annenberg Center. Professor Davis, who reported from the 2012 conventions as an editor for Yahoo! News, is also a veteran of Buzzfeed, where she helped to develop and launch the Buzzfeed News mobile app in 2015.

The USC Annenberg Center had a major presence at the conventions during the past two cycles, hosting panels in partnership with Politico in 2008 and with Bloomberg and Harvard’s Institute of Politics in 2012. While the Center again co-hosted a panel with Bloomberg at the RNC in 2016, this was the first time bringing students with us to the conventions. With help from Professors Cowan, Davis, Eisenhower and Margolies, the Center arranged for students from both Annenberg Schools to meet with major journalists and political figures, attend exclusive meetings and events, and engage in innovative reporting and research projects on the present and future of conventions and political parties.

In addition to support from USC’s Annenberg Center and the Annenberg School, funding for the trip was provided in part through a donation from Rebecca Donatelli, USC alumna and director of Campaign Solutions.

Highlights from the RNC and DNC

Meeting with politicians, journalists, campaign advisers and government officials

Meeting with FEC Commissioner Ann M. Ravel and Bernie Sanders campaign General Counsel Brad Deutsch
Interviewing Seth Abramovitch, senior writer for The Hollywood Reporter
Kate Guarino with Katie Couric

Interviewing delegates, party members, and observers

Sarah Collins and Hannah Vega helped produce this video for Define American

Reporting live from inside the convention hall

Reporting on the reporters

The media filing tent — right outside the Wells Fargo Center at the DNC

Covering delegation meetings, protests and events

When students weren’t reporting stories, they were the story

Sarah Collins and Annenberg PhD student Ruthie Kelly participated in a Facebook Live for NPR
Hannah Vega and Tiana Lowe broadcasting live out of Facebook’s RNC studios for Annenberg Media

And finally, while USC reporters did their best to remain unbiased, one candidate proved irresistible…

Archive of student reporting on and about the conventions

Hannah Vega (USC ’17, Broadcast & Digital Journalism)

Kate Guarino (USC ’17, Print & Digital Journalism)

Matt Tinoco (USC ’16, Public Diplomacy)

Rachel Chiu (USC ’19, Communication, Political Science)

Sarah Collins (USC ’17, Political Science, Broadcast & Digital Journalism)

Tiana Lowe (USC ’18, BS Economics & Mathematics)