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Alumni share insight into covering campaigns

Gonzalez and Benton

Cyndi Roy Gonzalez '04 and Crystal Benton '04 share insights into covering political campaigns from journalism and communications perspectives during a September 18 discussion in the Bordy Theater. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

As the 2016 election approaches, budding journalism and political communication students attended a discussion of life on the campaign trail and the challenges of effectively reporting on presidential candidates in the Bill Bordy Theater on September 18.

Associate Professor Jerry Lanson of the Journalism Department served as a moderator for the panel with two Emerson alumni serving as panelists, Crystal Benton ’04 and Cyndi Roy Gonzalez ’04.

Benton began her political communication career as an intern for Sen. John McCain as an upperclass student at Emerson, and Gonzalez covered the 2004 presidential primary race as a reporter and editor-in-chief of Emerson’s student newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon.

Since graduating, Benton worked as press secretary for McCain and served as deputy communications director for his 2008 presidential campaign. She is currently a senior vice president for the Powell Tate–Weber Shandwick public relations firm in Washington, DC.

Gonzalez became deputy press secretary for former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and is a former press aide to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. She is currently the communications director for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Throughout the panel, Benton and Gonzalez were able to relate some personal anecdotes about working on the campaign trail, and offered tips to student journalists on how to cover the primaries.

“Treat people as people first. Personal connections are important to create relationships for people who can then turn into sources,” said Gonzalez.

“Be there early and be there often,” said Benton. “Be there before your boss and stay there until they leave. It’s the best way to get a potential scoop and to show how committed you are.”

Anthony Monzon '16

Anthony Monzon '16 asks a question during the discussion event. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

They went on to talk about how both of them took advantage of great opportunities while still Emerson students. Benton went to a McCain book signing in Harvard Square and talked to his then-campaign manger, Rick Davis, who suggested she apply for an internship, which she got.

Benton and Gonzalez provided insight about what happens behind the scenes at presidential debates amid questions from students. They also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of social media and how the media frames its coverage.

One student asked the panelists whether there would be a Republican on the ballot who has a positive view of gay marriage. This led to an interesting conversation led by Benton, who served on the Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry Coalition, in which she suggested that times were changing and that there are Republicans who do support gay marriage and that hopefully one day, they will be on the ballot. 

Katherine Hill '19

Katherine Hill '19 asks a question during the event. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

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