University News

WIU Students Covering Presidential Campaigns

October 28, 2015

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MACOMB, IL - Armed with the tools they gathered in the classroom and through writing for and editing the student newspaper, two Western Illinois University students have logged hundreds of miles in recent weeks covering the campaigns of the numerous candidates for U.S. president.

Senior Nicholas Stewart, a meteorology major from Chicago, and junior Erika Ward, a journalism major from Lewistown, IL, have spent many hours traveling back and forth to Iowa for campaign events to present WIU students with up-to-date campaign information through the Western Courier newspaper. Stewart is the editor-in-chief of the Western Courier, and Ward is the paper's news editor.

The news reporting pair first traveled to Ft. Madison, IA in late October to cover a campaign rally for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. They traveled to Burlington, IA, a few days later to cover a rally for Republican candidate Donald Trump. Most recently, the two were in Des Moines, IA, Saturday, Oct. 24, first for a rally by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and later to cover the annual Democratic Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines.

The process for each event required Stewart and Ward to apply for media credentials and cover the event as professional journalists. Both said they used the journalistic skills of impartiality and the base writing ability they acquired at WIU when covering the numerous candidates.

"We also learned a lot of things about the candidates, even the ones who are polling lowest," said Stewart. "It was also interesting to see the Secret Service processes, such as using bomb-sniffing dogs."

Ward said she found watching the political process interesting, such as the "hoops the candidates have to jump through."

Both Stewart and Ward said they also enjoyed meeting reporters from national publications who travel the country covering the candidates. Both also said their coverage abilities were enhanced by covering governmental meetings in Macomb and at WIU.

"Covering city council and the WIU Student Government Association helped me learn how meetings like this are set up and these campaigns are just bigger versions of that," said Ward.

Stewart said he sees the most important part of covering the political campaigns for the student newspaper as providing unbiased information on all of the candidates to Western students can they make informed voting decisions.

"This is a chance for students to learn about the candidates for free," said Stewart.

The journalistic duo has set a four-hour driving limit on their coverage area. Both plan to be at the upcoming Democratic debate in Des Moines.

The Western Courier also has reporters actively covering the ongoing Mock Presidential Election at WIU.

For more information about the Western Courier, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing