Political science major gets a front row seat while working at the Democratic National Convention

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November 2, 2016

“I got a behind-the-scenes look at how news organizations function at these huge events,” shares Phoebe Henninger, a Political Science major in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies’ Bachelor of Arts program and an intern with NBC News during the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia. “The experience gave me a newfound respect for the media. These people work incredibly hard.”

Phoebe was in the midst of a Fox Fellowship-supported research project with PORES over the summer when she found out about the opportunity. Though she had to step away from her work in elections studies, the experience was what she calls, “like Christmas for politics nerds.”

After going through Secret Service security and getting all of her many clearances, Phoebe spent a week supporting Andrea Mitchell Reports. During the DNC, Phoebe helped correspondents navigate the convention and was on-hand during filming. As exciting as it was to catch glimpses of celebrities and politicians warming up, and witnessing the media report live on breaking news, the most thrilling moment for Phoebe was watching President Obama from the convention floor. “He was incredible,” she recalls, “It was very surreal to be 100-feet away from the President of the United States.”

Looking back on the convention, Phoebe found that, “the main function of the Democratic National Convention was to mobilize its base. They wanted to get Democrats pumped up to vote. And they did. The DNC had a very energetic, positive message.”

Phoebe’s experience at the DNC also made her examine more closely the role of the media in American politics. “The most important thing that the media does is, in my opinion, keep the government in check. They’re also our source for information. It’s vital for them to report accurately and in an unbiased way.” Which, according to Phoebe, is a particularly difficult task during this election season. “Right now, so many reporters and journalists are facing this dilemma of how to cover Donald Trump. They’re afraid if they don’t give somewhat of an opinion about him that they’re agreeing or complacent. Journalists are in a very tough position.”

Spending a week at the DNC only further galvanized Phoebe’s interest and excitement for the American political process. Continuing her PORES research into the voting patterns of ex-convicts, Phoebe is currently working with Associate Professor Marc Meredith on a study of how driver’s license suspension impacts voting. “Even after working 15 hours a day, I loved every second of the convention. I’m starting to think about my senior thesis, and I want to look into polarization and how the electorate feels about compromise in our current political climate.”

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