Cal State Fullerton students had the chance of a lifetime to both report on and take part in the national conversation surrounding the 2020 presidential election when they attended “Real América,” the recent California Democratic Party/Univision Presidential Forum in Long Beach. The televised event featured eight candidates vying for the Democratic nomination: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.
Prepping for the Event
As part of the ongoing partnership between CSUF’s Latino Communications Institute and Univision, five communications students spent several days preceding the broadcast at the Long Beach Convention Center, helping Univision prepare for the production.
Janelli Pedroza, senior in communications-journalism, was thrilled to be a news runner, working on everything from entrance credentials to rehearsing with forum moderators Ilia Calderón, León Krauze and broadcasting icon Jorge Ramos, as the production team checked audio, lighting and camera setup.
“This experience gave me an inside look into what it’s like to work for an established television network like Univision and what it takes to produce a successful TV program,” Pedroza said.
“Production is a team effort, and every detail matters. There will always be last-minute changes; even networks like Univision experience technical difficulties and have to adapt to situations.
“The best part was seeing it all come together and seeing Univision’s team satisfied with the work we had done together.”
Getting the Latino Perspective
The day of the forum, six students from CSUF’s student-run news outlets the Daily Titan, “OC News” and “Al Día” gathered with Jesús Ayala, lecturer in communications and “Al Día” adviser, at the convention center — nervous but excited to report on the event.
Noah Biesiada, sophomore in communications-journalism, said he had covered candidates like Young Kim and Gil Cisneros in the past, but nothing on this scale.
Before arriving, senior Katie DiFalco had spent time researching the contenders and issues relevant to Latinos. “You never know what your day is going to look like, so you have to be ready.”
In a pre-production meeting, the students decided to cover how the candidates are addressing the concerns of Latinos and millennials, and Ayala advised them to find a focus and stick to it. Before unleashing them to shoot footage and interview forum attendees, he shared tips he had learned as a broadcast journalist covering the Obama campaign.
DiFalco’s comment on not knowing what the day would bring turned out to be prophetic. When the forum doors opened, the reporters found themselves unable to enter due to a credentialing mix-up.
Returning dejectedly to the press room, they found themselves with an even better opportunity — taking part in a press gaggle interviewing the contenders who were stopping by after their on-air stints.
Rita La Vau, senior in communications-journalism, was excited. “Just being in there with the Univision team and seeing how they’re covering the event — it’s foreshadowing what’s to come in our careers.”
Adding to the Conversation
Inside the forum, journalism student Mackenzie Quinn had been selected by Univision to be part of the audience onstage with the candidates and moderators. Her head was buzzing with excitement; she was inspired watching Ramos at close range, noting how he carried himself and asked questions.
Senior Kristen Cuaresma asked candidate Tom Steyer about climate change. “It was nerve-wracking, but an honor to address this — an issue that my peers and I are super passionate about.
“Being part of the forum prompted me to reflect on how attending CSUF has seriously impacted my life. I never could have imagined the opportunities I have been able to experience. It has allowed me to grow as a leader and equipped me with the knowledge and confidence to take on opportunities that four years ago would have been unthinkable.”