Covering Trump: The Daily Orange takes to Washington

Editor’s note: This article was written by Justin Mattingly, the editor in chief of The Daily Orange, the independent student newspaper at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. This is the third in a series showcasing student publications and how they’ve covered one of the most unique elections in United States history.

I turned to The Daily Orange’s managing editor, Alexa Diaz, just a few hours after we sent the paper to the press on Election Night. The high from such a thrilling newsroom experience was very much alive, and we discussed how we’d continue to cover one of the most controversial and intriguing elections in U.S. history.

Well, we thought, we could do a special edition. We talked to members of the news team, who, being the newsies they are, were completely on board. We ran it by our general manager, who was excited about the idea.

The Daily Orange hasn’t published on a Saturday in a number of years. We dropped our regular Friday edition in 2008 and haven’t published a non-sports guide on a weekend since. But the thought of trying something new was intriguing for all of us because we didn’t really know what to expect. Over the course of the weekend, though, six members of The D.O. staff took to D.C. and another three to New York City to extensively cover what everyone in the world was talking about.

Getting ready

The preparation for Inauguration Day was much different than Election Day. For the latter we were able to review old editions, talk to former editors and had an entire summer and semester to plan. Soon after the decision was made to do a special edition for the inauguration, our news team went into planning mode.

“Weirdly enough, my favorite part was all of the planning in the weeks leading up to the weekend,” said News Editor Michael Burke, who led operations in Syracuse. “The paper wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did without the preparation.”

We decided over Winter Break who would be going down to D.C. and to New York. The teams assembled were diverse in skill sets, some specializing in digital-driven reporting, others in coverage and visuals.

The D.C. crew left early Thursday morning and stayed with the family of our presentation director. While walking around the city that night, the team followed a protest to the Trump International Hotel, the first glimpse of what would prove to be a lively weekend.

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Inauguration Day

Both the reporters in D.C. and New York had early mornings Friday, arriving in their respective downtowns around 4:30 a.m. The D.O. was not credentialed going into the weekend, but acquired a few passes and formal inauguration tickets the day before.

Most of the work around the time of the swearing in was done on social media, with a focus on attendees while the staff in Syracuse wrote of the speech. We started using live blogs last year and used one throughout the day to get the social media posts out to readers even more.

Protests followed the inauguration, sending our team out into the streets to cover them. One of our reporters, Jacob Gedetsis, was at the scene when a limo was set on fire during the protests.

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“There’s no simulation for an event of this magnitude. No matter how many classes you take, how many articles you read, or the amount of local protests you cover, the scale of this is something you simply can’t prepare for,” Gedetsis said. “The best part of covering it is knowing that I now have that working knowledge at my disposal.”

After things had died down, the D.C. team filed stories from the Center for Public Integrity newsroom. The Syracuse staff had been working hard on layout and was ready to go to press once the stories were edited and placed.

We sent the paper just after midnight. We shifted our delivery strategy for the special edition, delivering more copies out into the city of Syracuse than onto campus itself.

While the special edition paper came out Saturday, there was still work to be done.

The Women’s March on Washington, and the sister marches in Syracuse and New York, were stories of interest for our readers. We covered all three, with online stories through the weekend and print coverage in Monday’s paper. Thanks to the generosity of a D.O. alumna, we had an additional two staffers in D.C. for Saturday’s march, one reporter and a columnist.

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“I talked to people of all different backgrounds — immigrants, fathers, foreign visitors, children — each with their own reason for coming out that day,” said Kathryn Krawczyk, a senior staff writer who was in New York City. “I loved learning their stories and working with a great team to figure out the best way to tell them.”

Reconvened in Syracuse on Sunday, everyone agreed: This weekend won’t be one we soon forget.

“Political opinions aside, this was undeniably a monumental weekend in American politics and because of that we were able to put together a historical newspaper,” said Burke, the news editor. “Regardless of what happens over the next four years, that edition of The Daily Orange will live on and so will all of the memories I made with an absurdly talented Daily Orange staff over that weekend.”

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