Loyola University Chicago

School of Communication


Viewing the Political Landscape from Behind the Scenes

Viewing the Political Landscape from Behind the Scenes

By Lindsay Blauvelt, SOC Website Reporter

School of Communication students caught a glimpse of their future Tuesday evening as a wide array of media professionals debated and discussed their own role in the current political landscape.

A panel of five experienced reporters was brought together for what proved to be a lively discussion on the relationship between press and politics, specifically in relation to the 2012 presidential campaign.

Kasbeer Hall was packed with students and community members who received an inside look at ‌the perspectives of some of ‌Chicago’s distinguished journalists with the help of Phil Ponce, an adjunct professor at Loyola and host at Chicago Tonight, who emceed the event.

‌Ponce, a winner of the Studs Terkel award and Illinois journalist of the year award, said that his goal for the panel discussion is to embolden the relationship between the university and the community.  “Our goal is to use something that’s happening in the moment as a teaching tool,” Ponce said.

Tuesday’s panelists gave the audience a behind the scenes perspective of political reporting as they discussed their experiences in covering the presidential campaign. Ponce says he chose these five individuals based on the insight he felt they could bring to SOC students.

“I wanted diversity in views and backgrounds and I wanted some people who have experience with t‌he topic and all of these panelists do,” Ponce said.

Diversity was in fact present on the panel, ranging from experience in radio news to online media. 

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of political website, RealClearPolitics. Daniel Libit is a political reporter at The Daily. Kristen McQueary, an Editorial Board Member at the Chicago Tribune represented print journalism. Salim Muwakkil, Senior Editor of In these Times, is also a radio host at WVON-1690-AM.  Jim Warren is the Chicago Editor-at-Large for The Daily Beast.

Panelists discussed the challenges of reporting stemming from the bipartisan nature of the nation’s political atmosphere but overall had an optimistic message for aspiring  reporters.

McQueary expressed her confidence in the importance of print journalism amidst the changing media landscape.“You still want to open your paper the next day after the talking heads have spun you in circles and find just the facts in a trusted news source like the Chicago Tribune, “ McQueary said. 

Bevan encouraged students to “be optimistic” when moving ahead with their careers, citing his own story as an example how a risk can turn a dream into reality. Bevan and his partner John McIntyre founded RealClearPolitics in 2000.  “We were two young guys with an idea,” Bevan said. “We sat together with ideas and scraped together a few thousand dollars that no one came to for like two years and we kept at it and we built it into something that we were sort of able to follow our dreams.”

John Slania, director for the SOC’s journalism program, said that he feels the event is an opportunity for students to network and envision themselves in the careers they are working towards.  “You should come to this event because you are going to be able to look at your future,” Slania said. “You’re going to see a group of prominent journalists who cover politics, city hall, Washington D.C. and have them give their insights on what it’s like to cover these issues. Hopefully it’s inspirational to them [students].”

The evening ended with an energetic tone as professors, students, panelists and community members stayed after to continue discussions on various topics. Of those that remained, Alex Chrissey, a junior journalism stu‌dent said he was waiting to speak to Muwakkil about some of his comments during the panel discussion.

“It’s good to hear the perspectives of these [professionals] instead of just listening to the media,” Chrissey said.         

To conclude the panel discussion Ponce added one last note of encouragement from his seat among to the distinguished reporters.  “Be curious, you’ll be surprised where your curiosity will take you, it could lead you right here.”