When Access is Everything In Campaign Coverage

Donald Trump at a campaign rally. Photo by Stacie Scott, Colorado Springs Gazette

By Katelyn Umholtz

Covering presidential campaigns can be a process. When those candidates are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, things are even more interesting.

For Jessica Kourkounis, a freelance photographer from Philadelphia, it just makes access harder.

“I wouldn’t categorize either of them being awesome access,” Kourkounis said. “In 2008, access was better. It gets worse each cycle, from my experience.”

In covering both candidates, Kourkounis said she found the access at Clinton’s rallies to be slightly better. At the Clinton rallies, she said, she was allowed to stand in the buffers for as long as she wanted, whereas at Trump rallies, the time was extremely limited.

“It’s really difficult [at Trump rallies] to get crowd shots because it’s generally just the back of their heads if you’re in that riser area,” Kourkounis said. “With Clinton, you’re in the buffer for so long that you can work photographs of Clinton and the crowd.”

She’s not the only one in the riser area at the Trump rallies either. Kourkounis said she was packed in there with other journalists, with not much access to go anywhere else or move around freely.

“You really are kind of caged in,” Kourkounis said.

Stacie Scott, a staff photographer for the Colorado Springs Gazette, said she expected access to be limited when she showed up at a Trump rally. She didn’t that stop her, though, from getting a unique image.

“It’s a fun challenge because you want to get something a little bit different than just a podium shot,” Scott said. “But you don’t always have the access to do that.”

However, the event loosened up a bit for the press, which lead Scott to an unforgettable image.

“To my surprise at the end of his speech, someone from his campaign brought the still photographers up on stage,” Scott said. “He was handed the babies. It was a very lucky thing to happen, and I was in the right place at the right time.”

In the picture of Trump and the babies, he appears to be just as perturbed as the babies he’s holding. The photo won first place in the NPPA monthly clip contest for the Northwest Region.

Since covering two Trump events, Scott comes back to the newsroom with a disc full of “goofy expressions.”

“He’s just wild,” Scott said. “If you’re looking through your pictures of him when trying to send some to the paper, they’re just all these goofy faces.”

“I didn’t know how to portray him in a way that didn’t make him look goofy, but then I realized that’s just him,” she said.

Donald Trump at the airport during a campaign appearance. Photo by Stacie Scott, Colorado Springs Gazette


Just in the general way he’s handled his campaign, Scott said, Trump takes a much different approach than Clinton does, and that shows in the pictures photojournalists make.

To some ruffled viewers, the differences in pictures of Trump compared to Clinton may seem subjective, but Kourkounis said the photojournalists are doing their jobs and only shooting what is going on around them.

“If you were to look at all my pictures from the rally, you would see an entire gamut of expressions,” Kourkounis said. “You try to tell the complete story, and often times it gets pinpointed into one image. You might be able to tell the story of the night in that one image depending on what’s going on.”

As Scott said she caught the right moment at the right time “out of luck,” Kourkounis said that’s what a visual journalist’s goal is — to catch the perfect moment.

“You wait for these little moments that exude some sort of emotion or expression,” Kourkounis said. “That’s what you aim for.”