Kid Reporter Shares Tales From Campaign Trail

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By: Martha Irvine, AP National Writer

(AP) Alexandra Conway is, in many ways, a typical reporter on the campaign trail.

She often works long hours and asks tough questions of presidential candidates. But there are some big differences, too — like the fact that she counts on her parents for rides from event to event.

The 10-year-old fifth-grader from Manchester, N.H., is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps, a group of about 75 young people who are reporting on the election from their hometowns. Their articles are being published in classroom news magazines produced by Scholastic, an educational publishing company, and at Scholastic News Online.

Alexandra began her coverage in January with the Democratic primary campaign in her home state. Scholastic editors chose Alexandra after her teacher recommended her.

The Associated Press asked her about her experience so far.

Q: What was it like meeting candidates up close? What about them surprised you?

A: It was so cool to be able to actually interview the candidates and be right in front of them when they were making their speeches. It is much different to see them in person than on television. I was surprised that the candidates actually paid attention and listened to the questions I had to ask. Everyone treated me like I was a celebrity.

Q: What was the favorite question you got to ask a candidate? And how did the candidate respond?

A: I got to ask Howard Dean: “I’ve read that when you were governor of Vermont, 50% of the people working for you were women. If you are elected president will 50% of your cabinet be women?”

He said that he was not going to have a quota system, but his cabinet would look like the rest of America. He talked a great deal about affirmative action and how discrimination exists because people have unconscious biases. He spent a lot of time answering my question.

Q: Did you get to interview John Kerry?

A: Well, before I had my first assignment, I went to a John Kerry rally with my dad at the Manchester City Library. It was two days after Christmas. The auditorium was packed with no place to sit. He seemed very confident at the time that he would win the New Hampshire primary and go on to beat President Bush.

However, the day I had an assignment to cover a John Kerry event, I was really sick. I was never able to ask him any questions. Can you believe it? I am hoping to catch him later during the campaign.

Q: Were you interested in politics before you did this? Why or why not?

A: Well, I really wasn’t interested in politics before I did this, but I did read about the politicians in the newspaper and saw them on television. My school gave kids a chance to vote four years ago. … I remember voting for John McCain.

Q: Are you more interested in the political process now? If so, how?

A: I am more interested in politicians now. I want to know what the candidates’ ideas are to make the world a better place. Actually, I’m hoping that my editors will take me to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

But I probably won’t stay up to watch the results in November because it will be past my bedtime. I will wake up first thing in the morning and turn on the news to see who won the election.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about writing stories about a political campaign?

A: The most challenging thing about writing the stories is that you have so little time to get them done. I also had writing guidelines I had to follow.

But I think writing about politics is much easier than writing a book report.

Q: Based on your experience, do you think you’d like to become a reporter someday? Or a politician? If not, what would you like to be?

A: Since I have had the experience of being a reporter, that is something I might want to be — but I really want to be an orthopedic surgeon. I don’t think I could be a politician. It seems hard, and it’s not my thing.

Q: What do you think candidates could do to get young people more interested and involved in politics?

A: Well, I think the candidates are very kind and pay a lot of attention to kids. They always answered my questions. They could come to schools and talk to children about things that concern us. Kids can influence their parents.

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