Journalism student Robert "Bo" Bartley in front of Air Force Two

Riding With Biden

UD student reporter travels on Air Force Two on Biden's campaign trail

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4:35 p.m., Sept. 27, 2012--Robert “Bo” Bartley planned to spend his fall semester focusing on schoolwork. Then he got the chance to accompany Vice President Joe Biden on Air Force Two to a campaign stop. So much for focus. 

On Sept. 13, Bartley joined members of Biden’s staff, professional reporters and the vice president himself on Air Force Two en route to Eau Claire, Wis., where Biden delivered a speech at the packed University of Wisconsin’s Zorn Arena. 

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“It was the third week of the year and I had planned on buckling down and the whole Biden thing happened and threw everything into a frenzy,” said Bartley. 

Bartley, a senior English major with a concentration in professional writing and a minor in journalism, works for the Review as the administrative news desk editor. 

The experience gave Bartley, who would like to pursue political reporting in the future, a firsthand look into the life of a journalist on the campaign trail. 

“It was a great experience. It showed me if I do end up going into the field what I’ll have to do on a daily basis,” said Bartley.

Bartley produced an article about Biden’s speech, a detailed description of his experience and a video which can all be found on the Review website. 

Although Bartley only got to spend a few minutes talking to Biden, he witnessed the vice president’s personable nature firsthand. 

“He gave a great speech and he’s really good at reacting to crowds and he’s good at interacting with people one-on-one as well,” said Bartley. 

Bartley is the first student journalist to accompany the press pool on Air Force Two with Joe Biden, according to the vice president’s press office. 

Making it happen

Bartley’s trip on Air Force Two was the result of ongoing negotiations between Dawn Fallik, assistant professor of journalism, and Biden’s press staff. Fallik, who also writes for the Wall Street Journal and Philadelphia Inquirer, had been trying to secure opportunities for UD students on Biden’s campaign bus since June. 

Nothing concrete came of the negotiations, since there was no scheduled bus tour for the campaign, until after the school year started and Fallik received good news from Biden’s press office.

“They said ‘we’re not doing a bus tour, but in a week, we can offer a student a seat on Air Force Two,’” said Fallik. 

The funding for Bartley’s trip needed to be secured quickly. Matt Kinservik, associate dean for the humanities, was instrumental in acquiring funding from various places around the University. 

The English department, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Political Communication all contributed funding. The price tag for a day on the campaign trail was $2,350. 

With the funding in place, Fallik next had to think of a way to select the lucky student who would ride with Biden. She put together an application for her advanced journalism students and Review editors and reporters. 

“This student had to be able to write and put together a video,” said Fallik. “I asked how they would handle a quickly changing situation and what questions they would ask Biden if they got the chance.”

Fallik sent students’ applications to Thomas Fitzgerald, political reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, who chose Bartley as the winner. 

The Benefits

Kinservik said he believes that Bartley’s opportunity to fly on Air Force Two and be a part of the campaign trail enhanced his learning experience. 

“As a student, so much of what you’re studying, you’re studying as a consumer of the event; he had the experience of seeing it as a producer of the event,” said Kinservik. 

Bartley said the experience was beneficial for multiple parties. 

“For me, personally, it was a great experience and great for the University because it raises the profile and the journalism program gets higher exposure,” said Bartley. 

Fallik agrees. “I’m excited that students interested in journalism are popping up all over campus,” she said. 

University of Delaware students may have opportunities to cover future Vice Presidential events. 

Article by Kelley Bregenzer

Photo courtesy of Bo Bartley

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