How to Cover the Iowa Caucuses

How to Cover the Iowa Caucuses

DEADLINE: Admissions closed (Aug. 9, 2019)
TEACHING DATE: Sept. 20-23
LOCATION: Drake University, Des Moines, IA
COST: Free

This free, hybrid workshop combines coaching and reporting opportunities to help political journalists improve their coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

As the first electoral test for presidential hopefuls in the country, the Iowa caucus can make or break candidates. For the months leading up to the caucus, candidates feast and fest with fervor, trying to stand out from the crowd and communicate their vision for the country.

Journalists are essential in helping voters sift through the noise. They dig into the politicians, their policies and the prognosis of their campaigns.

Join the Poynter Institute and Drake University for an intensive, four-day workshop to equip journalists covering the Iowa caucuses with the skills and savvy they need to best serve their audiences, hold candidates accountable and make ethical, informed choices about what to cover.

Accepted applicants will learn both in the classroom and in the field. They will have the chance to see more than a dozen candidates speak at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry, interview voters, and visit the locales that candidates frequent on the campaign trail. Throughout the workshop, participants will learn from — and get coached by — experienced journalists, fact-checkers and academics.


More speakers will be added closer to the program dates.

Nia-Malika Henderson
Senior Political Reporter

Peter Hamby
Host of Good Luck America

Cenk Uygur
Host and Founder
The Young Turks

Julie Rovner
Chief Washington Correspondent
Kaiser Health News

Jennifer Glover Konfrst
Assistant Professor, Public Relations
Drake University

Dennis Goldford
Professor of Political Science
Drake University

Rachel Paine Caufield
Professor, Dept. of Political Science
Drake University

Kathleen Richardson
Dean & Professor, Media Law
Drake University

Neil Brown
The Poynter Institute

Angie Holan

Angie Holan

Katie Sanders

Katie Sanders
Managing Editor

Aaron Sharockman
Executive Director

What you’ll learn

  • How caucuses work, including recent changes in processes and DNC rules
  • What Iowa voters really care about
  • How polls can teach us about voters and issues
  • Ethical decision-making, including covering female and diverse candidates
  • How to judge the viability of a campaign
  • Fact-checking techniques and how to hold politicians accountable
  • Tips for covering 2020 campaign issues like health care
  • How to dig into campaign finance
  • To stay out of the rat race and tell stories other reporters are not


This workshop will take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Participants will also spend part of the workshop reporting in the field, including at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry.


Tuition for this four-day workshop is free, thanks to the generous support of Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Hotel costs and most meals are covered for all participants. There are also limited travel scholarships available.

Who will benefit/Who should apply

This workshop is designed for political reporters or other journalists who will be covering the Iowa caucuses. Journalists who have not covered the Iowa caucuses before — or those serving a community that has a local candidate in the presidential race — will particularly benefit. Preference will be given to journalists employed by a local or regional newsroom.

Application process

The process to apply is straightforward and simple. No letter of recommendation or reference is required. Please be prepared to answer questions about your professional experience, areas of interests and basic demographic information.  

Apply as soon as you know this training would benefit you. There are limited spots available, and we will accept applicants on a rolling basis. We expect this workshop to be full by the deadline.


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at

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