The event, “Confessions of a Diehard Political Reporter in an Apocalyptic Election Year,” allowed Marin, the political editor at NBC 5 Chicago, to share lessons from her career covering politics and discuss an election year many have called ‘apocalyptic’.
Marin and her longtime producer Don Moseley launched the center in May 2016, hoping it will serve as a bridge between the academic and professional worlds for DePaul journalism students. The duo’s relationship with DePaul dates back to 2003, however, when they launched the DePaul Documentary Project. The program’s many interns would go onto successful careers in broadcast news and other professions.
Marin began by talking about the most recent political event, the first 2016 presidential debate. She was was not particularly pleased with it.
“It was like roadkill, you couldn’t look at it, and you couldn’t look away … I don’t think it was like anything I have seen, in all these years,” she said.
Marin also voiced frustration at candidates from both parties claiming to be outsiders.
“They profess to be an outsider, not an insider; they’re not a politician, they’re with the people. It’s bipartisan (and) it’s a trope. It’s been used by Barack Obama, it’s been used by Bruce Rauner. My first confession to you, is that I’ve never bought it,” Marin said. “I’ve never bought ‘career politician’ as a pejorative term … Illinois has produced some great career politicians — you might call Abraham Lincoln one of them.” She also noted that making a career out of something implies a commitment to it, and a determination to make a difference.
The 30 minute speech was rife with humorous personal stories. Marin recalled the time she caught frostbite covering an outdoor event in snow-covered Iowa, because she “stupidly wore a really great pair of high heels — and I tell you they were really great shoes.”
Pulling from her years of experience, Marin enlightened the audience with a fact that is sometimes overlooked in political reporting: everyone who runs for president genuinely believes they can win.
“Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in running for President, possessed the same hubris as Donald Trump,” she said. “You have to have it. Call it a different name, if you want. Call it — I don’t know — the ‘Audacity of Hope’” she said, which sparked laughter from the audience.
Marin said she blames her parents for her inclination to be a political reporter.
“I’m a child of a divided household, and so I was born to be a political reporter,” she said. “My mother was a devout Catholic, and a Roosevelt Democrat; and my father was fallen-away Baptist, and a diehard Republican. Dinner every night of my childhood, was a food fight … my parents lived for Election Day, when they could go out to the polls and cancel each other out.”
Recalling the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Marin said that her father voted for the latter, then later felt betrayed after the Watergate scandal. In the Illinois gubernatorial election that same year, her mother voted for Otto Kerner, and also felt betrayed after he was found to have taken bribes.
“It was my parents, who were my first teachers about public corruption,” Marin said, “They are the reason I won a national award for reporting illegal election shenanigans. Specifically, how then Congressman Bill Lipinski had his precinct captains falsifying nominating petitions.” Marin called the crooked practice a “time-honored tradition in Chicago.”
“We have a long and horrible history of corruption in Illinois; and if it’s changed at all, it hasn’t changed enough,” she said.
She built on this point by giving an overview of Illinois’ dire political impasse.
“In this state, I think we can genuinely talk about apocalypse. We have six month spending plan that’s about to expire––and not one to replace it; we have patchworks that are paying some of our bills; we’re (behind) a year and a half in paying medical providers. Just today we learned Chicago State’s enrollment dropped 25 percent, that is an apocalypse.”
The hyper-partisanship of the state was something Marin found to be a tremendous waste of resources: “When Bruce Rauner’s 20 million dollars in campaign donations –– mostly out of his own pocket –– and Mike Madigan’s immense multimillion dollar war chest, is spent on this cycle, will the general assembly look different? Not particularly.”
“Time and again, we see lawmakers so afraid of crossing Madigan or Rauner, that they won’t talk to us (reporters).”
Illinois is not the only state with a mistrust for the media, and Marin has seen that same sentiment on national level. She recalled driving to the Republican National Convention and seeing a sign that read, “Don’t trust the liberal media.”
“Even nonpartisan fact checking websites, with no axe to grind, are rejected. Because in the era of social media, I can go any place to find something that will verify my view — whether it’s the truth or whether it’s not.”
Marin cited the diversity of headlines, reporting angles, and writers’ opinions after the first debate as evidence that the media was not some “monolithic menace that is rigging elections.”
Despite it all, Marin was optimistic: “I love this stuff. For all the horror and all the chaos, I love this stuff. Politics is messy, but it’s also the price we pay for democracy. To be a reporter covering this territory is a gift. Made only greater by the fact that at DePaul University, this great Vincentian School, they’ve launched this wonderful Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence.”
Editor’s note: DePaulia editors Danielle Church, Deni Kamper, Rachel Hinton, Brenden Moore and Jessica Villagomez are students of Marin and center co-director Don Moseley. They were not involved in the writing or editing of this story.