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Col­legian Editor-in-Chief Macaela Bennett works at her com­puter during the November 10 GOP Pres­i­dential Debate.

When Sen. Ted Cruz, R‑Texas, made a snide comment about jour­nalists during Tuesday’s fourth Repub­lican pres­i­dential debate, hun­dreds of jour­nalists clus­tered in the Mil­waukee, Wis­consin, media filing center shared a moment.

While responding to crit­i­cisms of Donald Trump’s firm stance against illegal immi­gration, Cruz said many people dis­regard immi­gration as an eco­nomic issue. He blamed this mis­un­der­standing par­tially on the main­stream media’s cov­erage of it. To emphasize his point, Cruz argued that the media would cover the issue dif­fer­ently if undoc­u­mented immi­grants entering the United States were applying for jour­nalism jobs.

“I will say, the pol­itics of it would be very, very dif­ferent if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande,” Cruz said. “Or if a bunch of people with jour­nalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press, then we would see stories about the eco­nomic calamity that is befalling our nation.”

Adjoining the debate hall in Mil­waukee, where Cruz made this comment, I observed hun­dreds of jour­nalists withdraw from writing deadline stories, rehearsing TV stand ups, and live tweeting to cast shifting glances and share smirks with one another. For 30 seconds, the clacking key­boards stilled and every media person held some­thing in common: We had all been called out.

I didn’t hear any major remarks about his accu­sation, but it was the only time Tuesday night a can­didate cap­tured the attention of the entire press.

The rest of the day, jour­nalists fueled by free coffee and chips pro­vided by the Repub­lican National Com­mittee buzzed between the debate hall, filing center, and protests raging outside, where Black Lives Matter rep­re­sen­ta­tives burned an American flag and pro­voked policemen.

Under­lying the glam­orous-looking debate hall, where the can­di­dates were split into two groups — an undercard debate of four can­di­dates and prime-time debate with the eight gar­nering the most support — media rep­re­sen­ta­tives took little time to share in these type of human expe­ri­ences.

An exception being whenever a jour­nalist found his or her assigned seat and read the Wifi password: “StopHillary.”

Even though an RNC email had sent out that infor­mation a few days prior, a shrill spike in laugher and com­ments some­thing like “That’s hilarious. Did you see the password?” arose above the normal din every few minutes.

After CNBC’s debate two weeks ago was broadly crit­i­cized for lacking both content and mod­erator talent, Tuesday’s co-hosts Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal pledged to foster more sub­stantial con­ver­sation.

Because of the backlash specif­i­cally against CNBC’s mod­er­ators, those mod­er­ating Tuesday night seemed appre­hensive about avoiding a similar review. Before the undercard debate, mod­er­ators Sandra Smith of Fox Business and Trish Regan from WSJ reminded the can­di­dates several times, “Please be kind to your mod­er­ators.”

As a result, can­di­dates during both debates spent more time talking about tax plans than fantasy football.

While many on Twitter shared their relief about the more serious debate format, a few jour­nalists in the media center grumbled that it wasn’t as enter­taining.

The jum­botron and flatscreens scat­tered across the media center blackened during the prime-time debate’s first com­mercial break, and one voice per­vaded the sudden silence saying, “So when is someone going to say some­thing inter­esting?”  

That same jour­nalist joined in the chorus of dis­gruntled groans after Cruz’s comment an hour later, and he looked much more amused.

 

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Pro­testers clashed with police outside of the November 10 GOP Pres­i­dential Debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jour­nalists watched the debate on large screens in the media filming center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Macaela Bennett
Collegian editor-in-chief, Macaela J. Bennett grew up in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, Morton, Illinois. In May, she will join The Arizona Republic as a 2016 Pulliam Fellow, working at its News Desk reporting on Metro/Breaking News. In the past, she's interned for The East Peoria Times Courier, Campus Reform, The Town Crier, and The Tennessean. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, running, and cheering on the Cubs.