Ben Diet­derich inter­views Ben Shapiro at CPAC 2018. WRFH | Courtesy

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — One of the most exciting moments for sophomore Ben­jamin Diet­derich at the 2018 Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference was when political com­men­tator Ben Shapiro and about 20 fans showed up at the Radio Free Hillsdale WRFH 101.7 FM booth without notice.

“All the sudden, before I had written any of the ques­tions and I was still thinking in my head what exactly I was going to ask him, I just see Ben and his body­guard walking toward us and a big crowd of people behind them — all the fans, you know” Diet­derich said. “They told me, ‘You only have five minutes, so make it count.’ And I got to talk to him for about six or seven, much upsetting his time manager.”

But Ben Shapiro was just one of many high-profile leaders student jour­nalists inter­viewed. Members of the radio program talked with more than 60 of the con­ference speakers and members of the media during the radio station’s first trip to CPAC last week. Diet­derich and junior Shadrach Strehle handled most of the inter­views, and Ryan Murphy, who is par­tic­i­pating in the Wash­ington-Hillsdale Internship Program this semester, took a few inter­views, too.

The expe­rience gave stu­dents a chance to think on their feet. Before inter­viewing British politician Nigel Farage, Strehle said he had about 10 minutes to prepare. Often, though, he had to interview people on the spot, even if he did not imme­di­ately rec­ognize who the person was.

“You grab their card, just read it, and go,” he said. “I’m not a super polit­i­cally active person, so it was a chal­lenge. It’s about asking the proper ques­tions so that you can step away and let them do the interview. A lot of people sit down and really want to talk, so it’s not super hard.”

Diet­derich said his favorite interview was one with Her­itage Foun­dation Pres­ident Kay Coles James on how she became a con­ser­v­ative.

“I just thought she had a com­pelling story,” Diet­derich said. “She doesn’t shy away from the fact of how unusual it is to be a con­ser­v­ative, black woman and what that was like growing up, and I respected that a lot.”

While the mar­keting department had scheduled around 15 to 20 of the inter­views before the con­ference, a lot of the inter­views occurred as politi­cians and media members showed up. After the con­ference, the radio group com­piled a 22-minute “best-ofs” segment to run on the radio station. Most of the inter­views are also on Sound­cloud, and Diet­derich used several of them for his show, “American View,” which runs on Mondays at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The group also posted the clips in real time for other radio sta­tions to use.

Station Manager Scot Bertram also did a couple of inter­views, but mostly helped with pro­duction of the seg­ments. He said a lot of people who came by the booth, including Shapiro and Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel, didn’t nec­es­sarily stop at other places on radio row, as far as he knew.

“The vast majority of the inter­views were high quality,” Bertram said. “We didn’t talk to anyone we didn’t want to talk to.”

Strehle said his favorite interview was one with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Yaakov Menken, who serves as man­aging director for Coalition for Jewish Values.

“We talked about the dif­fer­ences between Orthodox Judaism and Reformed Judaism, and how that relates to the Christian tra­dition. It was a lot of fun,” Strehle said. “He also talked briefly about how the Judeo-Christian tra­dition is Jewish in its foun­dation, so we talked about that foun­dation and how a lot of people have moved away from it or not put as much value into it as there really is.”

With all of the inter­views, there was not a lot of time to sit in on the general session.

“Ben got himself pur­pose­fully locked into the Trump room so he could watch,” Strehle said.

Bertram, Diet­derich, and Strehle also got a special tour of the White House because of a con­nection with a former Hillsdale alumnus and mar­keting employee, Sam Brown, who now works in media at the White House. They saw the West Wing, which is not usually part of a White House tour.

Strehle said he was impressed by the small size of the Oval Office, the “small, tight hallways,” and the press briefing room.

“The reporters are sitting in these bleacher-style seats, crammed together. If you weigh more than 150 pounds, there’s no way you’re not going to be rubbing elbows with the person next to you. The floor is covered with wires, tons of dust, there are all these cameras crammed into this small little space, and the lighting is flu­o­rescent and really oppressive. It’s a dan­gerous little room.”

Diet­derich said he was thankful for the oppor­tunity.

“I am so grateful for the expe­rience we got last weekend. I’m so grateful to everyone who made it happen,” Diet­derich said. “I haven’t done any­thing that com­pares to it.”