CNN’s Jasmine Wright

John Nowack/CNN

Daniella Diaz and Annie Grayer fuel up on the campaign trail in Iowa.

John Nowack/CNN
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September 28, 2020
In The Mix

Their Winning Season

Reporter-producers covering the primaries for CNN proved their mettle over eight nonstop months. They all just happen to be women.

Ann Farmer

Daniella Diaz, Annie Grayer and Jasmine Wright are tucking into eggs and pancakes in a Des Moines, Iowa, diner.

"You've got to eat when there's food in front of you," says Grayer, divulging that it's her second breakfast of the day. But with her hectic schedule, covering every minute of Bernie Sanders's dogged campaign to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, she never knows when the next meal will come.

We meet these three go-getter CNN reporter–producers in On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries. They've been embedded with Democratic presidential hopefuls for months, going where the candidates go and reporting on every significant comment or move they make.

"Sometimes I wake up and I forget where I am," says Diaz, who, at this point, has been shadowing Elizabeth Warren seven days a week for eight nonstop months, hoisting a 20-pound camera at each campaign stop. "My entire life revolves around Elizabeth Warren," she says.

On the Trail, a CNN Films documentary exclusively produced for HBO Max, takes an inside look at nine CNN correspondents and producers on the campaign trail. All are women, who happen to comprise the majority of CNN's political reporting team this election cycle.

"I looked at our team and was struck by how many were women — young women and women of color," says Katie Hinman, executive producer of special programming for CNN Films. That observation inspired her to fashion a gender reversal of The Boys on the Bus, a seminal book about male reporters covering the 1972 presidential election. "It was an opportunity," she says, "to change it to 'The Girls on the Bus.'"

We watch as Kyung Lah, an L.A.–based national correspondent, receives a call from the CNN news desk. She must board a plane the next morning to meet Amy Klobuchar's campaign — and leave her husband and two young children for the duration. "We did a lot of FaceTime dinners," she says.

Once on the ground, Lah works hand-in-hand with Wright, who's already embedded with Klobuchar's camp. They hustle to keep up with its unceasing field operation. "What is undeniable is that it is a grueling experience to be a candidate," says Lah, whose responsibilities included interviewing voters and providing live news feeds.

While these tenacious newsgatherers are the stars of On the Trail, the documentary also looks back at this year's impressive slate of Democratic contenders, including a record number of women. The race is touch and go until Joe Biden's decisive South Carolina win, after which they drop out one by one. "Like a deck of cards," Lah says.

Finally, the pandemic brings their moveable feast to a complete halt. As the candidates and press corps pack up to go home, the feeling is bittersweet. Chief political correspondent Dana Bash has dedicated her entire career to CNN. She observes that sports reporters get to cover the World Series every year. "Political reporters," she says, "only get the big one — the presidential race — every four years."

This group seems to have given it their all. "It was a life-changing experience," Lah says. "Seeing democracy in action and being part of it was beyond a thrill for me."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9, 2020

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