Alumna Leads Iowa Caucus Coverage for Des Moines Register

Every four years, the Iowa Caucus thrusts a seemingly quiet state into the national spotlight. As the Politics Content Strategist for The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, Journalism alumna Annah Backstrom has a front row seat to one of the most anticipated events of the presidential election.

"I consider it really a great honor to be in the position I am in," she said. "The Register has a very proud history of political coverage in Iowa, and when I was offered this position, I couldn’t have been more excited."

When Backstrom first started at the Register, three and a half years ago, she worked on the digital team as the Breaking News Editor, but knew she eventually wanted to be part of the political coverage and was promoted to Politics Content Strategist in November 2014.

As the Politics Content Strategist, Backstrom directs the Register’s politics and education teams. She manages the higher education reporter, state house and government reporters, the fact check reporter and has helped organize the Iowa Caucus coverage.

"I have been directing our caucus coverage team since December 2014, which is usually between 12 and 15 reporters who are assigned to individual candidates," she said. "I edit almost all of their work, and I direct them and help to decide which events we cover and who will be there on what day."

The Iowa Caucus, which takes place this year on Feb. 1, is the first major electoral event of the nominating process for President of the United States. It is where the first votes are cast during a presidential election.

During the months and weeks leading up to the 2016 Iowa Caucus, Backstrom and the staff at The Register worked overtime to cover their news beats and kept up with the surge of political news and events.

"There are some days that it’s very difficult, but I like to be busy and I like to be part of something that is important," Backstrom said. "I know when this is all over, there is a very real possibility that I will have met the next president of the United States, which regardless of what you do, or who you are, is cool."

Backstrom has had the opportunity to speak with almost every presidential candidate, and is continuously working to make sure The Register has the most up-to-date and accurate information to give Iowans going to caucus.

While pursuing her degree from Michigan State, she worked as a part time News Clerk for the Muskegon Chronicle. She later went on to be the Assistant Editor at the Herald and News, a small paper in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where she worked for five years before joining The Des Moines Register.

"I came from a small paper in southern Oregon, and the work that I did there put me in a position to be successful at a larger paper," she said. "I have been given opportunities at this point in my career that I never thought I would have. It is an honor and a privilege to do what I do everyday."

By Victoria Bowles