Whenever a candidate is chosen – for president, for vice-president, whatever – the impact spreads.
Lives change, people move, careers are stalled or propelled. Reporters try to shrug it off.
“We roll from one assignment to the next,” insisted Kyung Lah (shown here, right, with Jasmine Wright), one of the CNN reporters featured in a new HBO Max documentary. When one candidate she covered dropped out of the presidential primaries, another was available.
“In my case, (Kamala) Harris ended, (Amy) Klobuchar ended.” Lah told the Television Critics Association. “Now (I cover) COVID …. We just roll from one to the next.”
Except sometimes, she can roll back again. A week after Lah said that, Harris was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate; Lah was back to politics, doing CNN comnentary on someone she’s covered.
That makes the film – “On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries” – seem timely. It follows several journalists, but focuses on one veteran (Lah, 48) and two newcomers (Wright, Lah’s assistant, and Daniella Diaz, helping cover Elizabeth Warren).
Lah was born in South Korea, Wright is Black, Diaz is Latina. “There aren’t a whole ton of us,” Lah said of ethnic, female journalists. “Even though it is changing.”
Adds Wright: “It is no secret that Black women face double standards when it comes to doing just about anything. We have to work a bit harder, as the saying goes, to get what others have.”
Being young and single, Wright and Diaz can make quick detours, moving in and out of apartments. For Lah, married with two children, it gets more complicated.
“I never met any of the teachers who taught my kids,” she said. Other moments elude her. “All of these logistical things that come so easily to normal people become incredibly difficult. Just carving out a few minutes (when) I can talk to my husband.”
She manages to do it, Wright said. “She is talking to her family constantly …. She won’t eat fast food, so when we’re (driving around) trying to find food that’s not fast, she’s talking to her children.”
Lah and Wright worked as a team – when the political process allowed it. On Dec. 3, Harris ended her run; they moved on to Klobuchar.
During that phase, Wright fumed that people were paying little attention to Klobuchar’s past failure to prosecute police accused of brutality. (“It is always important to pay attention to race relations,” Wright said.) And she alerted Lah, after spotting hints that Klobuchar was about to drop out.
That happened on March 2, just in time for Klobuchar to endorse Joe Biden for the “super Tuesday” primaries. Three days later, Warren dropped out. Lah, Wright and Diaz had no candidates to cover.
Lah detoured to cover a COVID outbreak in El Centro, Cal. That meant masks, shields and more. Then she “quarantined until (I could) get a test. After a certain number of days, … I finally came home.”
She could relax a little … except then Joe Biden made his choice. Harris was back in the campaign; Lah was back on-camera, talking politics.