I’m writing for a business magazine these days and have renewed energy for my profession. After trying to work as an automotive research analyst for the last three years, I’m back doing the kind of work that suits me best.
Recently, a situation presented itself that took me by surprise. At a brief editorial meeting, where the editors ask reporters what they have for that day and if they are available for quick-hit stories for the online publication, one of the editors asked the group “Who wants to cover Obama tomorrow?” Now, I sat there quietly thinking one of the regular beat reporters will jump at the assignment. Instead, the room is dead quiet.
I made eye contact with the editor and smiled. It was all I could do to not blurt out ‘I’d love to cover the President.’ But I didn’t need to, because I was promptly given the assignment. (It must have been the eye contact.) I was told I would need to take photos and tweet before, during and after the press conference. The tweeting part made me a tad nervous because that is a relatively new component of journalism since I was last a reporter. It’s now often part of the job, especially at press conferences, and makes being a reporter more difficult and stressful.
Still, I was clearly excited to handle this challenge. I had not covered a Presidential press conference since Ronald Reagan in Dallas in 1984. Do the math and you see it had been awhile.
Coincidentally, the President Obama press conference was at the Detroit area community college I attended what seems like 100 years ago. The focus of his speech centered on government providing two years of community college free to responsible students. So there I was with my computer, smart phone/camera, notebook, pens and presidential press credentials in a dark auditorium in the middle of the afternoon, not feeling all that confident. A large cluster of students got to stand and wait near the podium where the President would speak. Press was relegated to the back and sides.
The apathy concerning covering the President’s visit went beyond my newsroom. I saw that same level of jadedness among the dozens of journalists who were waiting two hours to see what, if anything significant, the President would say.
Once I set up at a long table between a couple of other reporters, I knew I had fallen behind with the new world order of technology. The auditorium was not wireless, so reporters plugged their phones into their computers to get on the web. I realized I left my phone cord in my car so I had to borrow one from a friendly reporter who knew one of my coworkers. I had to ask another reporter how to connect. Meanwhile, I tried to take a few photos of pro-Obama students who screamed (like at a rock concert) when the President appeared on a large video screen after landing at the airport. I used these photos in my tweets about — well, not much. The photos were sub-par as my phone/camera does not work well in the dark.
With tweeting comes re-tweeting by co-workers and others who are now following me because I’m tweeting as part of a publication. The whole process can be made fun of, but it also is kind of fun.
I worked doggedly for hours to turn in the story by 7. The President was gracious, witty and eloquent. He pitched free community college as a way to lessen overall college debt for four-year students and to provide free job training for two-year students.
There was no ground-breaking news, but I still found the whole experience exhilarating. I’m sorry to see that the press is clearly ho-hum about the President, maybe because there’s no scandal with this guy. Overall, younger generations have seen so much calamity that it just takes more to get them excited.