Barack Obama up close (kind of)Written by Heather Miller | | email@example.com
It’s almost over. There are just two weeks until Election Day, and that means two things. No. 1: I can practically see the end of campaign coverage. No. 2: The next couple of weeks will be as busy as ever when it comes to campaign stops. Needless to say, the end of campaign season is a blessing and a curse, with some additional stress and tension thrown in for good measure.
I used to love covering campaign events, especially for presidential candidates. I would get caught up in the rush when we local media folks would get to intermingle with the glamour of the national press. All of us would crowd together, clamoring to ensure we would get the best coverage for our prospective media outlet. The entire time I knew I was able to be a part of something unique — something not everyone was able to experience. I viewed myself as special, lucky and more-or-less untouchable.
Boy, are those days gone. My ride along with the Barack Obama campaign this week reminded me of just how much of a circus campaign coverage can really be. I have somewhat soured on campaigns.
A campaign rally usually starts with a media setup time. This is approximately three to four hours before the event starts. That means if a candidate’s town hall meeting is to begin at 10 a.m., and the doors open at 9 a.m., reporters need to be there at 6 a.m. You show your ID (of course you sent in for your press credentials days ago) and are then ushered inside. You walk in and drop off any equipment and bags you have in a special area to be searched and swept by police and/or Secret Service. A Secret Service agent directs you to another location where you are searched. Eventually, you are reunited with your gear, and you are sent to the press setup area. This usually consists of some risers in a roped-off area much too small to accommodate the throngs of reporters who will be here. Then, you wait for another three and a half hours. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it? After a while, the event starts; the candidate takes the stage, speaks for about 45 minutes, and then it is all over. The majority of the time, local news crews do not even get to speak to the candidate.
My experience Oct. 14 with the Obama campaign was very similar to the above prototype. When it was all over, I felt much like the little silver ball in a pinball game. I boarded a bus with other journalists in Downtown Toledo, and together we traveled to Maumee Bay State Park. The Secret Service conducted the security sweep, and then there was more time to “hurry up and wait.” Finally, we were brought over to a confined area where we were told Obama would make a brief statement regarding the economy. At that point, it was every media member for themselves. We all juggled for enough room to get the best shot at the senator, only to wait some more. Eventually he walked out and spoke. After that, it was what I can only describe as chaos as the senator went over to shake hands with a small crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of him. I grabbed my gear and ran after him, video camera rolling all along. Secret Service shoved us behind the crowd, and I stretched and stooped to get the best shot. Of course, the entire time I had Secret Service still shoving me here and there. One officer would tell me go one way, but another would grab me and push me to another side. My head was spinning and, in a flash, the whirlwind was over, and we were rushed back on the bus. And this was just the first stop; we still had to go to the Chrysler machining plant in Perrysburg.
I have no doubt that both presidential campaigns will swing through town as much as possible in these next few weeks, and the other media members in town and I will get caught up in the frenzy once again. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, but don’t envy me either. Sometimes I, too, wish I could just watch it on TV.
Heather Miller is a reporter for FOXToledo.