Covering an event featuring Barack Obama has gotten significantly more complicated since he gained access to the country’s nuclear arsenal. From what I remember of my early days on the 2008 campaign there was, depending on the venue, a magnetometer and a Secret Service agent here and there. Now that a hot mic and bad case of the Mondays of his can send the world into a panic, Presidential events are heavily regimented affairs.
To your jaded veteran journalist, this means little and they’ve seen it all before and don’t step in my shot kid who are you with anyway? But to you, the mere blogger armed with a smartphone and a busted ass laptop (you’re me, right? You are me and we are all together?) this seems like one of those impossible tasks where you haven’t the foggiest idea of where to begin so you wind up “covering” the event by livetweeting what you see on C-SPAN.
Don’t be that stenographer jerk. Follow these steps, grab that net and go catch that beautiful butterfly!
The first step is to get press credentials through either the campaign or state party, depending on who’s running the event. If you’re dealing with an incumbent President, like we are now, sometimes the event will be going through the White House communications department. Your state party will (should) be able to help you there. Especially when dealing with an incumbent President, you will need credentials or you won’t be getting in without someone like Stone Phillips by your side vouching for you. Man has a voice like silk….
Arrive early. Security takes time and you want a good riser spot if you’re shooting video. Many times you’ll be asked to leave your equipment on the risers while security sweeps the venue. Whip out that iPhone 4 daddy bought you and do some interviews of the inevitable crowd that is now lining up at the main entrance. Ask the people you interview to meet up with you afterwards for follow-ups.
If you didn’t get a good spot on the riser, don’t be a jerk and stand in someone elses way. Even the journalism major from the local college with the handicam. Yes, as a journalism major he’ll have to get used to disappointment, but now is not the time to crush this blossoming little flower. Just ask someone if you can squeeze in. Nine times out of ten they’ll let you.
If you’re shooting video and you’re solo, use the “I have a few acknowledgments” section of the speech to get crowd shots. There will be people clapping and this footage will be crucial if you want to make natural looking cuts.
The campaign’s press person should be floating about making sure everyone is running smoothly. Talk to her when she comes by. If this is a lower-tier race, anything below President, really, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a quick interview afterwards unless they’re running super short on time. Just ask confidently as you exchange your business cards. (You have a business card, right?)
When all is said and done and the event is over, be sure to make a thank you call to the press staff. They aren’t used to hearing nice things from the press and it’ll grease the skids for the next time. Be a Mensch.
Play your cards right and you could end up with one of these. Yeah, I was a staffer, but you could get one, too.
Have you covered a campaign event? Tell me about it below.