We the Media

25 Jan

I found myself huddled by a scaffolding at the back of the pavilion at Dolphin Aviation in Sarasota this past Tuesday at the rally for Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. He was making a stop on his Tour de Speeches and was expected in Fort Myers in another couple hours, and he was already late for this rally. I was shadowing at the local news channel and rubbing elbows with other journalists and reporters at the press pit. I had my Nikon poised and ready and was chit-chatting to my host news correspondent and exchanging glances and smiles with another young intern with a camera from NBC. We stood politely and slightly aloof. When Gingrich fianlly stepped out of his bus, our eyes focused on the crowd rather than the potential President. When he spoke, we did not cheer nor boo nor applaud. Many of us bit our lower lip in restraint.

The button of the mouth of the camera operator in front of me came undone about 15 minutes into the speech, not long after posters about ignoring the liberal media began to be passed around. My host warned me to be careful, to never share an opinion or debate and to be cautious of what I took from others.

Of course, we all bear our own political opinions. When I entered with my host and our clipboards, many mistook us to be a part of the campaign staff. But being a journalist at a political event does not make you much less of a target. One man shoved a camera in my face asking me a question about Obama that I could not understand much because he muttered, and me and my host both turned our backs. He persisted, asking why I was unprepared to answer such a question.

“I am not unprepared, but would prefer staying neutral,” I said, trying hard to be diplomatic.

My host was more blunt.

“Leave her alone, she is underage,” she said. She had also mentioned that she could have killed the man testing the mics while she was taping pre-speech interviews.

Politics is a circus of media and events and good PR, as they stalled for the arrival of Gengrich, as reporters with recording devices hounded the press secretary. However, not much is different from the media. There is a lot of networking and PR attached with being a journalist, especially on an assignment such as this.

The main things I learned by owrking a few times in the field are to never discount anyone as a potential back up interview, no matter how obnoxious over gaining your attention they may be, to never fight back to strongly, and, as seen on the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family, to never “go viral.”

My host also recommended bringing backup powder, blush, and Friz-Ease to events and o yes, to never go viral.

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