Photo-ops and media wranglers: My experience covering Clinton
Hillary Clinton visited Laney College in Oakland today. As an employee at the college television station, I had the chance to cover her appearance. While it was certainly a great opportunity to hear the presidential candidate speak it also provided a chan
Senator Hillary Clinton paid a surprise visit to Laney College today to announce that Oakland's mayor, Ron Dellums, has pledged his support for Clinton's bid for president. As an employee at peralta.TV, I had the opportunity to participate alongside the rest of the media in covering the event.
We had received word early in the day that the senator would be speaking at 2:00PM, and were told that we'd need to arrive and set up by 12:30. We arrived at the student center a few minutes after noon and began setting up our gear. After we set up, Clinton's media liaison guided us through the day's activities. Prior to her speech the senator would be stopping by a culinary arts classroom to meet the students, and we were led to the classroom and told where we would be permitted to stand. After returning from the brief tour we were greeted to the sound of police dogs barking. We were instructed to leave our equipment while the Secret Service, the local police, and the dogs performed their sweep.
The next thirty minutes were spent waiting to return. When the Clinton camp finally allowed us back inside we were immediately ushered back to the classroom with a newfound sense of urgency. The entire flock of journalists were soon running at full speed with our gear in hand. While the classroom was now found with students hard at work, neither Clinton nor the Secret Service had arrived.
It's difficult to say how long we stood around snapping photographs and capturing video of students slicing and dicing, but we waited at our new location long enough to make conversation amongst ourselves in an effort to stave off the boredom and monotony of documenting the students prepare fruits and vegetables. In fact, the teacher had to ask the students to stop cutting at one point because they were running out of food. One journalist suggested that the Clinton campaign's motto should be "hurry up and wait." I agreed with him, and pointed out that such a credo is probably appropriate for for all bureaucracies including anything having to do with government or politics.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Hillary Clinton arrived accompanied by Mayor Dellums and the students immediately returned to their diligent food preparations without any prodding from their instructor. The two politicians made a quick course through the room offering very brief remarks to the students and left within five minutes after they had arrived.
The press was escorted away almost as quickly. We returned to where Clinton would be speaking; the 100 or so seats were now filled with men and women dressed in suits and business attire. A cursory look at the audience revealed that it was mostly filled with administrators from the colleges along with a few faculty members. Despite the fact that the event was taking place on a college campus, there weren't any students present and I listened keenly as a couple reporters commented on the students' absence.
The next thing I know, Clinton's media liaison asked for the still photographers to follow her. Given that I was shooting photos and not video I joined the procession. We were then led outside and into the crowd of students, and waited one last time while the Secret Service decided how to proceed.
In the end, Clinton never did greet the students, but a portion of the people gathered out front were given an opportunity to come inside to hear the Senator speak. Surprisingly, these students and community members were let inside without passing a security check point and allowed to stand around the outside perimeter and listen to Clinton.
The speech itself went off without a hitch with both Mayor Dellums and and Senator Clinton speaking for a total of about 30 minutes. Clinton's speech focused on neighborhood empowerment. She championed Oakland; calling it a model for the nation, she promised to seek Dellums' wisdom and experience to help guide her leadership and end the war in Iraq. The Senator also asked Dellums to chair her campaign's Urban Policy Committee.