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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

A Whirlwind Experience


I arrived in the newsroom at 5:45 in the morning, bleary-eyed but dressed and at least moderately in charge of my ability to speak English.

As the ATVN crew prepared for a visit from President Barack Obama--one of the most significant events in USC's history-- I was mostly trying to get my bearings in a very foreign-looking version of a campus I know well.

If the intense security didn't make USC look different enough, a strange water-like substance was falling out of the sky. I've heard that this happens regularly in other cities, but I was shocked to see rain in Los Angeles when the forecasts I had seen predicted clear skies.

"Don't worry," one of the cameramen said as we waited to be let in for set up. "It never rains on Obama."

Sure enough, by the time we had finished setting up our camera on the main press riser, the rain was nearly gone. We set up our live feed and headed back to the newsroom to allow security to sweep the area.

When we returned, we had a 90-minute wait for credentials and metal detectors to re-enter the area. Finally, we arrived on the riser and went right to work. I called back to the newsroom and scribbled a few notes. Around 10:30, I went live for the first time. It was a thrilling experience, the opportunity to report live from a presidential visit, and my first live shot felt as natural as any standup I've ever shot.

We hoped to a live shot every 15 minutes between 10 and 11, but because there was so little for viewers to see, we ended up shooting way more live updates than we had expected, partially because we saw how many new viewers were joining our feed as the start of the rally neared.

11:00 came and went, and nothing happened. We kept shooting live shots. 11:30. Still nothing.

Then, a loud rumble. At first I thought it was another song starting on the loudspeakers, and I began to raise my voice as I spoke into the camera. Then people began looking around and I realized.. it was a helicopter. A truly amazing sight, as it flew low and fast over the library behind me. I guessed it could be President Obama arriving from LAX, and then another helicopter came from nearly the same spot. This one was smaller, sleeker, white with a green bottom.

"Marine One!" someone next to me yelled. I was glad he said it, because in the moment I could never have come up with the official name of the president's official helicopter. I thought seeing President Obama speak would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but nothing will compare to being live on air when Marine One flew over USC.

Shortly after, the parade of big names began to parade up and down the stage. I stood and watched with the rest of the press, occasionally turning back to our field supervisor for the day, John, for updates. But there was nothing for me to do except soak it all in and keep reminding myself just how special my day was.

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