Jones View

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

A brush with the presidency

Chances are, a person doesn't get too many chances to see the leader of the free world.

George W. Bush, coming to LeMars, great. A normal person might not drive an hour to see any politician, but as a reporter, why not?

So I get the paperwork ready to get my name in the press pool and dreams of getting the perfect photo of President Bush danced in my head. It seemed like the perfect ending after working my way through my first election season as a professional reporter. Candidates local, state and federal. A governor. And now the president. Perfect.

In covering such events, the media sometimes is given prime locations, in order to be able to get good shots to show people events they may not be able to go to themselves.

Sure, I had to give up my casual Friday jeans, but I was off to cover the most powerful leader in the world. I had worked hard to make sure I had all my tasks done so that I could go on this choice assignment.

So after an hour drive, I'm on time for the media check in. I am walking through getting to the front of a line for my official White House Press Pool Pass. I get informed of the rules that I have to follow to make sure that everything is smooth.

Almost everything. Going through security, my belt sets off the security alarms. I have to be wanded, and then my camera bag is thoroughly searched. Still, I'm getting to cover the President.

I'm sent into a packed gym and I see the media area. Way in the back.

A small forest of TV cameras are on a raised platform and I'm left a little space on the cramped floor.

My dream shot quickly faded. I tried to convince people to squat down so I could get my photos. I was not well liked by some people who were jockeying for position to get their own photos as well. With everyone waiting for the big man, President Bush, the gym was being packed tighter and tighter.

Sadly, a woman near me went down and had to be taken away. With a packed gym the Secret Service swam through the masses to help the woman and get her out to the medics.

The final hour is upon the the crowd and the opening to have President Bush come out sounds more like something you would expect from a rock star or basketball team.

Finally we seem him come through the throng, George W. Bush. Time to get my photo - but everyone is in the way.

Great, so now I have to wait until people are tired of holding up and shaking signs or their kids. Finally I have the photo lined up and someone just happen to step the wrong way and I got a great shot - of somebody's hair.

Here is my chance again... nope, another person slips into the way. After the speech was wrapping up I got an OK photo, which you will see in this issue. Not the dream one, but I can say - I took a photo of the President of the United States of America.

One of the joys of living in a community like Storm Lake and the reason why I wanted to stay in a community newspaper is to have the chance to be able to do many things - even have a shot to get in on covering some important events.

Leaving the media area, I saw some pretty big name reporters from TV and print media. Teams covering this and that, and here I was just one photographer/ reporter doing it all without the fancy lap tops and camcorders.

I can say that I have met senators, congressmen, governors and other political people and delved into many important issues, and all before my 23rd birthday. To most people it may not be exciting. For some journalists, just another story. But to me personally, I have met people who I have come to respect for the job they have tried to do for the people, regardless of what party they are from.

Not many people can say that they meet the people they vote for. I can say that I've met almost everyone on the ballot for November 7. And if I never get close to a president again, it was worth all the hassles.

* Jeff Jones is a Pilot-Tribune news reporter. Reach him at jjones@stormlake pilottribune.com