Nervous about covering Obama’s KC visit? Try channeling Olivia Pope.
Kim Chexnayder, a member of the inaugural SRL All-Stars Class, is covering President Barack Obama’s visit to Kansas City where he will deliver a speech on the economy. Follow her journey here.
When I found out President Obama was coming to Kansas City to address a crowd at the Uptown Theatre – I freaked out.
I immediately tried to channel my inner Olivia Pope. The character from the hit show Scandal is my spirit animal. Her wit, intelligence, drive, wardrobe and connections, make the character played by Kerry Washington the “it” girl of politics.
Over lunch with my mother, we started thinking of who we knew here locally that could get us tickets. The mayor, local judges, the Uptown Theater’s owner were all possible leads. It then occurred to me that rather than being just someone in the crowd, I needed to tell a story and be a journalist. I needed to make an impact.
I reached out to Thai Da Silva with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program and told her I had a wild idea: I wanted to get a press pass and cover the President of The United States coming to Kansas City. A wild idea turned into reality and just two short days after finding out President Obama was coming to Kansas City, I stood on the tarmac with a White House Press Pass proudly pinned to my chest to greet the President of The United States of America.
Checking into the media table, I was nervous to say the least. Was I dressed appropriately? Could all of these people tell I’m only a kid? Am I the only media person without a photographer? I was shaking as the secret service calmly asked for my credentials and state ID. But once they pinned the “White House Press Pool” ID card onto my chest, I suddenly felt at home. With my camera bag in one shaky hand and notebook in the other, I was ready for Obama. Quickly my shaking hands were greeted by the secret service agents who whispered into their cufflinks and took my belongings to a secluded hallway for another security check. After our bags were cleared, they piled us onto a bus and drove us out to the middle of the tarmac so that we could patiently await the President’s arrival.
While all the major local news stations claimed their territory and shot their live stands-up, I watched in awe. Here I am, an eighteen-year-old college freshman standing on a riser alongside some of the most well known reporters and news stations in the country. Surrounded by secret service, armed guards, sniper shooters, congressmen, local politicians, and I’m pretty sure the entire Kansas City police force, my excitement grew even more.
Two men standing on the media risers started randomly talking to me. They introduced themselves and talked to me as a colleague, not as a child. A few minutes into the conversation they mentioned that they were will CNN in Washington, D.C. I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. With an hour wait ahead of us for the President’s arrival, they told me the ins and outs of the business and what I needed to do to succeed in journalism. One interrupted the other and said, “Ya know, I think you’re already making it. You’re here along CNN and not even a college freshman. You should realize that.” I had just made friends with and impressed two of the coolest and most talented photographers in the business. I felt invincible.
With sirens going off and sniper shooters taking their position, it was happening: President Obama was arriving via Air Force One. The massive plane landed with grace right in front of my eyes. As it slowed down on the runway and neared the stopping point, my entire body got chills. The plane stopped right in front of the media risers and the doors opened. Out walked President Barack Obama. Smiling and waving at those cheering his name, he walked down the stairs and greeted the onlookers with ease. I tensed up as I shot the footage of him shaking hands and exchanging laughs.
Tomorrow, I will wake up at the break of dawn to prepare for President Obama’s speech on the economy. I’ll interview young people, under the age of 30, and ask their opinions on the economy and why it matters to them.
Watch out world – there’s a new “it” girl and her name is Kimberly Chexnayder.