Press Pass: Behind the Scenes of the Michelle Obama Coverage
Amid the hype of First Lady Michelle Obama speaking at the University of Mary Washington, three UMW students were able to go behind the scenes and into the press field. Sophomore Alison Thoet, junior Jordan Kyler, and senior Isaac Whalen were all permitted into the press section on Thursday Sept. 13 during Obama’s speech.
However, it was not a simple process to get back there.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Thoet called Dana Rosenweig, the campaign press contact, to request a press pass. Initially, Rosenweig did not answer Thoet’s call.
After not receiving an answer from Rosenweig, Thoet contacted the Fredericksburg Campaign office, the local Obama campaign office.
According to Thoet, the Fredericksburg Campaign office referred her to First Lady Press at barackobama.com.
Thoet said she sent an email stating “to whom it may concern” and proceeded to outline her status as a Bullet staff writer and her desire to cover the campaign speech. She also asked if there would be time to ask the First Lady questions.
Thoet received a response email informing her that there would be no time for questions and that she should look for a follow-up email to check her credentials.
Kyler and Whalen also contacted the First Lady Press to get press credentials.
On Wednesday night, Sept. 12, Thoet was sent an email instructing her how to get into the press section.
On the day of the event, Thoet and Whalen entered through the College Avenue entrance, separate from the public entrance. They were allowed to enter during the timeframe between 2:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m., according to Thoet.
To enter, they had to sign in and they were given a pass. They then had to lay all of their possessions on the steps of the Anderson Center nearest the parking lot while an officer had his canine sniff each item. Upon entering the building, they were then searched by security wands before they could proceed.
Once inside, they met with Rosenweig. They were taken to an L-shaped area off to the side that was marked off for the press, according to Thoet.
“She didn’t come on until about five, so it was a lot of waiting, but it was a lot of fun,” said Kyler.
Thoet audiotaped the whole speech, which was about 30 minutes long, and took notes about who spoke and what they spoke about.
“It was interesting because I felt like the press,” said Thoet. “I felt professional.”
Kyler and other photographers and videographers stood on a stand prepared for them. Whalen sat on a high-rise from which he filmed the speech.
“I was really overwhelmed at first, it was my first experience with White House and local press,” said Kyler. “I was intimidated, but it was a really good experience.”
Despite having press credentials, Thoet and Whalen had to exit with the general public.
“Overall, it was cool to be behind the press fence and watch everyone listen to her speak,” said Whalen.