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Presidential visit presented journalistic experience, challenge

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

It’s a big deal when the president comes to town.

President Barack Obama has visited Ohio State’s campus three times in the past two years, and barring the exceptions of probably OSU Police and a few others, not many quite know what a big deal it is like The Lantern staff.

Most of us on staff at The Lantern were involved in some way in covering all three of those visits, and as budding journalists, we are thankful to have the opportunity to cover an event that will help us hone our political reporting skills.

Thousands of people from all over the state, and possibly even farther, flock to see the president. Streets are shut down, the Secret Service is in town, surrounding businesses revamp their workforces and for days in advance, the anticipation builds. The sentiments in the newsroom mirror that of the excited community. Not even considering the main angle of covering the president’s speech, each of those people in attendance has a story. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they there? What convicted them to drive the many miles to see Obama in person, rather than just watching the live feed on their computer?

The days leading up to the visit always prove eventful in the newsroom. Discussion of spin-off stories dominates daily news meetings. What angles can we come up with? How can we make sure we tell every story there is to be told? The anticipation becomes palpable as everything begins to fall into place and the moment Obama and his first lady deplane Air Force One gets closer.

Obama kicked off his 2012 re-election campaign at the Schottenstein Center Saturday at his “Ready To Go” Rally in front of a crowd of about 14,000, and The Lantern was all over it. As editors and reporters at OSU’s student newspaper, we recognize our responsibility to do an event like this justice and cover it without bias. Those 14,000 people came to see the president, and as journalists, we need to make evident with words and multimedia coverage why those people came.

But it’s for all of the people who didn’t get to attend that we write. The Lantern aims to keep everyone, near and far from campus, up to date on what’s happening. The Obama campaign was live streaming the event online, but that doesn’t give the viewer a real, tangible feeling of what it was like to be there. A live stream doesn’t talk to people down in the pit, covered with sweat and fired up about their president. A live stream doesn’t let the viewer know that people had to cover their ears when campaign leaders’ voices reached a decibel the microphones couldn’t properly transmit. A live stream might not capture the children testing out how slippery the Schott’s floor was as Obama delivered his speech. And a live stream won’t portray the trembling voice of an excited man dressed in a suit who traveled from Youngstown and was about to meet the president.

As journalists, we have a great responsibility. We have to diligently use words and multimedia to allow those who can’t attend an event to vicariously live in that moment. We have to put our political affiliations aside and cover events without bias. And after we’ve done our absolute best, we have to take the criticism of those for whom we didn’t succeed and learn from it.

But as journalists, we also have a great privilege. We get to wake up everyday and do the thing we love. Sometimes what we’re doing is mundane and keeps us stationary in front of computers. But sometimes, we get to cover a visit from the leader of the free world.  

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