Friday, March 06, 2009

President Obama comes to Columbus

President Barack Obama visited Columbus, Ohio for the first time since he became president. He was in town for the City of Columbus' Police Recruit Class Graduation. They nearly lost their jobs due to a lack of funds, but thanks to the economic stimulus package, there are now 25 new officers in the city.

I covered the visit for WOSU.

There were some funny things that happened. At least somewhat amusing. At least to me.



I arrived at the venue, the Aladdin Shrine Center around 9 a.m. w/plenty of time to get settled, but when I got there and headed toward the parking lot. The line did not move for some time and I considered going to park somewhere else, then the line began to move. Then it dawned on me - they're going to sweep the car ... meaning, they're going to do a search. No, I did not panic. I had decided to drive my car since the venue was closer to my house than the office.

Now, there is absolutely nothing in my car, but it was/is in major disarray - I have been meaning to take the back seat out, meanwhile it us just there disheveled. But that is not the funny part. The driver's side window doesn't come down, so when they came up to my car, I opened the door and said "hello". They said "will you pop the hood so we can inspect it?" I proceeded to get out of the car, because on the Jeep Wrangler there is no popping the hood or anything, so I began to tell them how to open the hood. Then I had to key open the back hatch, then I had to key open the glove box. Unfortunately, I did not grab my camera while all of this was in progress. Though I am sure that would have disallowed it. And of course, there was the police dogs to sniff out the cars as well. The process took less than ten minutes.

Next I got my credentials from the press check in area. Then I got escorted to the entrance and security check for media. I did not get completely unassembled, but my keys and cell phone did get separated from me for just a bit. Somehow, I or they managed to snap a picture during the search of my equipment bag.

Oh, then I get checked in to the media area and I ask where is the 'malt box' (a piece of equipment that allows media to record sound directly from the in-house sound system) so that I can plug in for audio. Someone says, there is no malt box. No way. I request for them to find someone who can help me. A few minutes later, a guy arrives and shows me the radio work space - complete w/a 'malt box'. Whew.

The rest is just the basics ... wait and see. That's right, by the time I got through all of that, it was still about an hour before the ceremony was scheduled to begin @ 10:30 a.m. So I milled around trying to find some recruits' families members to talk to me. No luck. Actually, I think the family members were up front and I could not get to that area.

But while hanging out in the foyer before the ceremony, I was able to ask a few of the recruits some questions (along w/a radio reporter from WTVN). That was a good get since they were hard to get to when the ceremony was over.

While my audio recorder was recording the ceremony, I was taking pictures to go along w/my story.

When the ceremony ended, I went back to the area where my recorder was and there was another guy in the area. So friendly ole me says hello and then I introduce myself. He's says "Oh, I'm Don Gonyea". Very cool. I already know - he's from NPR; and the White House Coorespondent. I hear his voice all the time. I'm sure you do too. He even let me take a photo.

There was also a 'Press Filing Room". I walked in there and there were beverages and snacks and tables lined up. I walked around a bit and noticed the various media outlets labeled for seating: New York Times, FOX, etc. Then there's a door w/a sign that says "White House Press". I get the impression that this room is not for me ... I make my way back the way I came in before I am kindly asked to leave.

And to wrap things up ... While walking out, I decided to see if there were any family members who would talk ... jackpot. Found one; one of the new officers moms. That's all I needed.

By now, it's nearly 12 noon and I'm in need of a meal and a beverage. Then to the office to work on the story. Oh, I did not even mention the Secret Service; well, of course, they were there. Enough said.

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