Going behind the scenes at the Democratic debate

News, Opinion
Photo by Zach Ferenchak

As the fourth Democratic debate began at Otterbein University, I was sitting in the press filing room between a journalist from the Boston Globe and a photographer from USA Today, wondering how in the world I got there.

I’d been on the campus since 10:30 a.m. when the other Chimes staff member and I picked up our press passes and went through security. After checking in, the first order of business that day was to take a tour of the debate hall, a room that we wouldn’t have access to for the rest of the night.

We took selfies with the empty stage and got stats about how the building was transformed from a basketball court to a debate hall.

After the tour, we had a few hours to walk around Westerville, speak to Otterbein students, and get settled in the press room, which would be our home base for the next eight hours.

This was probably the slowest part of the day, but it was exciting to put faces to names I’d seen in bylines and meet the journalists that would be my neighbors for the night. 

At first, I was nervous to introduce myself as a member of student media — would they wonder what I was doing here? But when I finally did it, I was delighted to find that they were more than happy to share their Twitter handles, talk about their past experiences, and talk about the importance of student media.

In addition to meeting other professionals, one of my favorite parts of the night was meeting students from other university newspapers. We talked about how we approach stories and shared tips we’d learned along the way.

As Anderson Cooper introduced the candidates for the debate, the energy in the room changed; suddenly, we were in game mode. The audio of the debate drowned out any conversations, and everyone got to work.

After the blur of the debate, everyone crowded the red carpet at the front of the press room, hoping to get a glance of one of the candidates and possibly catch a comment. It felt similar to the pit at a concert as the crowd of journalists rushed forward to snap pictures and shout questions as candidates stepped out onto the spin room floor. 

Overall, this experience reminded me of how excited I am to move on into my career after graduation. As an avid follower of politics, I’ve always seen the finished product — the articles, videos, and broadcasts — created by journalists, but this time I got to see the creation and collaboration involved.

Covering this event also reinforced how grateful I am to be part of the Chimes and being a member of the media in general. This is just one of the many amazing things I’ve gotten to do because of my chosen career path, and I can’t wait to see what other opportunities I’ll have as I step into the career. 

Heather Barr

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