Finally, my expensive Medill education is paying off in more than just frozen toes and long lists of “necessary” equipment purchases. This Saturday, thanks to my journalism professor, I got a press pass to the Moving America Forward Rally in Hyde Park. Featuring Barack Obama and Common. (Also thanks to the fact that they mislabeled me as an NBC TV News Producer.)
In the two hours my fellow Medildos and I spent waiting in the press line, I kept sneaking looks at the people surrounding us — Chicago’s finest members of the media. They came armed with laptops and TV cameras and huge telescope lenses, wearing ABC jackets and Sun-Times hats. They spoke of deadlines and other press events. Around their necks hung badges and cards, collections of credentials ready to be used as a pass into the most exclusive places. The closest thing we had was a U-Pass with our photos and the Medill name on it. We watched as the White House Press Corps unloaded out of huge buses, grabbing equipment and sneaking past the long line of local press to be searched by security. We later repaid them by sneaking into the national press pool tent to steal a few moments of heating and a slice or two of deep dish.
Amateurs as we are, we huddled around to giggle over the excitement of having press passes. We wandered the press pit, completely unaware of who any of the important people were, delighted when we took photos of the crowd and they mistook us for someone important. We elbowed our way into the swarm of cameras focused on Mayor Daley. We waved to our friends in the back of the mass of people.
From 50 feet away, we whispered “oh my god, he’s here. He’s real.” He looked exactly like he did on television. In the VIP pit, people seemed more excited about taking pictures of themselves with Obama in the background than they did about hearing what he had to say. Hell, I was too.
You can see some of my photos and read about the event here.