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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The President, the press and I

Stew McClintic
Stew McClintic / Daily Wildcat President Obama exits the runway and greets the press after arriving in Mesa, Arizona to speak about job creation at the local Intel plant.

Everyone always hears about students doing cool things, getting real-world experience and truly learning what it’s like to act as a professional in a specific field of study. I always heard about these stories but never thought I’d have this type of experience myself.

On Monday, I got a call from a source who said they would pay me to go to Mesa to shoot pictures at the landing of Air Force One for the arrival of President Barack Obama. I quickly accepted the offer and told my editor, Eliza, about the opportunity. I then told her I would like to pair this with writing an article for the Daily Wildcat.

She quickly emailed our adviser at the newspaper and asked him what I should do. He replied, saying this would be a great opportunity for me, and that instead of writing a traditional news article on Obama’s speech about economic growth at the Intel Corporation Ocotillo campus in Chandler, I should write an article on the experience of what it was like to attend such an event as a reporter in the real world.

And I did.

I woke up early on Wednesday morning and started my drive to Phoenix at about 7 a.m. It took me a couple of hours to arrive at Intel, where I waited for my source to contact me. The plan was for me to shoot photos at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Obama was to arrive at. I quickly realized that I had received the wrong credentials from the White House, and instead got ones for the Intel campus. I could not get access at the airport.

My source contacted me, and gave me a number to call so I could get everything straightened out. I did, finally getting the right credentials. I was now set to go shoot photos at the airport, but now I was two and a half hours early for the shoot, instead of being early for the original set of credentials as I’d planned.

So I sat in the car my buddy let me borrow for the day and watched some “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix, went to McDonald’s to grab a quick lunch, bought new pants at Goodwill ­— because the ones I brought with me had a couple holes in them — then proceeded to the airport to get checked in as a member of the press at noon.

After I got checked in, I didn’t have to be back until 2:30 that afternoon, so I met with my source who detailed exactly what she wanted from me. I got the assignment and headed back to the airport.

Finally, 2:30 rolled around and members of the press were invited into the hanger at the airport. We walked in, and I proceeded to wait even more. During this time they had a dog come and sniff around, although I’m not sure what he was sniffing for. Finally they told us to form a line so we could have our bags searched and for us to be patted down.

Once I got outside, I went to the media bullpen and set myself up in an attempt to get the best shot of the president I could upon his arrival. His plane was supposed to come in at around 5:35 that afternoon, but to all of our surprises, he arrived early.

Click, click, click — Every camera around me was shooting as fast as they could. The plane was just about to land.

As the plane came in, the shutters around me start clicking faster, more consistently, and suddenly my heart felt like it was pumping just as fast as the clicking shutters. Just then, the plane came to a full stop, and airport officials attached the stairs to the main entrance at the front of the aircraft. I kept my finger hard on the shutter release, trying to get as many photos as my assistant editor’s camera would take.

I realized I had taken some good ones, but was disappointed when they drove the presidential motorcade in front of the plane. That’s it. My chance to get a good picture of the president was over.

But then, to my surprise, he walked past the motorcade and right up to the crowd of citizens who came to see him land. “Oh my god, oh my god,” I thought as I shot every angle I could see. And then, in a flash, it was really over.

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