By Tanya Parker
For my first week reporting for SHFWire, I dived head first into the art of journalism. I followed presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Virginia and spent some time hanging out at the White House with Olympians, Paralympians and the Obamas. To be honest, it was a whirlwind of a week!
I learned to never leave the apartment without my trusty notepad and pen and to be prepared because news is always happening whether I’m ready for it or not.
But besides the journalistic habits and valuable reporting skills I’ve picked up, I learned a few things the hard way as well. In particular, I learned that if the weather forecast is predicting high temperatures and no cloud coverage, and you know for a fact that you will be outside covering a story, bring a lot more water than you think you may need. Heatstroke is no joke, folks. I also learned that the doorknobs at the White House are old, and it isn’t uncommon to accidentally rip one off while you’re covering a ceremony that takes place on South Lawn.
As part of his campaign trail, Mitt Romney made a stop in Virginia. I was excited to cover something related to the upcoming presidential elections, and jumped at the opportunity to do so. The rally took place in Fairfax, Va., just under two hours by public transit from Washington and involved riding Metro to the last stop, then hopping on a bus and hoping a crowd of Romney supporters would signify when to get off.
I was able to find the location for the rally in Virginia without any problems at all, but that’s where my good luck ended. Within the first hour of arriving, I began feeling faint and chose to sit down on the ground to try and regain some strength. But when I stood up, my vision went black and I nearly fainted. Conscious that fainting involved an ambulance, an IV and missing out on the rally, I somehow managed to finish my journalist duties and get my dehydrated self back home and out of the scorching sun. Still feeling weak and disoriented, I spent the next few hours recuperating and listening to a doctor lecture me about the importance of staying hydrated on hot, sunny days. Needless to say, I snagged some pretty good photographs and event coverage while in my dehydrated, delusional state. However, it wasn’t exactly how I anticipated my first day would turn out.
The next morning was my chance at redemption. I won the draw against the other interns to cover the Olympic and Paralympic ceremony at the White House, which included getting press clearance at the White House and arriving no later than 7:30 in the morning. I woke up at 5 a.m. feeling miserable. I called my mother twice, crying, telling her that I still felt terrible, weak and dehydrated from the day before and didn’t know if my health was good enough to make it to the White House that morning. To my surprise, my dear mom was not sympathetic and told me to call a cab and get my butt to the White House.
Thank goodness she gave me a dose of tough love because the ceremony was a life-changing experience. I had the opportunity to see Olympic and Paralympic athletes, listen to Barack and Michelle Obama speak and take as many pictures as I possibly could. I was also able to spend time mingling with the big guns in media, including CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press. The only speed bump I hit at the White House was when I accidentally pulled the doorknob right out of the door when returning to the press briefing room. I will never be able to fully articulate the panic I felt when I was staring at broken White House property in my hands. I thought for sure I was going to be heavily fined. Thankfully, White House security has a sense of humor and told me it happens all the time.