Many of Donald Trump’s rallies are remembered for the poor treatment of media members, and we at The Sentinel can now say we have experienced this attitude firsthand.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich came to Kennesaw State University Sept. 12 to host a town hall meeting on behalf of the Trump-Pence campaign in the Carmichael Student Center university rooms.
Several reporters from The Sentinel covered the event, including the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, three section editors, two staff writers and a photographer.
We are a diverse group of students, and we don’t all share the same views. It felt to all of us, however, like many members of the Trump-Pence campaign judged or dismissed us without a second thought. We received a lot of judgmental looks during that rally, and some campaign staff members seemed to follow us around wherever we went.
We felt out-of-place in the university rooms carrying our press passes, notebooks, pencils and cameras. We had all our proper credentials, but we were not treated with the same respect as the major news outlets. We sat in the press area alongside Fox 5, CBS 46, NPR and 11 Alive, and we were eager to be a part of this event.
But we were not treated like a true part of it.
There was a man sitting in front of us talking on the phone, and the part of his conversation that we heard put us on edge. “Just a lot of left-wing media here,” he said, scanning the press area.
When our editor-in-chief attempted to obtain press credentials and enter the venue, some individuals with the Trump-Pence campaign seemed confused as to whether or not we should be considered media. At one point, one gentleman asked if we were press members.
“Well, they’re with the student newspaper,” another member of the campaign said.
“Isn’t that still the press?” the first man asked.
Yes, it is still “the press.” We work very hard in Student Media to produce content that we deliver to the students on a regular basis. We don’t sit in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Instead, we are constantly on our emails and in communication with each other, publishing stories online and trying to get the news out to the students as soon as possible.
Furthermore, this is not our only job. We have part-time jobs, personal lives and internships, all on top of our class schedules. We juggle being full-time students with being full-time journalists, and we do a pretty good job at it.
After the rally concluded, we hurried over to a nearby hallway to attend a news conference with Gingrich. The Trump-Pence campaign press manager stopped us and said that we could only send one reporter into the conference. Our photo editor asked if he and the staff writer both could attend. He did not want to miss out on this photo-op.
“You can,” the press manager said, “but don’t get in the professionals’ way.”
“I felt unappreciated and disregarded,” our photo editor, Cory Hancock, said after the press conference. “As journalism students, it’s vital that we practice what we are learning because it will ultimately be the experience and connections we have that will land us jobs, not a piece of paper that displays a degree title.”
Because the photo editor was told to stay behind “the professionals,” he actually captured one of his favorite photos because the professionals were too engrossed in what Gingrich was saying.
It’s the photo on the front page of this week’s copy of The Sentinel. Sometimes, not being “a professional” has the potential to pay off big.
We may not have huge video cameras on 4-foot tripods, and we may not have credentials with big-name news outlets on them. But we have a hard-working, dedicated staff that still produces quality journalism everyday and a beautiful newspaper on a weekly basis.
No, we aren’t “professionals” yet. No, we may not be as old as the others or have as much experience. But we sat beside the reporters from Fox 5, NPR, CBS 46 and 11 Alive, and we reported the Newt Gingrich event just as well as any of those other outlets.
Don’t dismiss us just because we’re Student Media. We have the power of the press, just like everyone else.