Guest column: From the headquarters of the winner



Leighann McGivern

Leighann McGivern

Leighann McGivern is a senior magazine journalism major and city editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

At 4 a.m. on election night 2012, I arrived at Lakeside Center, McCormick Place, in Chicago, in desperate need of a coffee — or four. But despite my exhaustion after a 6-hour drive to Chicago and less than four hours of sleep, I couldn’t help but be excited. After all, how many student journalists across the country could say they’d be covering Obama’s election night speech in the actual venue where the speech was being made? I was beyond grateful for the opportunity, and I was determined not to disappoint.

After wandering through the nearly vacant halls of Lakeside Center — which, I might add, is almost impossibly huge — my partner and I finally found the security checkpoint to enter into the media rooms. Police dogs sniffed our bags as we walked through metal detectors, and police ran wands up and down our clothing. Every time we wanted to leave the designated media area, whether it was to get food or go back to our hotel, we had to undergo this same process, as would the hundreds of other media personnel that would share our space.

When we first arrived in the designated area, we were literally two of five people in the room. Our press credential schedule said members of the media could begin to arrive at 4 a.m., however, we very quickly realized most of the media took that suggestion more lightly than we had. We made the decision to take a taxi back to our hotel so we could sleep for a few more hours. When we came back at 9 a.m., the building had come alive. Journalists from all over the world were piled onto tables, typing zealously behind laptops. Wires, cameras and microphones filled the room. It was like something out of a movie.

Most of the people surrounding us were from outside of the country and therefore, didn’t speak much English. I attempted to listen in on conversations from a pair of French men sitting across from us and was pretty proud of myself for being able to understand most of what they said — all thanks to my 6 years of studying le francais, of course.

We befriended a reporter from Australia, with whom we took turns watching each other’s belongings. She became sort of like our mom, offering us advice for our coverage (and lots of candy).

As the day went on and thousands of people began to pile into the room, the crowd’s energy became contagious. I loved listening to their reactions and watching the room of journalists react. Every time a new result flashed on the big screen in front of us, the room collectively set out to report it.

That day, I was surrounded by people who would be broadcasting election news to the world — ABC, CNN, Politico and FOX, to name a few. I shouldn’t have felt at home around all of these national and international journalists, but by the end of the day, I did. For the first time, I wasn’t just a student from Kent State; I was a real journalist, reporting the news to an awaiting public.

It was one of the most exhausting, nerve-racking and intense experiences of my life, but it’s also one I’ll never forget.