By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
I should have cleaned out my purse. I openly cringed when the U.S. Secret Service looked through gum wrappers, random amounts of lip gloss, receipts and more during last week’s presidential campaign stop in Wytheville, Va. Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to arrive at 4:15 p.m., to speak to Virginia voters about the upcoming election. In my haste to ensure the proper equipment — laptop, notebook, pens and cell phone - I forgot about the disorganized purse. That is, until 2 p.m., when the agent at the media entrance door got a good look at my make-up. I figured it wasn’t the first purse he had searched, nor would it be the last. However, it was my first experience with our nation’s Secret Service. Something told me it would be unprofessional to ask for a quick photo op. Instead, I picked up my purse and headed for the media table inside the small elementary school gymnasium.
During my time as a journalist, I have experienced several “firsts.” It is a job that provides opportunities unlike any other. But at the same time, it is a job with great responsibility, especially when it comes to politics. Not every resident of Virginia can travel to hear politicians. That is why our roles as reporters and editors are so important. Last week, I was excited to cover an event with the vice president of the U.S. — it was my first opportunity — but I was slightly overwhelmed at the massive responsibility. Journalism has changed over the years. It isn’t about writing a story at the end of the day. Our duties sync with technology. Readers want up-to-date information and photos. I started tweeting at 11 a.m. I wanted folks to know Biden supporters were already standing in line five hours before his arrival. I tweeted again at noon; Republicans were planning a rally for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. I love Twitter. I have a chance — 140 characters worth — to inform the public about interesting facts or breaking news. It is like writing a mini-story before sitting down to put together a much larger piece for the next day’s paper.
I am not going to pretend it was an easy assignment. I had to wait a long time. The media representatives were not ushered inside the building until 2 p.m. Biden arrived an hour later than his scheduled time of 4:15 p.m. The local media sat along side the wall, but the national media had a better seat. I got thirsty and hungry. I chewed an entire pack of chewing gum. When Biden started to speak, I couldn’t hear. Some of the vice president’s staff was talking loudly near my seat. With a decisive move, I grabbed my notebook, stood up and walked closer to the gate, which separated us from the crowd. The Secret Service didn’t respond and I avoided the glares from event organizers. I wanted to do the best job for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s readers. And if I had to move closer and annoy people in the process, so be it. The night before, my dad sent a text that read, “Don’t take a back seat to anyone.” He didn’t know how true those words would be on that Tuesday afternoon. I only wish he would have sent another text instructing me to clean out my purse.
At the end of the speech, I opened up my laptop and sent a quick update to the newspaper. Photographer Eric DiNovo had already sent his photos as well. We loaded up our equipment and headed back home. But even then, the day was not finished. I still had a story to write. At 8:30 p.m., I walked out the front doors of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, tired and still hungry from a 10-hour day. It was worth every minute, even the ones I spent waiting for the vice president. It was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon. Today, I am back to Lifestyles. I am never really far from my first love. At the end of Tuesday’s event, I met two prospective Prerogative models for a future issue. It is hard to shake off the Prerogative Magazine and Lifestyle editor persona at times. But I am happy to do both for my career. A bit of this and a bit of that makes for a fun and interesting days at work, especially when it involves the Secret Service.
Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor for the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @BDTParsell.