Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our final day in Charlotte as conventioneers was finally here and I personally could not believe it. This whole week had been an experience and I was eager to see what was ahead for the rest of day. Little did I know it would prove to be my best day yet. We began the day by getting up a bit later than usual, which was a relief for us as well as the professors I’m sure, and headed to our favorite breakfast place in Charlotte. Once we finished eating breakfast we took a group picture to remind ourselves of all we had shared this whole week then we made the already familiar drive to Charlotte. Since we did not get to eat breakfast with any state delegations we thought it would be appropriate if it went ahead and headed to the caucus meetings for the day. Furthermore since it was the last day of the convention rumor had it that some important speakers were to give speeches that day. Rumors did not disappoint, at the women’s caucus we got to see Michelle Obama speak, at the LGBT caucus we saw Senator Al Franken, the governor of Delaware and some other speakers.

Although all of the events that transpired were very inspiring there was one more thing coming my way. I got a text message from Professor Dewitt to come meet him and so I did. Once I got to where him and Professor Azriel were sitting they explained to me that Jim Galloway from the Atlanta Journal Constitution had an extra press pass for the last day of the convention. When I heard those words utter from their mouths I became truly ecstatic and could barely contain my emotion. The professors then went on to say that we had to be fair and the fairest way to do this was draw a name out of a hat, of course all of the students agreed and the process was on its way fairly soon. When the Professor Azriel finally pulled the name out of a Starbucks bag it happened to be me! I was so thrilled because I never thought that at my young age of 21 I would have the privilege to watch a sitting President address the nation.

Jim Galloway promptly contacted me and explained what was going to happen. He was very nice and told me that once we got to the stadium, since I was with the press, I was to remain neutral and not cheer or clap. I quickly agreed, even though on the inside it killed me because most people that know me know that I’m an ardent supporter of the President, but I realized that I had to display professionalism. In the process of waiting for him at the convention hall I met syndicated columnist for the New York Times David Brooks and even got a picture with him!

Once Mr. Galloway met me we headed down to where all of the press was. He showed me around the AJC tent then told me to go ahead and poke my head behind some other organization’s curtains. I was very hungry and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to eat once we got to the stadium so I bought myself some lunch. I was maybe on chicken finger into my lunch when Mr. Galloway called me and said it was time to head to the stadium. I unequivocally responded with an affirmative response and was on my way back to the AJC space. I met Aaron, who is another reporter, and he was very nice and took me to the stadium. When we finally got to our designated space he asked me if I wanted to walk around on the floor of the convention and I said of course!

It was very surreal to be at the floor of a national convention. There were so many people, so much media, so many actors acting in different ways based on their political calculations. I felt so young around all of these people who have been doing this for decades but at the same time I felt like this is where I was meant to be. I had been blessed with a tremendous opportunity and I was going to take full advantage of it. I walked around the floor of the convention for around an hour and of course recorded and took many pictures.

I walked up to our designated spot, as I had promised Mr. Galloway I was to remain quiet and not cheer for any speakers. The day went on and it was a wonderful spectacle of how democracy works in our nation. All of these speakers were speaking to our American family and our American principles. They led up to our President giving his acceptance speech to the nation. In a way seeing all of these political figures on a stage humanizes them greatly. I quickly realized that they are good people trying to do what is best for our country. I will never be quick to judge another politician again, whether that politician is Republican or Democrat.

The entire day was a build up for the President to give his nomination speech and what a speech it was. In my opinion our President spoke of what values are unique to America and he explained what we have been through as nation. This recovery has not and will not be easy but when America is tested we come out stronger on the other side. The President outlined clear and achievable goals for our nation over the next decade. Not only was the speech an inspiring vision for America but seeing the speech in person added a different dynamic to the state of our nation. I wish that all of America could  have felt the energy that swept across the entire stadium Thursday night because it was unlike anything I have ever felt. The love for America and the vision to move our country forward was tangible throughout the entire night. I quickly realized that this is a man who is doing all in his power to turn our nation around and will continue to do so in the next four years. It was a distinct privilege to hear from our President in person and I hope it will not be the last.

I want to personally thank the two outstanding men that directed this whole operation. Dr. Dewitt and Dr. Azriel thank you so much for this week. This course has taught me more than any other class and I was privileged to be a part of it. Both of these professors have an outstanding passion for instilling learning in their students and are very intelligent men. I hope the faculty as well as the entire university recognizes the phenomenal job these leaders have done over the past week. I look forward to working with you in anything you ever need; I will be here for you. I also thank the Political Science Department and whoever else made this possible that I may have forgotten. I would also like to deeply thank Chairman Mike Berlon, Communications Director Eric Gray and chief of staff Angelia Knight because their kindness and hospitality was beyond anything we had expected. The Democratic Party of Georgia treated us with the upmost respect and on behalf of Kennesaw State University I offer my deepest gratitude. Of course, I cannot thank Mr. Jim Galloway enough for giving me the opportunity to hear our President speak live; so thank you sir your kindness will not be forgotten. I would also like to give a shoutout to my wonderful roommates Max and Plamen. Y’all made the experience so much more rewarding and I enjoyed talking politics and world affairs; we must keep in touch! Same goes to the rest of the students that embarked on this very special trip for us. If I have forgotten anyone I apologize but do know that I am deeply and truly thankful for all that was done for us throughout this week and your efforts will never be forgotten.


Pre-DNC Protest Photo Dump!


Interviewing a Civil Rights Hero

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Gerald Durley Wednesday, one of the honorees in the National Park Service Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

The Georgia senator I interviewed about Dr. Durley was thrilled that I was writing about him. She said virtually no one does.

She was right, and I found it to be a little bizarre. When I tried to do background research on Dr. Durley before the interview, information was hard to come by.

I think this was one of the the best (if not the best) interviews I have ever done and the same goes for the story.

Another great thing about this trip is that I had the opportunity to write stories I am actually proud of.

"Undocubus" arrests at DNC

The first person I interviewed on the trip, Yovany Diaz, was arrested later in the week at this protest.

The city was so sectioned off that finding out about the protest when it was still happening was next to impossible.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Journalism Boot Camp

There is no better way to describe the past week than journalism boot camp.

Lesson #1: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Prepare accordingly.

Lesson #2: Know your gear backwards and forwards. See above.

Lesson #3: Ponchos, ponchos, ponchos. Paying $9 for over priced ponchos to avoid soaked gear is not cool.

Lesson #4: Be familiar with the area surrounding where you will be working. WiFi and coffee are especially important.

Lesson #5: Expect the unexpected (both good and bad).

Lesson #6: Take ORGANIZED notes. Always. No excuses.

Lesson #7: Somehow find the time to clear your head, relax a bit and eat some real food.

Lesson #8: Find professional-looking shoes that are actually comfortable. Blisters can ruin your week.

Hope and Change 2 - Democratic National Convention Security

Wednesday September 5, 2012 Hope and Change 2 - Democratic National Convention Security Media credentials in hand, the Best F#@king News Team Ever reports from impregnable security checkpoints located outside the Democratic National Convention.
The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Hope and Change 2 - Democratic National Convention Security
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The Big and final night!!!!

Unlike the previous mornings, we begun our day at a near by breakfast dinner. All the conversations going on were about two topics, the great time we had in Charlotte, and the disappointment of not being able to hear the president speak live. Regardless of this depressing fact, we were still exited about the last caucus meetings that were taking place at the convention center; we knew for a fact we would get to see those! Boy were right! My Roommate Gillian, Ernesto Ausejo, Plomen and I were in attendance at the women's caucus. And yes we finally got our wish; to see an hear 1st lady Michelle Obama speak! The excitement was overwhelming; we were unable to take a picture with her but we were close enough to get quite a few close ups of her. After such an exiting beginning to our day, things got even more interesting. Jim Galloway of the AJC had managed to get a credential for one of us to take part in the DNC's big night! So we drew names and Ernesto was the lucky one! He deserved it, it was very clear from the get go that he had big political ambitions; we were happy for him. As much as we would have loved to continue attending the rest of the caucus meetings, we had work to do. Some of us sought out delegates to get more surveys completed, others hit the streets in the hopes of catching a few social activists in action. After a long day of excitement and hard work, we all gathered at Panera bread for dinner. It was on our way there that we met an activist, his goal: fighting for the statehood of Washington DC. He was quite friendly and had a lot of advice for Gillian and I. We left the convention center with our souvenirs and joined the rest of the group. Once there, we came up with a back up plan to make up for the failed one we had before. Many of us opted to have our own watch party and celebrate our last night in Charlotte. In the end we decided to attend the one taking place at the CNBC news network near by. Again fate had something else in store for us. We ran into shephrah, the British foreign exchange student we met the previous night at Winthrop university! Even better, she and her group had 2 credentials they were trying to give away!! There were at least 8 students in her group, so to prevent hurting anyone's feelings they found it best to give them to someone who deserved them; Plomen and I were the lucky ones!!! Till today I still can't believe how this happened! We were elated by the fact that our last night would be going according to plan, and also grateful that out of all the people she saw that day, She had chosen us! We wasted no time and made our way to the stadium. Once there we were told that the place was on lock down because honored guests were arriving, this meant that we would have to wait a bit. No problem we tought to ourselves, we went from having to watch it all by ourselves to being able to be there an hear it live! The wait was worth it; or so we tought. As minutes turned into hours we were starting to worry. The secret service along with the rest of the security officials refused to give us any information about what was going on. In the crowd were: Delegates, the former British Ambassador, children, the elderly, and the disabled. After hours of waiting, the chief of the Charlotte police department finally came out and let us know that the place was at maximum capacity an we were not going to be able to get in. They knew this before they closed everything, but did not want to tell us anything; he felt bad watching us wait, therefore he had to let us know. What a disappointment!! Even the delegates really? I still can't fully explain the feeling I had last night. I felt sad, angry, frustrated... Just plain HORRIBLE!! This night had been such an emotional roller coaster ; just when we had come so close only to be denied what we wanted so badly. After
our fall from cloud nine, Plomen an I made a trip to the CNBC watch party; we saw Reverend Al Sharpton and took a few pictures. We then made our way back to the convention center. To our surprise officials had organized a watch party for those who Couldn't get to the center; they were also serving food. This wasn't enough, I what a disappointing night! Professor Dewitt called and offered to come and get us
We proceeded to walk towards our meeting place. As we got outside, there were police and other security officials everywhere; we soon learned that the Occupy Movement was protesting!! They were marching towards the stadium. There was no way to leave the area and meet at the place we had previously planned on meeting. Plamen and I took a cab back to the hotel, but were reimbursed by Professor Dewitt. All of our classmates were quietly watching the speech in their rooms; I had no interest in watching anything so I quietly began to pack my belongings, had a shower and went to sleep. Overall this has been a wonderful experience. Made such great friendships that are sure to last beyond this experience. I look forward to what comes next. I am extremely grateful to Professor Dewitt for turning this idea into one of the greatest experience of my college career. Thank you to Chairman Mike Berlon and Angelia for all their hard work and allowing us to have the access we had this entire week. I was able to experience the convention as a participant, and that's something that most people do not get a chance to do. Can't wait to get home and share the experience with my friends and family.

Gabby Giffords Leads the Pledge of Allegiance at the DNC

Two conventions tell the tale of 2012

By: John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei
September 7, 2012 04:32 AM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republicans last week in Tampa and Democrats this week in Charlotte were not faking it. Partisans on both sides really do regard the other party’s nominee with contempt, and both sides look at the other’s agenda with genuine incomprehension.
Now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are over, however, the most striking conclusion is how a collision of values produced a convergence of political strategies.
Both sides aggressively framed their conventions around the same question: Which side are you on?
(PHOTOS: Scenes from the Democratic convention)

The Republican way of putting it: Are you with us, or those people who disdain free enterprise, resent individual success and yearn for a European-style welfare state?

The Democratic way of putting it: Are you with us, or with those people who all look alike, want to control your sexual and reproductive freedom and don’t care about opportunities for anyone who isn’t already as successful as they are?

That both parties chose the most argumentative way of framing the case reflects a raucously argumentative age.
(PHOTOS: Scenes from the GOP convention)

It also demands that each party also answer a question: Why would you choose a style of angry, line-drawing politics that is exactly the opposite of the line-blurring style that has made Bill Clinton the politician with the highest approval ratings in the land?
Amid the latest redundant evidence of the radicalization of politics, here are six conclusions in the wake of Charlotte and Tampa:

For more, link to

Two weeks in politics: The RNC and DNC, side-by-side

Today was productive but also hectic for me I covered Mrs Obama, John Lewis ,Lilly Ledbetter and other speakers at the women's caucus. Its been an amazing experience. It has thought me how rusty I've gotten over the years and how much work I have to do to get back in shape as a reporter...a lot of catching up in the technical aspect. Really this was my first time handling the technical area in addition to the stories and it wasn't fun at all. But I appreciate the experience and the chance to know what I need to do when that time comes. Thanks to the entire student group. Dr. DeWitts and Dr. Azriel were wonderful. We couldn't have asked for better professors.

The End of an Adventure- Day 5

                I have only been in Charlotte at the DNC for 5 days with my classmates and professors, but within that short amount of time I have come to know many of them profoundly better than I would have in a regular classroom setting. Anyway, we went out to breakfast this morning to Maddie’s Diner for the second time and afterwards took a final group picture. We then headed to the convention center and once we were there everyone went their separate ways. I sat in on the women’s council with Gillian and Carole. We witnessed Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama speak, among other notable speakers. After that meeting I contacted Max so that we can meet up and try another round of pavement pounding.
                I met him and Allison at Panera Bread where I also made the acquaintance of a student from UNC-Chapel Hill, Burcu Bozkurt. Shortly after, Max and I headed out and scoured the streets for protesters but had a difficult time encountering any. Dr. DeWitt notified us that he was at Panera Bread so we headed back there after having walked around for about an hour and a half. While there I started to engage in conversation with other individuals and was able to administer several surveys. Max left to try the street scouring strategy again while I continued to administer surveys to potential, appropriate participants and had tremendous success (who had obvious showings of political activism in the form of t-shirt, buttons, etc). Rain started pouring outside and I was glad I stayed.
               After the rain subsided, a scene developed outside in which a girl was arrested for planting a flag on the exterior wall of the parking lot across the street. I went out to see what was going on and at that time Max had come back. We went for another round of street searching and actually encountered several activists that provided us with very complete and unique surveys and interview answers. We headed back to Panera one last time when Dr. DeWitt notified us that that was where we would meet before we headed out the MSNBC watch party. We regrouped and while on our way to the party we encountered our good British friend Shaphrah Dixon, who, to our great surprise, provided us with two tickets for the Time Warner Arena. We decided that Carole would be one of the two to go, and a coin toss decided that I would be the second.
               I was excited at first but when we had to wait standing for over two hours in front of the barricaded arena without an explanation from the Secret Service, FBI, or police as to why people were not being let in I became very upset. In the end, we were told the arena was full to capacity and so everyone dispersed. Carole and I headed to the MSNBC watch party (which did not exist) only to find out on our way there that everyone except Ernesto (who was on the arena floor) had gone back to the hotel. From the MSNBC center we headed to the convention center so I could pick up some gift items, and then we sat in a watch party for about a half hour before leaving and heading home (and coming across another, this time bigger, Occupy protest).
               In conclusion, this experience has been unforgettable. The research experience and social connections with my peers and others which I have gained are invaluable. I would like to thank Dr. DeWitt and Dr. Azriel for being such amazing professors on this trip and allowing us to conduct, develop, and guide our own research but at the same time always being there for us if we needed advice. More field study classes such as this need to be implemented in the curriculum of other social sciences in order to facilitate critical real world application of concepts learned that cannot be simulated or replicated in the classroom or on campus.

Final Convention Day
                The final day of our experience at the Democratic National Convention was one that proved to be just as fulfilling. For me, it served as a great learning experience. We had the opportunity to get a few extra hours of sleep which I think everyone needed, but getting rest was not the aim for today’s events. This was my last attempt to truly pound the pavement, and was my main focus. In hopes that I could collect some valuable data; I was eager to return to the streets of Charlotte. In a way, they have served as my classroom for the week, and I was intent on not being late! I briefly stopped in Panera to upload pictures and videos. In doing so, I managed to become immersed in a conversation with the strangers sitting around me. This was more than just casual conversation; it exemplified a crucial facet of this experience that exists outside research or politics.
                Never before have I ever found myself in a situation where so many people of similar interests are all aggregated into one place. It created an energy that was palpable throughout the city. Journalists are packing into Panera pandering for any semblance of an electrical outlet. Just imagine, all these people dedicated to covering the varying aspects of convention week sitting together eating. Similarly, as a political science researcher, I often found myself engaging in conversations about politics, policy, and religion. To share the sidewalks with people all focused on being actively involved in the political process proved to be a scenario difficult to replicate. At times, I would stop along my walks down S. College Street and take a minute to take in the scene in its entirety. Charlotte is bustling with diplomats, delegates, elected officials, journalists, protestors, and supporters alike; all intent on making their presence felt. I have gained a new love and appreciation for the effort involved in conducting field research. This week has fostered a new passion within me to seek out opportunities to take my studies and scholastic interests beyond the classroom. Gone is the notion that a textbook can deliver all the necessary information that I need to properly understand my academic endeavors. Although I was captivated by the true energy and sights of the host city, I still needed to complete some more research. Unfortunately, my need to maximize my last day to collect data warranted a bit of concession on my end.
                While performing an interview, a considerable stint of rainfall forced me to take shelter and a brief hiatus. The hiatus, again, allowed me to take in the feel of Charlotte and its thousands of visitors. The rains subsided and I continued to complete my research; making the best of the remaining hours I had to pound the pavement. I could not ask for a more complete experience. In hindsight, this was an experience that I would not trade for the world. I had the chance to build comraderie, engage in probing conversation, and combine my zeal for research and academics into one single experience. Such an experience could not existed absent of one or all of these facets. It truly took this special amalgam to transform my life and academic career. I am truly thankful to my fellow political science researchers, the amazingly hard-working communications students, and our generous professors for sharing in such an experience. This would not have been, at all, the same without them. Now back to Georgia to compile this data and delivery my results.