Re-reading the “first draft of history”

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Reporters are often credited with writing the first draft of history.  They’re on the ground while the events that we’ll be talking about in 20 or 30 years are happening.  Theirs is often the first view we get of these events and often it’s relayed to us in the polished, objective, neutral-voiced way that a history text book itself uses.

That’s why it’s always great to get a look at reporters personal accounts of what they were doing when those events were happening.

WHYY’s reporters did just that, submitting “Reporters Notebooks” for primary day and night.  Elizabeth Fiedler, Kerry Grens, Alexandra Schmidt and Shai Ben-Yaacov provide riveting narratives, written in their own voices, of where they were and what they were seeing and doing.

Here’s a sample of one of Shai’s experiences covering a visit by Chelsea Clinton in the run-up to Election Day:

I’d also like to reflect on covering the run up to the election, during which I covered a campaign stop by Chelsea Clinton in Northeast Philadelphia. As I was sternly informed by Clinton campaign workers, Chelsea is not taking questions. Whether this was a request from Chelsea herself or a calculated move by the campaign, I’m not sure. What I do know is that Chelsea’s “enforcers” weren’t playing around.

At one point, while trying to record an exchange between Chelsea and an excited Hillary supporter, one campaign worker moved in front of me, blocking my microphone with his body and pushing my arm out of the way. Another time I tried to record Chelsea, the same campaign worker pushed my microphone down with his hand. I glanced at him to see what the problem was and virtually had to duck the daggers flying at me from his eyes. While I was eventually able to record Chelsea talking to supporters, I did think: If this is what they don’t want me recording, what exactly would qualify as positive publicity for the campaign?

This account gives some great insight into what the local press corps goes through to try to get the new and interesting, local angles to this campaign.

WHYY’s Susan Phillips, meanwhile, is busy working of an account of her interesting primary day for the Columbia Journalism Review.  Stay tuned for a link to that coming soon.

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