It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

How to cover the president’s visit: take three, this time in Ann Arbor

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The line for tickets to see the president speak last week in Ann Arbor.

It’s incredible: in less than two years, I’ve been involved in coverage of three presidential visits. I don’t know how it happens, but it does.

President Barack Obama came to Ann Arbor last week to give a speak on college affordability. He ended up announcing he would launch a federal Race to the Top program for the country’s colleges and universities, to encourage keeping the tuition bill low for students (something I admire, but won’t muse about here).

The challenge of his visit to Ann Arbor, however, was to do so at a smaller publication than the previous times. At The Grand Rapids Press, the staff was much larger and more could be done with other interns, photographers and writers. The challenge of covering a presidential visit with effectively two people at the speech and one back at the office assembling, posting and curating content.

Here’s how we did it for Heritage Media:

First, coverage of the lines to receive tickets to see Obama was needed. The line at the University of Michigan was massive with thousands of students waiting for their ticket. Content from the line contained several photos, a printed story and a video, which was shot by me.

Once the big day came, two reporters went to the field house where the speech was taking place, while I stayed back, monitoring the web. After going through Secret Service security, our reporters got into the field house and started sending tweets out on Twitter as often as they could, considering the poor Internet service. We set up a Cover It Live tweetstream in a story post and placed it on our home page, allowing readers without Twitter the ability to follow the coverage live throughout Michigan.

Tweets, photos came in from the pre-speech activities, an a text alert regarding road closures in Ann Arbor around the field house was sent to our subscribers. A pre-speech story, talking to people about what they wanted to hear from the president, was posted to our site before the president even got on stage, as well as a photo slideshow from before the speech.

Finally, the president came out and began speaking. Tweets continued to pour in, and since our live coverage was not coming through because of Internet issues, I was back at our office monitoring the online chatter, retweeting interesting quips that we might not have.

After the speech, a coverage story was posted, along with some photos taken by our sister publication. After a speech story was posted and shared across the other company news organizations in Michigan, another reaction piece was posted, as well as a more in-depth video of reaction from speech attendees.

Follow up the speech the next day consisted of a roundup post of all of our coverage, as well as photos, significant tweets from us and other from the event using Storify and posting it on the site. Not bad for essentially three people covering the leader of the free world.

It’s been great to be able to work days when the president is in town. It seems strange the opportunity has presented itself so many times in my young career. It might be time to set an over/under on how many times this will present itself. I’m thinking about setting it at 6.5. I’ll take the over.

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Written by David Veselenak

February 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm

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