Tag Archive for Bush

My Stay in a Media Pen

It never fails to strike fear in my heart when I hear of politicians who have railed against journalists, trying to persuade their followers that it is the fault of the journalists that there are blots on their records, not through any wrong-doing of their own.

The Press

The Press

Recently I read an article by a woman journalist who has been following the Trump campaign. She said that her comfort level has plummeted over the months of the campaign so that on some days she really feels threatened by the anti-journalist fervor that Trump stirs up in his followers. She said that as she stood with other reporters listening to Trump’s latest rant against her kind, a woman in the audience turned to look at this journalist with withering disgust. “Bitch!” she said. She told of a TV news cameraman who was scanning the crowd with his camera, only to be met by a Trump follower who jutted his two middle fingers into the viewfinder.

One thing this journalist wrote particularly struck me and brought back a flood of unpleasant memories from my experience of covering George Bush’s first inauguration for The Wall Street Journal. She referred to being in the journalists’ pen. When I got rustled into a media pen at the inaugural ball, I thought this was just a Bush thing, a way to keep journalists under control. I have no idea if Democrats also round up journalists and pen them during events; I just know that it felt pretty awful to be treated like livestock.

All the President's Men

All the President’s Men

When I arrived at the ball and presented my press credentials, the woman who checked me in called out, “Susan Hauser, Wall Street Journal,” and instantly a handsome young man appeared at my side, held out his arm and escorted me into the ballroom. I thought, “Yeah, this is all right! They know how to show respect.” But my self-satisfaction dissolved when my escort took me over to a corner where journalists were ordered to stay. He led me to an empty chair and told me I was required to sit in that chair for the duration of the event. “We don’t want you on the floor when the President arrives,” he said.

“What if I need to go to the bathroom?” I asked. He gestured to a number of people whose name tags bore a color that identified them as being part of the event staff. “Get the attention of one of the monitors if you need to be taken to the bathroom.”

On either side of me were reporters from the New York Times and the Washington Post. I also chatted with a woman who was an editor at Newsweek magazine. Impressive publications – to me, certainly, but probably not to the Bush folks that night.

I did get taken to the bathroom once and felt like I was in kindergarten. Finally, I waited

His Girl Friday

His Girl Friday

until all the monitors were looking the other way, turned over my name tag so no one could see the offensive word PRESS and I took off and never looked back at the pen where my fellow journalists were still imprisoned. I felt so reckless, so dangerous, so free.

If that had happened in 2016 instead of in January 2001, and if the Great Man in question had been Trump instead of Bush, who knows what would have happened while I was enjoying my freedom from the pen. I might have gotten beat up. Maybe even shot in the back! At the very least, I would have been ejected from what wasn’t much of a party. I mean really: Marie Osmond and Meat Loaf as headliners?

These are dangerous times indeed for journalists covering American politics. I hope every one of them survives to celebrate the election of Hillary.