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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 09/28/2010

A kid reporter learns the ropes covering Obama

By Valerie Strauss

Here is a report from a kid reporter about covering his first presidential press conference at the White House earlier this month. The student, 14-year-old Nick Berray of Virginia, is a member of Scholastic’s Kids Press Corps. It was posted on the blog maintained by the Kids Press Corps. Young people interested in journalism deserve attention!

kid reporter.jpg

By Nick Berray
When President Barack Obama held his first full press conference at the White House in more than a year this month], I was one of approximately 60 reporters from around the world to cover the event. Since this was the first time a Scholastic Kid Reporter has ever covered a White House press conference, I didn’t really know what to expect, but came prepared with a question just in case.

Being a foot shorter than everyone else—and wearing a bright red shirt, amidst a sea of business suits—I expected to stick out a bit. However, to my surprise, almost no one approached me to ask why I was there.

I got the feeling that the assembled White House press corps might be kind of a serious, skeptical bunch who had seen just about everything. I did eventually get a few curious looks. One reporter, Paul Brandus, from Capitol News, snapped a photo of me, saying, "I want to get a picture of the next generation [of reporters]!"

When I first stepped inside the front doors of the White House and followed the other reporters into the East Room, I could barely see the room at all, because it was blocked by a wall of cameras. However, as I moved past all this gear, my eyes widened: The room was totally white with lavish gold curtains that restricted any sunlight from entering. Nevertheless, plenty of light flooded the space from two ornate chandeliers and all the lightening from the camera crews.

I wandered through rows of chairs until I discovered one that wasn’t already reserved and slid into it. I was squashed between a Japanese reporter and another young man who struck up a conversation with me. He then started tweeting about me! The Japanese reporter kept glancing down at my notepad. I’m pretty sure he was trying to peek at my question. Once seated, I had a clear view of the scene before me, presidential podium and all.

I was taking notes on details of what had happened so far, when a voice announced over the din of talking reporters, "Ladies and Gentleman, the President of the United States." I looked up, and there he was, as if he had popped out of the ground! I experienced a light-headed euphoria as I realized that standing in front of me was the most powerful man in the world.

The president made opening remarks before he took any questions. He called reporters names off a list he had at the podium. By the third or fourth person I realized that if I wasn’t on that list (and I highly doubted that I was), I was not going to be called on. That didn’t stop me from timidly raising my hand a few pitiful inches whenever he seemed to look in my direction. After roughly 13 questions, the president said, "Thank you," and jogged (literally) from the podium.

As I joined the mob heading toward the exits, I wondered what I was going to write about. The questions covered so many diverse areas, but they did not cover the topic that I was hoping to discuss: education. I decided to consult with some of the more experienced press crew.

Keith Koffler, a veteran 15-year White House reporter shared some insight on the news value of a press conference, especially when you don’t get to ask your own question.

"The difference between a speech and a press conference is that a press conference is usually better attended [by reporters] and may contain less rehearsed remarks," he said.

Bill Jones from Executive Intelligence Review gave me the same advice my editor did before the conference.

"Always be prepared to ask your question and raise your hand as often as possible," he said.

Well, better luck next time!


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By Valerie Strauss  | September 28, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Student Life  | Tags:  kids press corps, obama and schools, obama press conference, scholastic  
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Thanks for posting this. I don't know when I have read such a detailed report of a press conference through the eyes of a reporter. I always wondered what it was like to be there. The conferences on TV sometimes scan the press corps, but don't always show all the cameras etc. from a reporters point of view and they certainly don't mention the curtains or how the light gets in.
Thanks for writing this!


The detail about the President jogging away was too cool! Who knew??

Posted by: celestun100 | September 28, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

BTW, The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is taking applications for Kid Reporters RIGHT NOW! (Deadline: October 12) How do I know this? I'm the Director of the program and am working with a team of Kid Reporters to cover Education Nation in New York City this very moment. To apply, go to the Kids Press Corps web site at and click on Apply Now! in the upper right hand box. We are looking for Kid Reporters from all over the nation as well as Washington, D.C.

Posted by: swf7 | September 28, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Nick. I enjoyed reading your article very much. You took me on your journey with you. I look forward to reading many articles from you in the years ahead. We need more talented, honest journalists like Valerie Strauss. Congratulations on your 'first' White House Press Conference!

Posted by: rsolnet | September 29, 2010 1:51 AM | Report abuse

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