Aimee Rodriguez: My Experience Covering the DNC

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My first day at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) was one of the most chaotic, yet most surprising days out of my week as a citizen journalist for GlobalGirl Media. I was chosen to cover the DNC with another GlobalGirl Media reporter from Los Angeles and a mentor from Chicago.

In 108 degree weather, amongst crowds of people and my own hunger, we spent most of our time covering protests outside of the convention. To my surprise there were many anti- Clinton protesters and many Bernie Sanders supporters outside of the convention hall. After many hectic interviews and trying to record b-roll of anything we could potentially use, we headed to the Women’s Equalitea, a women’s gathering celebrating Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments. On our way there, we ran into labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and we were able to quickly set up our camera for an interview. We asked her about latino representation and the importance of women in politics. At the Women’s Equalitea, we met and interviewed many women in politics and asked them for advice on how more young women could get involved.

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I didn’t get to go inside the arena the first day because we only had 2 credentials and there were 3 of us, so I headed to a panel discussion with Truth to Power. The panelists discussed the importance of citizen journalism and equal representation of minorities, so that our voices can be heard. In the discussion it was mentioned that Facebook is not always the way to get your news and if someone posts a status about something that happened, it may not necessarily be true. You have to investigate on your own to find out the truth. We also discussed the importance of group discussions in person because someone may not take your message as intended over the Internet. Most importantly, if you see something you should say something because you have the power through the Internet to let your voice be heard.

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Finally, after closing off the panel discussion I head to the hotel to watch the DNC live on television. Although I wasn’t inside the arena that day, I could feel my heart start to beat faster as First Lady Michelle Obama approached the stage. I could feel the energy of the crowd right from the couch of the hotel room. Just knowing that I was right outside the arena and remembering all that I had seen and heard earlier that day, I felt I was right there inside watching Mrs. Obama as she so elegantly and passionately delivered her speech. I started feeling emotional. I remembered what stage in life I was when then-Senator Barack Obama was running for president. I could feel the unity of the crowd and the goal of the Democratic Party, to keep Donald Trump out of office. It was truly an exciting moment for me. Up next was Senator Bernie Sanders. I listened to part of his speech, but began to doze off into sleep. I agreed with some of the things he said, but his speech just wasn’t delivered as passionately as I had hoped.

The second day began at the Women’s Caucus. While waiting, we interviewed volunteers of the Feminist Majority foundation and others who had traveled just for the convention. At the Women’s Caucus, I was able to listen to female politicians and activist speak about women’s rights and issues while representing Secretary Clinton. After every speech the speaker would be escorted through a back room where the press could not get to them to ask questions. I had to learn to get around crowds of people to ask a question or get an interview. It was quite impressive and motivating to be able to get the same interviews major news stations were getting. It was an eye opening experience to realize we were an actual news crew, especially for someone like me who considers herself an everyday person.

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Next, we had an interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, director, producer, and writer of the documentary Miss Representation and founder of The Representation Project aimed at creating an equal world. We were able to get this opportunity through GlobalGirl Media’s partnership with The Representation Project for the DNC.

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The third day, we headed to the Hispanic Caucus where we interviewed many Hispanic leaders, activist, and politicians. We went to eat dinner at a local restaurant where we accidentally bumped into Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, commissioner on the Cook County board. As reporters, we decided to conduct an interview then and there. I felt powerful being able to interview and be in the same place as a politician from my own community. I asked Chuy how he got involved in politics and what steps young women could take to get involved.

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Lastly, the fourth and final day of the DNC. Knowing it was the last day, we made a list of footage and interviews we still needed in order to complete our packages. We were missing the male’s and people on the street’s perspective, some playful interviews, and b-roll. We went out on the street and got those interviews and footage. We wanted the male’s perspective on the importance of women in politics and street interviews on their opinion on the DNC.

Finally, it was my turn to go inside the arena. The entrance was very crowded and as I went up the escalator I saw how many people were here from all over the United States, just to witness Secretary Clinton accept her nomination. I patiently waited for Secretary Clinton’s speech and when her introduction video came on, I jumped out of my seat. I watched and listened to all the accomplishments announced in the video and realized she really did deserve her nomination. I didn’t know she had accomplished and fought for many of those issues. When the video came to an end, Secretary Clinton appeared on stage in a white suit and waved to the crowd. She came up to the podium and delivered her speech. She explained how she would provide Americans with more jobs, lower the debt on student loans, and help undocumented immigrants. Toward the end, she announced her acceptance as the Democratic Party nominee. In that moment I got goosebumps on my arm. I knew, at that moment, that I was a part of history. I witnessed Secretary Clinton become the first woman nominated for a major political party. Soon, the red, white, and blue balloons dropped from the ceiling and the crowd went crazy. I interviewed many people right after about this historical moment, what it meant for them, and women specifically.

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All in all, this whole experience was amazing. I was able to see for myself what journalism is truly about. So often people think reporters just have to show up and stand in front of the camera, but I was able to witness the tough work that goes on behind the scenes. The halls of the convention were filled with sleep deprived reporters on the floor typing away trying to meet deadlines in such limited time. I learned how crucial it is to be outgoing and demanding about interviews because if you’re sent out there to get an interview and don’t come back with it, your job is on the line. As I reflected on my time at the convention, I also realized my self-esteem went up because when you’re out there as a journalist, you need to be confident in what you’re saying and talking about. You need to be confident in how you network and how you come across to people. Most importantly, you need to have confidence in yourself. For me that was one of the biggest lessons I learned. All in all, the most breathtaking part of the whole experience was being able to be in the arena to witness history. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience all of this and everyone who worked together to make it all possible. It is truly something I will never forget!

-Aimee Rodriguez

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