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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor: A night with the pros


| Mónica Rojas/The Cougar

GOOGLE SPIN ROOM — Chaos. Utter chaos.

It was like being in the Hunger Games, except instead of shooting each other, we shot the candidates…with cameras.

I got the chance to cover the Republican debate with The Cougar’s managing editor, Mónica, and we had just walked up to the security line after wandering around for 30 minutes trying to find the press entrance.

We hadn’t even gone through security yet when both of us looked at each other astonished at what was to come. The biggest night of our journalistic careers, and we were scared out of our minds.

Is this what we’ve been prepped for? Are we ready for this? Oh gosh, are the people in the newsroom going to survive without us?

The answer to all three of these questions was yes. We knew that, too, no matter how much we denied it. We’d left all publishing duties to our third-in-charge, Sean, so that, we, for one night, could be writers – journalists – without any worries about whether a story was worthy of publishing or if we needed to deal with writers who didn’t know what they were doing.

In this moment, every single Student Government Association meeting, sporting event and content meeting we’d ever had was worth it. We knew exactly what we needed to do and how — now, our only job was to actually do it.

I walked into the spin room, the massive place CNN cattled together journalists from all around the world, and pinched myself.

Yep, this was real life.

You know what makes a millennial journalist nerd out more than anything? Technology. And the fact that Google was the thing that put this place together meant this was on a whole other level. My media gifts, Google Cardboard and a stylus pen, layed jumbled among equipment that belonged to another news organization sitting in our seats.

Glissette, are you sure this isn’t a dream?

Mónica and I got our laptops and cameras ready and waited until the debate started.

Covering the debate was the easy part. We sat at our seats and watched both the TV and our laptops  me typing out quotes, Mónica writing out transitions and compiling them out into stories — which eventually turned into three stories published from our side over the course of the debate.

But, after the debate, that’s when the real fun started. Mónica and I actually started packing up to leave, partially because we didn’t know what else to do. We’d covered the debate, so our job was done.

We started taking a couple of pictures of Anderson Cooper to keep us busy and subside the major fangirling we were doing.

Then Donald Trump showed up.

The press was all over him, as expected, but I didn’t expect it to be that chaotic.

I had my Canon T5 with a 70-200 mm lens, so I did what any rational person would do — grabbed a chair, moved it into a position that I thought I could get semi-decent pictures at and hopped up in my 3-inch wedges.

I usually stand at 5’2″ and when I was standing a good head above the 6’1″ videographer to my left, I knew I’d done well.

I only almost fell once, but it would’ve been worth it for the love of journalism.

We got pictures of Trump, John Kasich, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, so I’d say the plan was a success.

But overall, the best part of my night was experiencing what some people do as their actual JOB. They make money going all around the country and covering the heck out of elections. Mónica and I had the chance to speak with a guy who works at CNN, and we helped guide a man who works at Voices of America back to his car.

Journalists don’t play. I got yelled at to move my elbow so another photographer could have a good shot. I refused. Journalism isn’t a game for the weak. You have to be resilient, and I wasn’t letting  people looking down at me for working for the college newspaper get to me.

I was there to do the exact same job that CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the Houston Chronicle and whatever other publication you can think of came to do: report the news. And I know me and my staff did a damn good job of that.

In that moment of getting yelled at by a woman that was at least 20 years older than me and had probably been in the business since before I was born, I knew I had chosen the right school, the right major, the right student organization.

This was what I wanted to do with my life, and it took being lucky enough to have media credentials approved and working along one of the best journalists I know to realize that.

— Glissette Santana, editor in chief


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