For journalists covering tonight’s first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, the first scene they encountered when arriving to pick up credentials was not one of media frenzy, but of student spiritedness.
The credential pick up was in a wing Hofstra’s student center, and to reach it, journalists needed to pass through students, singularly, in groups, and in specific recreational and political groups, prepping, chatting, lounging and taking photos in the student center’s halls.
Outside the student center, before the walk to the security checkpoint that leads to the debate hall and press file center, is a party scene, all banners and signs and cheering from the crowds that clump around the cable network’s outdoor setups, who make up up the cheering faces you see on TV peering from behind the anchors as they interview their guests.
A student volunteer leads us toward the checkpoint. She is pre-med, on the volunteer job since Thursday, one of 300 chosen out of a pool of 900, she tells us.
Once we successfully pass the checkpoint, we find ourselves in a campus within a campus–the media campus carved out of this corner of the university.
Andrea Mitchell and crew whizzes past us in a golf cart. We pass the food tent, which offers a free buffet with lasagna, grilled vegetables, stuffed peppers and brownies as well as free beer for those that can drink and work. Serious lines will start to form there around 6:30 p.m.
Ahead of us is a row of trailers, followed by two media tents directly facing the debate hall.
A right turn before the trailers leads us to the press file center, which, we learn when we arrive there, is full, every seat sold out.
We are directed instead to the spillover room a building away in the Medical Center. While the lecture hall we find ourselves in is rather dimly lit and lacks the the bannered, banqueted flair of the main press room, we spent a mere ten spot on a seat and the wireless is free, c/o of a Hofstra guest wireless account. An undisputed bargain compared to the $75 dollar a seat, $200 for internet main press room.
Either way, we’ll be watching the debate on a screen, like most of America.