White House reporter in front row of history PDF Print E-mail
Written by TARA KELLER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 01 May 2014 10:07
Jackie Calmes almost didn't take the job as a White House correspondent for The New York Times.
She didn't know if she was up for the challenge.
But after 18 years of covering Congress for The Wall Street Journal, she knew she needed something different. And that something put all her "what ifs" to rest.
"Covering the White House proved to be the most broadening experience I've ever had," she said. "I thought I knew about issues then. Now, I know a lot more about a lot of issues."
As part of "Inside the White House Press Corps," the Toledo native shared those issues recently with students and staff at Bowling Green State University.
The lecture was part of the Florence and Jesse Currier Foundation and was sponsored by the BGSU Department of Journalism and Public Relations and BGSU's Society of Professional Journalists.
"I'm telling her she needs to write a book about her experience," said Julie Hagenbuch, public relations instructor. "She sat in the front row of major historical events." 
Calmes was quick to share that front row experience with her audience.
"I see my job here as making you all Times insiders without having to buy the subscription," she said.
As far as job perks go, she's got several. 
Traveling internationally with President Barack Obama is one of her favorites.
"There's nothing like it," she said. "It's not only intense, but it's awesome."
Although she and the other correspondents are restricted to a little press cabin aboard the famous plane, "it never gets old."
Over the past two decades, Calmes has covered three presidents, several campaigns and many long days reporting on "the Hill."
All that experience led to her job reporting from within the nation's most recognized home.
That starts with laying the groundwork by getting to know the president himself.
"You really have to know everything there is to know about the man," she said. "You try to get to know what makes them make the decisions they do."
Having that kind of knowledge makes Calmes a target amongst people with popular questions about what kind of people lead the country.
When asked about how smart George W. Bush really is, Calmes gives him a 10 out of 15, as opposed to Bill Clinton's 14 out of 15.
"But look, anybody who gets to the top is no dummy," she said.
In regards to the current president, Calmes said the rumors are true.
"He's all the things you've heard," she said. "He's self-confident, self-assured, and sometimes thin-skinned and arrogant."
Out of the three presidents she's covered, Calmes said Obama is the "most normal."
"He refuses to be ruffled, and I genuinely believe he's not ruffled," she said. "He just doesn't get upset about things."
And that might be where Calmes and Obama differ. In a world where anybody with Internet access can act as reporter, Calmes has found making that transition can be ruffle-worthy.
When she first started using Twitter, Calmes caught some flack from followers who claimed a tweet wasn't objective - Calmes disagreed.
"It's not worth putting that effort into 140 characters just to be misinterpreted," she said. "I could've been doing some quality reporting in that two minutes it took to write that tweet."
BGSU senior Ugomma Ihejirika took that advice to heart and plans to use it after she graduates soon. The broadcast journalism major said she was honored to have someone like Calmes speak.
"We really got an inside feel, and it was awesome," Ihejirika said. "Outside of this, we would have never had an opportunity to hear her story."
During the question and answer session, Calmes touched on what opportunities she looks back on as influencing her journalism today.
"I was interested in history and how democracy thrashes through these ideas and come to an outcome. Some makes mistakes and correct them," she said. "The more I disagree with a person, the more I'm interested in covering that other side."

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:10
 

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