An “All-Access-Pass” to the Debates and the College

January 5, 2008

Student Stand In RehearsalThe day before the debates — best described as controlled chaos unfolded on the campus of Saint Anselm College today. I began my day at about 6 o’clock Friday morning on the corner of the Quad, awaiting for an unknown “Fox and Friends” program guest to arrive (who turned out to be Gov. Richardson). I split the rest of my morning between our workspace in the lower level of the Cushing Student Center, the debate hall, and the Fox newsroom.

Throughout the day, I utilized my “all-access-passes” to gain admittance to a number of events. One of my first stops was the Dana Center, which today played host to a group of students who are serving as stand-ins for the candidates who will appear on stage Saturday evening. Students were advised to spend the past few weeks reviewing previous debate transcripts and video, essentially learning and duplicating their candidate’s debate style. From our perch in the audience, we were able to capture the students in action as the ABC staff rehearsed their camera angles and other debate-night logistics.

Student Interview with College PresidentMy next stop was the first floor of Alumni Hall, with Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., president of the college. I sat down in his office, overlooking the commotion on the quad for an interview on Saint Anselm’s participation in hosting such high-profile events. Father Jonathan offered a candid, and intriguing bit of insight on how and why Saint Anselm College has become a must-stop on the New Hampshire Primary trail.

As the day turned to evening, I returned to the Dana Center, meeting up with the executive vice president of the college, Marie George. Together, we made our way inside the closed set to watch Charles Gibson deliver World News Tonight live on ABC. With less than ten minutes to go, Gibson took to the stage. Two minutes before air, the producers announced that everyone in the audience would be seen in several shots that would be seen on the broadcast. Thirty seconds before air, silence fell over the room, monitors throughout the hall came up with the live feed, and World News Tonight went live. A few minutes into the broadcast, George Stephanopoulos joined Mr. Gibson on stage (one that he will utilize Sunday morning for his own program) to provide commentary and analysis on Iowa results, and New Hampshire predictions. I have to say, having the headlines of the day delivered in person is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

ABC Anchor at Dana CenterBack in the workspace now, We’re monitoring Fox News programming originating from above our heads on the second floor. In about an hour, I’ll be heading outside to cover ABC’s Nightline on the quad, before calling it a night — for about five hours — and starting again before dawn on debate day.


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