by Shania Pence
On October 18th, I had the opportunity to attend the Seventh Congressional District Debate between Ami Bera and Scott Jones at the KVIE Studios. I had the opportunity to watch the debate, update social media, and attend the post-debate press conference.
Driving to the debate, many fears were running through my mind. Is what I’m wearing appropriate? Will other journalists notice how much of a mess I am? Will I be able to figure out where I am going? Is this really happening right now? Is my strategy going to work?
Growing up, people often told me to get out of my shell or insert myself in situations I normally would not put myself in. Walking into the room, I was terrified, probably as white as a ghost, and silent. I observed. I posted on social media. I tried to stay unbiased with my posts. I was terrified that someone would talk to me and ask me questions I did not know the answers to.
During the debate, I sat in the press room and live tweeted. Even with multiple factors contributing to noise or movements, I had to focus on one thing at a time or risk not get anything done. This was a challenge when I was trying to take notes, watch the debate, and send out live tweets all at the same time.
At first, my plan was to take notes while watching the debate and tweeting after a question had been answered and rebutted by both candidates. Due to the restriction of characters on Twitter, I found this to be a major challenge. After the third question, I quit taking notes for myself and focused on the Tweets and watching the debate. When I switched to using Twitter, I wrote the Tweets in a way that I could also use them as my notes.
As mentioned above, it is difficult for me to focus on more than one thing when there are multiple things happening in the room. In order to watch the candidates instead of just listening to them, I would have to look up and watch the screen. Bera and Jones made little comments that compelled me to look up. In order for me to watch others in the room, I would have to look up and observe (which distracted me from notetaking). I relied on my ability to listen for these two reasons. There were rarely any sighs of disgust or moments of verbal agreement portrayed in the room. In the quick moments I did look up, everyone was feverishly typing or writing reactions to statements the candidates said.
The debate came to a close and the post-debate press conference was approaching. Scott Jones came and answered questions from the press. Jones seemed calm and collected. He answered the questions with a sort of relaxed but serious tone.
About fifteen minutes later, Ami Bera came into the room and gave a statement before answering questions. In the statement, Bera elaborated on a question that was asked by Jones about his father’s arrest and sentence in recent months related to his 2012 campaign. After making his statement, he answered questions from the press in the room. Bera seemed more tense and nervous than Jones.
After Bera was done answering questions, I made my way to my car. Thoughts like, “Wow, I actually made it through the night without embarrassing myself,” were running through my mind as I walked to my car. Once I was in my car, a rush of relief ran through me. I made it through the night.
Even a week after the debate, I am still trying to digest the experience. I anticipate being able to tell all the people who gave up on trying to convince me to challenge myself that I did this all on my own. I inserted myself into an environment I normally would run the other direction to avoid. Overall, the worrying about how I will look, the overwhelming nervousness as I sat in the room, and the joy of heading home knowing I didn’t make a complete fool of myself was well worth it.
If you are interested in watching the debate, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp2vxQRVAOE
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