The Story Behind the Story

They’re off to see the President, the wonderful President of America, when he’s in Milwaukee, of course.

Four West Side Stories reporters, Seniors Ellyn Kirtley, Luke Salamone, and Zakiya Robinson, and Junior Kylie Hogrefe were given the opportunity to join professional reporters and writers covering President Obama’s visit to Milwaukee on February 15. The President had come to speak to employees of Milwaukee’s Masterlock plant. The group split up in the morning with Robinson and Kirtley attending his speech at Masterlock, while Salamone and Hogrefe went to a military base next to Mitchell International Airport to tape the President’s arrival on Air Force One.

Robinson and Kirtley started their day of reporting with a feeling of astonishment. “When Zakiya and I first walked in we stopped and stood there for a minute…there were over a thousand people and another 100 to 200 reporters,” said Kirtley. She and Robinson had been tasked with the duty of writing an article on the President’s speech. “We walked in knowing that we had to come up with some articles and some photographs that were actually going to be worth looking at,” said Robinson. During their excursion, the two spoke with reporters from various news outlets including Fox News, WISN, and even received photography tips from a BBC reporter who told them of the different types of shots for the President. Kirtley felt that seeing the President in person was very different from watching him on TV. “It was almost indescribable, I had no idea what to expect and then all of a sudden he was just there…everyone in the room was on their feet and cheering and screaming.” Robinson too felt the rush of excitement, exclaiming, “Oh my Gosh it’s the President!” upon seeing him.

Hogrefe had been getting ready to report right after hearing about the opportunity, but she was still nervous. “I had 12 hours to get ready and coordinate with my other friend Luke so we could figure out how to get there, what exactly we were going to do when we got there, we had no idea what to expect,” she said. Upon their arrival at Mitchell, Hogrefe and Salamone had to go through security, their cameras and bags were all sniffed by dogs before they were let in. “Everything went so fast, I was nervous, excited, and anxious the whole time,” she said.

It’s not every day that Wauwatosa West students get to see President Obama in person. Tosa West journalism advisor Chris Lazarski spent days contacting the White House, the Journal Sentinel, anyone who might be able to get the students press passes. Though initially finding little success, the Social Studies teacher was eventually able to get the four students press passes, telling the students that they would be seeing the President just the day before his speech. “It was very exciting,” said Kirtley, “He had mentioned something a day prior, but I kind of thought he was kidding when he told me he called the White house and was trying to get press passes.”

The four believed that the experience was one to remember. “I never thought I’d be that close to someone in government…my mind is blown, it still feels like a dream, being able to do all this,” said Hogrefe. They have gained much attention, with interviews from the radio station FM106, WISN, and Wauwatosa NOW.