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  • Sunday Dispatch

    My Corner, Your Corner: Reporting from Biden’s presidential visit

    By Tony Callaio My Corner, Your Corner,


    It’s always interesting when a President of the United States makes their way to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Just in the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph President Biden and former President Trump.

    Most times the reason why a sitting president would drift into our area is because they are running for the office. This was the case why I photographed each president.

    Both presidents’ events were totally different. President Biden’s appearances are a bit more subdued with a smaller audience whereas former President Trump had a big rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena with 8,000 to 10,000 people.

    Trump’s event was like a pep rally and everyone dressed in Trump attire, and it reminded me of a NASCAR race where spectators are dressed in t-shirts in support of their favorite driver.

    Biden’s rally’s were set in a more intimate venue with just a few hundred people.

    In either case, the Secret Service is heavily involved with security and security procedures.

    As a credentialed member of the press on the local level, we have to jockey for position with the White House Media Pool. I’m talking all the big TV stations and national print agencies are all present.

    No matter what form of media, you have to show up very early in the morning, in last week’s Biden’s visit at the Scranton Cultural Center, media was asked to show up between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. to drop off equipment.

    All media had to vacate the building by 8 a.m., leaving all of our equipment to be checked, scanned and sniffed by dogs.

    This is a bit unnerving especially since I’m leaving up to $10,000 in my own equipment.

    You have to trust the process and government officials to do their job, but believe me, the first time I had to do that, I was very pensive.

    So what to do for three hours outside of the Cultural Center? I didn’t want to leave my parking spot for fear I wouldn’t have a place to park when I returned and I also didn’t want to get caught in traffic or if by any chance, the feds shut down highways and streets.

    I headed back to my car and decided to just stay put. It was a bit chilly but I managed to get some rest and a brief nap after I made a few phone calls and checked my email.

    As the clock rounded 10:30 a.m., I was getting a bit hungry and it didn’t help that a pizza parlor was at ground level of the parkade. The aroma was intoxicating.

    The Secret Service was allowing media and the public into the building between 11 a.m. and noon and if you were late and had thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the building, you were out of luck in getting back in.

    I stood in line waiting on my credentials and then to get an electronic wand by special agents at the door.

    It was specifically noted in our instructions from the White House Secret Service that we were to be going through “an airport type security.”

    Each presidential appearance is set the same way with a stage, seating in front of the stage with a two-level tier riser for media and a few rows of tables and seating behind the risers.

    TV media are the first to get to the risers and stake a claim on real estate for the best view for their customers. Print media general floats about the facility to get whatever shots they can get.

    Since we were allowed in the balcony, I made my way upstairs to find my spot to take photos. After a found a good area to shoot from, I stood my ground for about 30 minutes until the first speaker appeared. I stayed put for a few shots then made my move downstairs.

    There are a lot of bodies trying to do what I was trying to do and amazingly, everyone is professional and courteous. Sometimes you would have to patiently wait for a chance for an optimal spot and sometimes he never happens, but you have to try your best to get what you need.

    After all that time of standing, sitting, leaning, shuffling, napping, standing and more standing, event started on time at 2 p.m.

    Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Amy McNulty, niece of former Scranton Mayor Jim McNulty, were speakers. All speeches were short in nature, but all stumping for President Biden.

    Before I became a part of media, I was rarely in the presence of a president, governor, Senator, Congressman or what have you, but since, I’m always covering someone in government. What was abnormal is now pretty normal and to the point where said elected officials recognize me and some have even gotten to know me.

    When I embarked in journalism over 20 years ago, I never could have imagined the privilege of being in the presence of a president and others.

    From the time I left my house that early morning until I got home and edited over 500 photos and submitted 10 for publication, it was 10 hours invested.

    The next several months of campaigning will be exciting.

    Quote of the Week

    “Life is a song - sing it. Life is a game - play it. Life is a challenge - meet it. Life is a dream - realize it. Life is a sacrifice - offer it. Life is love - enjoy.” – Sai Baba

    Thought of the Week

    “You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” – George Lorimer

    Bumper Sticker

    “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” – Michael Cunningham

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