Student journalists gain access to President Biden’s press conference at Lockheed Martin
Two student journalists from the University of Troy had the opportunity of a lifetime when President Joe Biden visited Lockheed Martin on May 3.
Lockheed Martin is a manufacturing, final assembly, test and storage operation for missile programs supported by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. The Troy, Alabama-based facility has made headlines for producing the javelin anti-tank missiles the United States has supplied to Ukraine to defend against Russia, prompting the president’s visit.
The day before the press conference, TROY TrojanVision News student reporter Claudia Peppenhorst, a broadcast journalism major from Linden, Alabama, learned that the event was going to be open to the press.
After contacting contacts in the area, she was able to apply for a press pass. White House staff responded quickly and, after a security check, the pass was issued.
“I did everything in my power to get a press card so I could have this experience as a college journalist,” Peppenhorst said.
Tropolitan editor and TrojanVision News staff reporter Cailey Wright, senior broadcast journalist, of Samson, Alabama, said the moment didn’t materialize until they arrived at the facility.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening until I looked around and saw Secret Service agents everywhere and snipers in the woods,” she said. “It hit me like a freight train that I was covering something big.”
The preparation for the conference started early. At 7:30 a.m. that morning, Peppenhorst, Wright, and other reporters from across the state and country were flown to the scene to set up their equipment. After settling in, they were transported off site for the Secret Service to perform a sweep of the building. Once the green light was given, reporters were led back to await Biden’s arrival.
Peppenhorst and Wright took advantage of the downtime to network and socialize with the veteran reporters around them.
“It was very interesting to see how all the other journalists worked. It was like they were thriving on nerve energy,” Peppenhorst said. “Even a lot of older journalists had never done something like this before. I mean how many presidents come to Troy, you know?
Wright added, “I felt like that time went by so quickly because everyone was so excited to be there. Even seasoned veterans of national stations were happy to cover the president. The stories they told me of their huge previous stories and humble beginnings gave me hope.
Biden spoke to the media and about 300 Lockheed Martin employees for about 17 minutes before leaving. Peppenhorst described the atmosphere as “electric”.
“I’ve never been in a situation like this where there was so much media, it was crazy,” she said. “The feeling of being part of such an important story for the city of Troy, the University of Troy, Lockheed Martin… It was incredible. I’m really grateful for this experience, and I’m so happy to have able to go there on behalf of the University and to be able to use it for our student media.
Not only were the couple the youngest, but they also made waves as college journalists. Both Peppenhorst and Wright said they both made many professional contacts.
“I got tips and business cards from reporters from local and national organizations,” Wright said. “It was so fun meeting these people because I look up to them and want to be in their shoes one day.”
“It’s heartwarming to know that the work I’ve done here at TROY has paid off because I fit in perfectly with the older reporters at the other stations,” Peppenhorst said. “That day has already impacted my confidence so much. So many people were interested in me being a student and being able to go to something like this, and all these stations were asking me my name and if I wanted to apply for jobs. I got a ton of business cards and was told to send in my reel when I graduate.
Since 1971, the Hall School has been preparing journalists to enter the workforce through the classroom and with the introduction of a student-run news segment in 1975. The studio has continued to grow and to grow, attracting thousands of students to TROY over the years. .
“TrojanVision is the reason I came to TROY because I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and TROY is renowned for its journalism program,” Peppenhorst said. “I jumped head first when I got here. It hasn’t stopped since, but this story is going to go to the top of my reel.