Texas A&M Battalion excels at Bush coverage

Only 45 men have been president of the United States, so when one dies, it’s big news. When George HW Bush passed stories and images flooded social media, but perhaps one of the most viewed photos was taken by a college media photojournalist.

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George W. Bush is overcome with emotion while speaking about his father. // Cassie Stricker, The Battalion Photo credit: Cassie Stricker

This photo of George W. Bush speaking about his father was taken by Cassie Stricker, the photo chief at The Battalion at Texas A&M. She was one of many Battalion students who worked to cover Bush’s death, his funeral and his impact on campus and in the country.

While Bush was from Massachusetts originally, he moved to Texas in 1948 and called the state home for the rest of his life. A&M became special to the family, and Bush built his presidential library on the campus, and he and Barbara Bush are now buried there.

So the Bushes are a big deal in College Station, and their deaths were big news for the student news outlet. Editor in chief Megan Rodriguez headed up the coverage of the funeral and the various memorials around the state and country.

Given the paper’s publication schedule, Megan and her staff decided to publish an extra special edition to cover the funeral and burial.

“This extra 8-page all-color section was made possible because of the large number of advertisements we received from campus organizations and the university,” she said.

Pretty impressive considering the staff was also working on the Maroon Life magazine and the graduation edition at the same time.

Fortunately, the staff had been preparing to report on Bush’s life for a while.

“Due to George H.W. Bush’s connections to Texas A&M and his recent health issues, The Battalion had been making plans to report on his life, legacy and funeral for years,” Megan said.

She said the staff had already finalized the obit and background stories and had determined who would cover the campus burial — news editor Taylor Fennell and photo chief Cassie Stricker. This made it possible to provide tons of coverage as soon as the family spokesperson announced Bush’s death.

Then Megan and her managing editor started submitting credential requests “for everything, including the funeral services in Washington, D.C. and Houston, despite the fact that we thought we would only be allowed to report on campus events. To our surprise, we were approved for nearly every site on the funeral and burial route.”

Due to their good fortune, Megan and her ME began assigning staff to all the various assignments.

“Our staff was incredible throughout the process and their willingness to go wherever they were needed made everything possible, Megan said. “While [managing editor] Luke and I were constantly making calls to solidify credentials, we had staff members approaching us saying they were open and available for anything necessary.”

Remember that this was at the end of the semester, when most students are worrying about finals.

While getting credentials for the D.C. funeral was exciting, it was also expensive.

“[W]e were not sure what to do since we knew student media didn’t have the funding to support our travel expenses,” Megan said.

Those assigned to D.C., Taylor and Cassie, made plans to pay their own way, as did students planning to cover events in Houston, a city three hours away.

“Taylor and Cassie were operating under the assumption that they would not be reimbursed for their flight, lodging or gas money,” Megan said. “This was just an unfortunate fact that our reporters selflessly accepted because of their commitment to reporting for The Battalion. However, on Dec. 13 Taylor and Cassie received wonderful news that The Association of Former Students was willing to reimburse them for their expenses because they were highly impressed by their coverage.”

Even though funding was secured, the story was still a bit daunting, she said.

“First off, the magnitude of the story put a lot of pressure on everyone,” Megan said. “This was the first presidential funeral in over a decade, so as the student publication of the campus Bush was buried on, it was our responsibility to have some of the best, most hyper-localized reporting possible.”

The timing of it all was especially difficult to manage, she said. It was finals after all. With three publications to produce, credentials to secure and travel to undertake, it was a long week.

“Our editors were working every night and coming in early or even between classes so we could cover each part of the funeral route and edit the magazine simultaneously,” Megan said. “Overall, it was just an overwhelming combination since it felt like everything was happening at once.”

It wasn’t all difficult though, Megan said. Getting credentials to all the events was surprising, as was the support of other Aggies.

“Sometimes as a student journalist, you feel like nobody takes you seriously because you are still learning and you don’t work at a major newspaper, so being allowed to report alongside professionals was amazing,” Megan said. “Additionally, we were encouraged by how much help we received from former A&M students. Many Aggies assisted us in picking up multiple credentials in D.C. and Houston while we were still in College Station. People were taking time out of their schedules to help students they had never met before. It was one of the kindest things I have ever experienced and a great display of the Aggie network in action.”

Some of the best coverage of Bush’s legacy came from the work of these A&M students.

“I was definitely most proud of the staff’s commitment to covering everything possible, no matter how little sleep they got or the amount of effort they had to put forth to make everything possible,” Megan said. “The dedication displayed by every single staff member is just unbelievable, and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to work with these amazing journalists every day.”

Comments
2 Responses to “Texas A&M Battalion excels at Bush coverage”
  1. Douglas Pils says:

    They were amazing to watch during those seven days. Thanks for the story about all of their great work.

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