One of the most coveted jobs in the news business is covering the president of the United States.
For a journalist, covering POTUS ranks somewhere up there with your first born, your first ride on a roller coaster ride, your first kiss — ah, you get the idea.
So, let me share with you some of my experiences in covering POTUS, though there really are no words to describe what it’s like the very first time you get to do it.
I had the opportunity to cover former President George W. Bush in Savannah when he came to rally support for a congressman. And no, it wasn’t Kingston, he didn’t need it.
Anyway, we had to be there at some awful early-morning hour to go through screening by the Secret Service even though the president wasn’t going to show up for another five hours or more.
So, me and the gaggle of photographers I was with laid out our equipment while the Secret Service and their dogs went through it in search of something you shouldn’t be carrying — like a gun, knife or bomb.
Unfortunately, this is a routine everyone who covers the president has to go through. What happens if you refuse?
Let’s just say the Secret Service has a way of making you an offer you can’t refuse.
After the equipment checks, photographers, along with print and television reporters, are ushered to the risers and seats to begin the long, agonizing wait for the president to show up, hopefully on time.
During the hours of waiting those of us who have been in the business for a while swap war stories of events we’ve covered, sort of like the stories veterans who meet daily at the McDonald’s on East Oglethorpe swap.
There also are numerous bathroom breaks because of the amount of coffee consumed.
As we wait, supporters of the president begin to fill the floor with some of those in attendance. They’re carrying signs, wearing flag neck ties or flag adorned shirts — you name it I’ve seen it.
Still, you can feel the electricity in the air as the seconds tick away and the main attraction is ready to make his appearance from behind a makeshift stage.
The scene is the same regardless of who the president is or what party he represents, and let me tell you all this is exciting for a journalist covering the president for the very first time, but by the 99th time you’re dreading the “oh-dark-30” wake up you have to endure to make it to the screening point only to have to wait hours for the event.
After the 99th time covering POTUS, regardless of who it is, you begin to check your wrist watch or cell phone wondering when he’s going to finish speaking.
President Obama I found was short on speeches but long on press conference answers.
Trump whom I’ve already covered twice, his inauguration and a visit to Charleston, South Carolina, was relatively short-winded, much to our delight.
But I can honestly tell you that covering a president reminds me of my Army days.
Hurry up and wait, and don’t forget to bring a snack (pogey bait) — though sometimes you have to sneak it in, like I had to do in Charleston when President Trump spoke to Boeing employees.
If you don’t, you may discover a new fondness for vending machine food.
Levine is retired Army and a senior correspondent for the Coastal Courier. He primarily covers the public safety beat, but also covers presidents and others who cross his path.