Magazine article Editor & Publisher

First Daughter Goes to College

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

First Daughter Goes to College

Article excerpt

IN HER RECENT syndicated column, Hillary. Rodham Clinton thanked the media -- "with very. few exceptions" -- for sparing her daughter, Chelsea, "unwelcome and intrusive press attention in the past four and a half years."

There was seemingly nothing in the media coverage of Chelsea's arrival Sept. 19 at Stanford University as a freshman to change the first lady's view. The 200 to 250 press and broadcast representatives on campus, including 100 White House correspondents, were models of civility, and the White House responded by providing a photo op with President Bill Clinton and his family. No paparazzi in sight.

Further courtesy was extended to the media at the 3:30 p.m. campus convocation, the only event in the daylong series of freshman and parent activities the media could legitimately attend. The press gallery. was only about 30 feet from the from row where the Clintons sat, giving photographers a perfect shot of them and the action on the dais. But security was tight as the Secret Service restricted access to parts of the campus and required media personnel to undergo a bag search and pass through metal detectors before reaching their seating area.

In previous days, some reporters prowled the campus seeking student reaction to the campus's new and most famous undergrad.

Overall, the coverage was low-key. Reporters said they treated the event as a human-interest story, comparing the president and first lady with parents of the other 1,653 first-year students going through the trauma of sending their offspring away from home for the first time.

"It's a rite of passage that all parents go through with their kids," said Nancy Mathis of the Houston Chronicle. "The Clintons are trying to blend in and not quite doing it. Chelsea, after all, is the president's daughter, even though the Clintons want her treated like any other student."

Catalina Ortiz of the Associated Press said the story took on an extra dimension "because Chelsea has been so much out of the spotlight, and now daughter goes away to college," However, Ortiz didn't see Chelsea as much of a story in the weeks ahead.

"What do we write about -- that she got up in the morning and went to a chemistry class?" the reporter asked. "Of course, we'll keep an eye on her for anything newsworthy that might happen, but I see no need to intrude on her daily life."

Not all of the media may be as considerate. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted one photographer who regarded the president's demand for privacy for Chelsea as a challenge, the theory being that the more a celebrity wants to avoid the limelight, the more valuable the photos.

The Chronicle also got this observation from reporter John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "The first time she gets drunk at a frat party, somebody will report it. Until now, everybody gave her space. But this stuff is going to filter out. Who she dates, where she goes, what she does."

The San Jose Mercury News, which gave major coverage to Chelsea's appearance at nearby Stanford, will ease off from now on, executive editor Jerry Ceppos said in an interview.

"She'll be treated as any other student," he said. "She would have to do something really unusual to make the paper."

The campus newspaper, the Stanford Daily, also intends to give Chelsea plenty of space. Editor in chief Carolyn Sleeth said that after her initial day on "the farm," as Stanford is known, Chelsea will be regarded as a "regular student, not a celebrity. …

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