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Tech Grad Selected to Interview President

The Tuesday had been like most others at WCJB TV20 in Gainesville, but when assistant news director and Tech alumna Jessica Parmain (photographed far right) picked up the phone, little did she know she would be presented with the opportunity of a lifetime.

On the other end of the line, was the local contact for President Obama’s campaign asking if the station would be interested in a one-on-one interview with the president.  Parmain instinctively said her station wanted the slot.

“We were told it would ‘maybe’ be for the following Saturday, but we needed clearance from the Secret Service,” said Parmain.  “They took our personal information to do background checks, and we didn’t get cleared until 12 hours before the interview.”

Once the interview was confirmed, Parmain, a former photographer for the station, was selected to accompany Dan Snyder, a reporter, to conduct the interview.

“I was so nervous leading up to that day that I could not sleep the night before,” said Parmain  “We left the station at 3 a.m., and it was a 3-hour drive to the interview location.  We were both really tired but really excited.”

Once arriving, the two met with members of the Secret Service to discuss the interview and to go through the final security process before meeting the president.

“Security was in full throttle,” said Parmain.  “There were bomb sniffing dogs everywhere, men in black suits, and non-press people taking pictures of everything. It was like moving through an airport on high alert. It was neat to see how the departments move together so smoothly and seamlessly.”

Parmain says after getting through security, the excitement about the opportunity began to set in.

“Once I was in the room and ready to do my job, I was ready.  I pushed record and did what I had been taught,” said Parmain. “We made a beautiful product that I am proud of.  You never know what you are capable of doing until you are put to the test. Arkansas Tech made sure I was ready for that test.”

Parmain graduated from Arkansas Tech in 2009 with a journalism degree and says her time at Tech laid the foundation for a career in news.

“News is a hard career. No matter the market size, news is a competitive field. Tech taught me to be competitive and to be a leader,” said Parmain.  “My professors knew how hard I worked and rewarded me for it. The harder I worked, the more rewarding it became. As a junior, Mr. Caton named me as a producer. It was an honor to be trusted with that responsibility, and I took it and ran with it. It gave me a solid platform for the confidence I have in my career today.”

Visit the Department of Speech, Theatre and Journalism website.

Watch the interview segments that aired on WCJB.

*President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Dan Snyder, WCJB Gainesville, at the Charles and Ruth Clemente Center at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla., Sept. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)