Former White House media staffers discuss their experiences
Panelists showcase their trajectory while in the Oval Office
Former Obama administration staffers Amanda Lucidon, Adam Garber and Kodiak Starr spoke about their presidential media roles during a panel discussion titled “Personalizing the Presidency: Digital Media & the Obama White House” on Wednesday night.
The event moderator, SOC professor Amy Eisman, started the panel with a photo by Lucidon of former first lady Michelle Obama with her daughters Sasha and Malia Obama at the Great Wall of China. Lucidon served as White House photographer from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama. This was her first trip abroad with the first lady.
“So we’re at the Great Wall of China, a place that I never thought that I would get a chance to travel to and to be there as the First Lady’s photographer was pretty amazing,” Lucidon said.
Referring to one of her other photos, which features former President Barack Obama stepping onto his Air Force One jet with a rainbow in the background, Lucidon said, “Sometimes you just get lucky.”
Garber, who served as the White House video director from 2009 to January 2017, spoke about a PSA he filmed with Obama and NBA player Stephen “Steph” Curry last April to promote a mentorship program for black youth called “My Brother’s Keeper.”
Garber said that as video director, he was given very little time to film projects. He said the former president gave him seven minutes of his time to shoot the ad. Curry allotted 15 minutes.
“They give you as little time as possible as you can to do it and you try to stretch it as long as possible,” Garber said.
Commonly when shooting video of the former president, scripts were not required when Obama was speaking directly to the camera on a trip abroad or filming a PSA in the White House.
Starr, the former White House creative director, spoke about communicating the “message of the day,” to the public. His office was responsible for making the public aware of the goings on of the administration, as well as making the administration accessible to the public.
A large part of Starr’s job, he said, was using photos and videos to create a “narrative.”
Starr described his experience working on Obama’s first “enhanced” State of the Union Address, which required collecting quotes, facts and figures to be published live over the video of the speech, as the “most intense project I ever worked on in my life.”
“We probably worked 20 hours a day for four or five days,” Starr said. “We [didn’t] sleep the night before because everything was heavily vetted. We never released anything with a mistake on it.”
The panel ended with questions from the audience and a final question from Eisman. One of the audience members asked Lucidon how she got her White House photography job. Lucidon said she wasn’t actively seeking a White House post, but recognition of her work earned her the spot.
“Work hard. Do work that you’re passionate about and people will notice,” Lucidon said.