Thousands of journalists are in Philadelphia covering the Democratic National Convention, but not every reporter can get a credential.
Alexis Wright-Whitley wanted to cover the DNC for One Step Away, the Philadelphia street newspaper sold by homeless people, but the paper didn’t have a credential for her.
That all changed when a local delegate heard about her desire to get inside the Wells Fargo Center where the convention is being held and suddenly Wright-Whitley had her ticket to get inside, albeit by breaking the rules and risking running afoul of the U.S. Secret Service which screens all people approved to enter the arena.
It happened so fast, Wright-Whitely didn’t even have time to change.
“I am dressed like I’m walking out in the street talking to our vendors,” she said with a laugh and pointing to her shorts and t-shirt. “I’m not dressed like I should be talking to any politicians.”
Wright-Whitely, a 2014 Temple University graduate, is One Step Away’s communications coordinator and has been on the job for about a month. She has been covering the DNC from the streets where protesters have been marching and art exhibits are popping up in places like Eakins Oval, not far from where many homeless people spend their days and nights on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The young reporter wanted to get an insiders’ view of the DNC and to understand how the Democratic Party plans to help the poor.
Instead, she found herself overwhelmed by the crowds excited to see President Obama speak and the scripted, made-for-TV spectacle.
“They’re sending messages of hope and ‘were gonna do this, we’re gonna make things change and Hillary’s going to be the one to do it for us, but the people I work with, the vendors are like ‘we don’t see it,” she said referring to the people, many of them homeless, donning green reflective vests who sell One Step Away on street corners in Center City for $1.
“There’s a disconnect” she said between those with no home and few posessions and the more privileged convention speakers.
As she roamed the halls of the Wells Fargo Center, Wright-Whitely realized her other goal, aside from getting a story to tell, is to remind the people she interviews about those outside the convention walls.
“That’s still going to be here regardless if the DNC’s here or not, regardless of whether Hillary’s president or Donald is,” she said. “So while people are here I want them to know you’re enjoying yourself, it’s a fun time, you can see all these cool people, you’re going to experience this cool event – but don’t forget people are still suffering.”