How our photographer gained a spot among the media’s elite


Story by Don Kirkland
Photo by Billy Hardiman

Desert_Vista_Obama_Speech685 a.m. Monday, Aug. 5 — I had rolled out of bed
a half hour earlier, knowing it would be a hectic
week with our upcoming edition ready to burst at
the seams. Stories, photos and ads had been flooding
in, so I wasn’t eager to take on any additional predeadline
But something our photographer had said to me
on Saturday morning as we sorted through 350 or so
pictures he had taken of the Corona del Sol football
team, and which I had dismissed because it seemed
an unrealistic undertaking, was nagging at me again.
Wouldn’t it be great, he’d suggested, if he
could get in to take photos when President Obama
arrived in town on Tuesday. This coming from an
(almost) 17-year-old high school student with lots
of enthusiasm but not much concept at the time of
what it would take to get him cleared, credentialed
and ready to go on assignment on barely a day’s notice—to
photograph the president of the United States, that is.
The more I thought about it, though, they more I
thought, hey, it really would be great for him to have such an
experience, and of course a nice opportunity to show that we
can occasionally go beyond our routine coverage boundaries
for something, well, pretty significant newswise.
So I called a contact at Tempe PD, Molly Enright, who
emailed some excellent suggestions, one of which involved
the public information director at the Tempe Union High
School District, Linda Littell.
That turned out to be the mother lode.
Linda forwarded the media application materials
she’d received from the White House (Obama’s planned
destination, Desert Vista High School, is part of the Tempe
district, and thus part of Linda’s PR domain). That document,
produced for online submission, was designed to go to
Desert_Vista_Obama-Speech30Noreen Kassam, a member of the White House advance team
for presidential visits.
And then the unexpected happened. Within
an hour came Noreen’s response: “He’s good to
So that’s the short version of how Warner
Ranch resident, Horizon Community
Learning Center junior—and Wrangler News
photographer—Billy Hardiman managed to join
Republic photographers like Tom Tingle and
David Kadlubowski, plus a who’s-who of local
and worldwide media notables, for what turned
out to be an experience of a lifetime.
To all those who helped make it happen:
A huge thank-you. From all of us at Wrangler



  1. That Noreen Kassam is quite the lady. This isn’t the first we’ve heard that she can make things happen. She’s a very capable and dedicated employee who has a strong passion for her work. Thank you again

    • Frank Mohr
      I have seen her work with the major news channel journalists, and they all say: Noreen Kassam is great to work with, knows her stuff and can get things done in a very professional manner. from what I hear, every department head at the White House wants her services. way to go Noreen


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