Mason alumna gets her close-up with the president

Ariana Freeman at work
Mason alumna Ariana Freeman (far left) worked in the Capitol Rotunda during the 59th presidential inauguration as a broadcast associate for CBS Evening News. Photo provided

When 4:45 a.m. came and went and her Uber hadn’t shown up, Ariana Freeman shook off her heels, strapped on a pair of boots and hoofed it 30 minutes to the U.S. Capitol.

Nothing was going to stop the George Mason University alumna from covering her first presidential inauguration. Freeman spent the day inside the Capitol Rotunda reporting as a broadcast associate for CBS Evening News.

“It was absolutely amazing and I’m just so thankful I got to go,” Freeman said. “I was taking it all in.”

Ariana Freeman
Ariana Freeman

On Wednesday, her job consisted of working with the pool camera from NBC to inform her senior producer of key happenings behind the scene. When she saw President Joe Biden coming down the hallway, she alerted her producer to get ready to roll the rotunda camera in five seconds.

“You see the gifts presentation but, hey, you might have missed [Vice President] Kamala Harris just winked at Sen. Amy Klobuchar,” Freeman said. “Giving that color, those details that the viewers and correspondents don’t see, pretty much that was my job—to catch them coming in, coming out, make sure our cameras were rolling.”

Two years ago, Freeman couldn’t have imagined herself working in politics, let alone covering the 59th presidential inauguration. The former collegiate women’s basketball player always thought she’d end up working in sports, possibly as a sideline reporter.

Her master’s degree, after all, was in sport and recreation studies with a concentration in sport management. She freelanced with the Washington Football Team’s Charitable Foundation in addition to serving as a features reporter for ESPN+ broadcasts of George Mason men’s and women’s basketball games.

But as she finished graduate school in 2019, she ran into a former basketball coach at her alma mater, St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. He suggested she reach out to a friend of his, Jan Crawford, who served as a political and legal correspondent for CBS News. Hesitant at first to venture into politics, she agreed to shadow at CBS News for a day.

“The moment I walked into CBS News… I think I just loved the energy I felt,” she said.

By the end of the day, the Washington bureau chief offered her a position as a news associate, essentially an internship position. Two full-time promotions and two years later, she’s covered press conferences at the White House, was inside the Senate chamber for the 2020 impeachment trial of President Trump and reported on breaking news such as the deadly shooting in a Virginia Beach municipal building. Freeman currently works daily with CBS Evening News host Norah O’Donnell to ensure her script and broadcast is accurate.

“I’m so new into news that I’m still learning,” Freeman said. “It is definitely way different than sports, but it is just so rewarding. Politics just promote that change I want to see.”

Freeman, who received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Colorado, credits her professors at Mason for emphasizing the power of networking. She also said the sport management program stressed elements that transcended sports, such as finding “little nuggets and a different way to tell a story.”

“Some people just have that drive,” said Sport and Recreation Studies Associate Professor Pierre Rodgers, who was Freeman’s advisor. “Ariana always had a plan to do what she was going to do. She was going to be great no matter where she went.”