The Hunt for Ellen

The Ellen DeGeneres show made an appearance on the University of Oregon campus today, creating a stir among students who were fans of the show and linked to it on Twitter. Our Reporting class had heard rumors of the show being on campus and we set out in search of more information.

Our news team began our search for Ellen with only one clue. A satellite van was parked outside of the Erb Memorial Union at the center of campus. Knowing this, the three of us decided that the most logical place for an event to be held in the EMU was in the ballroom, and headed in that direction. At the foot of the stairs, we ran into an NBC representative who refused to identify himself. He did, however, tell us that the upcoming event regarding Ellen’s show was “strictly a video feed. She (wasn’t) actually on campus.” He also directed us toward the van parked outside, telling us that if we were going to find any information, it would be coming from there.

Despite the rain, the three of us went to check for anyone in the van who could provide us with more information. After following one employee back into the EMU and then deciding to stake out the van to catch him upon his return, we managed to speak with one of the men working there. In spite of our questions, he refused to give us his name or confirm whether the van was actually here for the Ellen show. All he was able to tell us was that the van was set up for “a satellite feed for television” and when we inquired further, that if we were fans of her show, to “keep following (her) tweets”.

Having exhausted the only lead we had, we checked the computer lab and were directed to the white tent set up outside the EMU. Roughly 75 students showed up, none with a clear idea of what was happening. Through the constant chatter and confusion, one thing was clear: nobody knew for sure whether Ellen would make a physical appearance or just be shown through a video feed. With the cameras all in place and Aaron Pinkston, field associate producer for the show, watching for his cue, the crowd hushed at last.

Finally, the biggest mystery of the day was solved—Ellen’s appearance on the University of Oregon campus was only a digital one. Pinkston told us all to stay by our phones as the final tweet from Ellen came in—the first 10 people to find a bar of soap would win a prize. Everyone in the crowd took off running, and most were back within moments. Some had friends waiting on the phone to help them complete whatever task would be coming, and some took to biking all the way to the 7-Eleven on 13th and Alder. Once everyone was back, the first 10 to return were given a second challenge. With newly presented Samsung phones, they were to re-create a photo of two matching ten year old boys and take a picture. Points were given for accuracy and creativity.

The scavenger hunt continued as we headed back for class, and while the hype around the Ellen show turned out to be mostly just that, those involved in the hunt continued their quest for the promised two free tickets to her show and $1000 prize money.

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