Monday, October 20, 2008

Just for the record

This new job description is hard.

I just came from my boss's office to talk about what I'm doing. The story we settled on -- about the effects a lawsuit settlement will have on the town -- is a good one. But I kind of don't know where to start.

If it was a page story, I'd call two or three people and be done with it. But as it stands, I'm combining two stories, really, into one. And I'm sitting at my desk with the boo boo look on my face.

I made a list of people I think I should call. I'm wondering if I need to put in a FOIA request. I have to say I'm a little gun shy.

I asked my boss if it was okay that I wasn't writing anything for tomorrow. That freedom, he said, is what the new world order is all about.

Alright, back to figuring out how to approach this story.

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Posted by T Dot at 11:28 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Welcome to the Show

So... I was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today.

Nope, I wasn't working the show. I was on the show.

I was a guest... on Talk of the Nation.


I don't think I can understate how nervous I was. Little young thing, sitting in the studio with Neal Conan and Ron Elving, dudes who have been in the game for years. Not to mention, I was trying not to make any noises while the mics were on.

But, nerves aside, it was pretty friggin' cool. I talked about the last piece I wrote for And my cute Puerto Rican friend who works on the show gave me a thumbs up -- two actually -- when I was finished. So I was good.

But hey, stop watching me yammer about it and just go listen... here.

And just for the record... this TOTALLY made my day. :o)

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Mike Huckabee story

"The terrorists," it has been said, "hate us because of our freedom." I could never quite get along with that statement for a litany of reasons. (Not the least of which is it makes absolutely no sense.) Were it true, they would surpass even a great hall of haters, that rogue collection of losers and scoundrels that draw faith from another's failure, pleasure from pain.

I thought a more accurate depiction of the source of their hatred had something to do with how policy decisions affect real people. And our tendency to wash up with food.

It is the excess of Western culture that is really to blame for the enemies we seem to accrue like so much debt. Americans are a wasteful people. Avocado is a facial wash. We scoff at the sight of burnt toast. We are obsessed with a pop-culture phenomenon that consists of someone on throwing dollar bills that flutter down on people at a disco. All of it has programmed us to believe that there are rules of status – one of them being that they do not associate with us.

So when Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who finished second to eventual nominee John McCain in a several primaries this year, sat down on the D train the other day, my thought was that it wasn't him. I was with a group that included my good friend Gary, a producer at NBC, Jennifer, a fashion designer, Lindsay, an accountant for a private dental practice and future dental student, and Patrice, a musician. "This guy," I proclaimed, "looks just like Mike Huckabee."

Patrice stared at him and suddenly was drunk with laughter. "Oh woooooow, he does."

The only problem, of course, was that he was Mike Huckabee sans press secretary, personal assistant or any type of security. He wore a blue shirt that had the initials M.D.H in cursive writing at the cuff and carried an unmarked bag that looked like it was take out from a cheap Chinese restaurant. After all, he had gotten on at Grand St. A man and woman came up to him.

"We're big fans of yours," one of them said, as if he was still on the campaign trail in Iowa. He thanked them warmly, naturally, and they sat back down.

"You know," I said, motioning to him to get his attention. "I'm sitting here saying", wow, this guy looks like Mike Huckabee. Now I feel like an idiot."

He laughed, and robotically stuck out his hand. "I'm Mike."


He mentioned a few tidbits about his show on Fox News, which is why he was in New York. "They treating you well up there?" I asked.

"Oh yes, just fine. Though I'm sure I'll say something sooner or later that'll cancel that out real quick," he said, alluding to his pension for controversial public comments. We all laughed.

Huckabee spoke with the sort of fluid cadence that was his mark on the trail, the type of speech that makes it sound like everything he says is funny. He asked where I lived. He mentioned that he visited a church in Harlem that he really enjoyed, then asked where we went to church. I gave the Kings Church of Christ, and our ridiculously talented minister, David Wilson, a huge plug.

"Mike Huckabee?" a 20-something guy with blond hair, stuck out his hand. He acknowledged him and smiled. "I like your style man!"

Flattered and maybe a little embarrassed, Huckabee motioned to all of us, saying, "I guess liking my style means that it's pretty cool that I'm riding the subway."

He widened his eyes and shrugged, as if not knowing what to say to that.

His actions said that status does not mean you have to be excessive.

"It's the easiest way to get somewhere."

The reporter in me came out eventually. I asked him what he thought about Sarah Palin's performance in the debate against Joe Biden on Thursday. He would refer to Sarah Palin as "Sarah." And Katie Couric as "Katie."

"I thought Sarah really helped herself," he said with gravitas, a sign that he is taking his job as a political analyst for Fox News seriously. "I mean, she was just dreadful with Katie. And I mean awful. I really like her and she's a terrific friend of mine but she was terrible."

He was close to his stop now. I asked if he'd be embarrassed if we asked for a picture. Gary had his camera. "Oh no, no not all."

So we took one big, black happy photo with Mike Huckabee on the D train.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Keep going until you reach the other side

This was about as close to marching orders as we'd get. At least in the near future.

My coworkers and I filed slowly into the small conference room in our office, the managing editor of our paper seated on one side of the oval table. For the next hour, she'd tell us what she knew, which wasn't much, but it was something.

All of the bureaus were closing, she said. And the two remote offices would be housed temporarily downtown in our office and another down the hall. The first reporter from South County arrived today.

In essence, the days of hyperlocal coverage writing about the minutae of Town Council and School Committee meetings -- were over, she said. The boss wanted us all to write A1 stories. On our beats, some of the bigger stories would survive, while some of our smaller communities may not even see the light of day in the new paper. We probably won't tell the readers that we're doing away with the zoned editions she said. We should be prepared for the deluge of calls we'll recieve next week.

"We are reinventing the paper and it could be exciting," she told us. "But to get to exciting, we're gonna have to go through a whole lot of hell."

That was one thing we all knew.

In the days since the restructuring began, they've switched beats on some reporters, pulling a municipal reporter onto the blog, and moving the Providence reporter to a national sports beat.

Right. My thoughts exactly.

How we'll cover news in the future is largely unsettled, she said. We may do it by town, but more feasibly, we'll do topical coverage. We should get our dibs in now with beat preferance, so when the New World Order comes, at least our desires have been made known.

I just sent my e-mail to her, telling her that in a perfect world, I'd like to cover either legal affairs, education or news features, in that order.

As I watched my coworkers pepper her with questions, I tried not to be mad. I knew I had no room to be afraid -- everyone else was chalky with fear. I empathized with the M.E., having to go into rooms full of reporters with few, if any, answers. Not a job I'd envy. At least not now.

I tried to analyze what this new world would mean for me, an average reporter. I'd be competing against all of my coworkers for the same amount of space that's in a Monday paper. Ideally, it means I can write what I want, when I want, taking the time to craft stories and delve deeply into subjects. Realistically, it means that I've got to find better stories to tell or find myself squeezed out of the paper.

I sure hope I'll find them by the time we get to the other side.

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