Back when the world was young and candidates talked about issues, covering a news story was relatively easy. You went, you saw, you phoned home. A pen, a pad of paper and a dime were the only tricks of the journalist's trade, and sometimes the pad and paper were optional.
But that was then, and this is now. We're officially known -- at least at MPR -- as "multi-platform content providers," which is a pretty fancy way of saying, "keep your dime, give us the pictures, dufus."
And even if we weren't both a floor wax and a dessert topping -- journalistically speaking -- we still need a world of high technology to get our radio stuff back to Minnesota. This is generally pretty easy, at least in terms of producing a story. We have our tape recorders (DAT machines, actually), a computer with some audio editing software, and some neurons that are connected properly (we think), and we can pretty much get our stuff recorded and produced. Or, in the case of the Web, written and pasted.
And that works great, if you all could just all come to New York, squeeze into the room and we could play it for you. But, alas, you're back there, and our stuff is here.
With the advent of the Internet, this is no longer a problem. All we need to do is connect to it and ftp (file transfer protocol, but you knew that) an audio file, images, and online scripts back to you. And then much smarter people play with that audio file a bit and eventually you hear it in the comfort of your Lexus. Simple, right?
|The things you can do with an Ethernet cable while waiting for tech support.|
We've been in place for a couple of full days now and when I'm not on the phone to Calcutta to try to get the hotel's high-speed Internet connection to show signs of life, I occasionally can run out to actually cover something.
Today, for example, Laura McCallum and I went down to Union Square to cover the massive protest. Sure it was about 90 degrees, the sun was beating down on us, we were standing -- still, I might add -- in the middle of 7th Avenue playing the official game of New York City (guess that aroma), but, hey, at least we weren't back in the air-conditioned hotel trying to get the Internet connections to work.
Hotels, nowadays, can make big money providing high-speed connections to the businessperson. Here at the Marriott, for $12.95 per day per computer (I use two...one for image editing and online work, and one for audio production), you can get access to high-speed Internet . And if you want to use the WiFi setup in the lobby, that's another $9.95 a day per reporter. Do the math. That's a lot more than a dime.
The problem is as more and more of us (and not just reporters and editors) depend on technology to do our jobs, the odds of everything (or anything) working are only slightly better than the odds of anyone responsible for taking your money at the hotel knowing anything about fixing it. I charged a $50 five-day wiFi pass. Doesn't work. Last night it took 7 hours to get my computer to connect to back home. Laura asked me to set up her computer's high-speed setup in her room. Doesn't work. A call to Calcutta yielded the opinion from technician that "it's probably the room." This is the Internet version of the hardware people saying it's the software and the software people saying it's the hardware.
Now before you cluck about my technical abilities, let me state for the record that I actually know what a MAC address is and even understand the concept of binding things to it. But I also think I know when technology is no longer as efficient as, maybe, you all sending me your telephone numbers and me calling each of you to tell you what's going on.
It also begins to occur to me that maybe I haven't been sent out on these missions because of some ability to tell you what's going on, but because I've got geek-a-bility.
No battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy, and we're now scrambling around to figure out how to get our stuff to you, which we will, but just know there's some really weird Internet calisthenics going on at this convention.
Oh, by the way, I have a bunch of photos for the photo log portion of the Notebook, but I'm unable to create photo logs at the moment because of, ahem, technical problems.
Down to business
The convention, of course, gets down to business on Monday. I'm anxious to get to Madison Square Garden to check out the hottest rumor: free facials, manicures, and haircuts for journalists. This is one of those times when I think the power of the Web comes fully into focus. If I hang in there long enough: before-and-after pictures.
No pictures please
One of the highlights of convention week is one you usually don't hear much about: the Saturday media party. It's usually hosted by the city's host committee and bankrolled by a media bigwig. In New York it was held Saturday night at the Time Warner headquarters (aka: CNN) at Columbus Circle. It's a multi-level mall with a bunch of toney shops. Plenty of food, free booze (I hear), but the star watching was relatively thin. I didn't see many. Larry King was wearing a they-told-me-with-salary-I-had-to-schmooze expression. Mayor Blomberg was there, Wolf Blitzer was circulating. And free copies of Sports Illustrated and every other Time Warner magazine.
Dig into the bag
As I said in Boston, these free goodies they give to delegates and media is a sign of who's in the good graces of the Party and the city. So here's what we've got:
A Con Edison flashlight. Anyone who ever has had to live with Con Edison knows how useful this can be.
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the shape of elephants (still haven't eaten the donkeys yet.
$5 in tokens for ESNPZone, whatever that is.
The History Channel special on Ellis Island on DVD
A week's membership in some sports club. Right.
A 60-minute long distance phone card from IDT and one from Verizon.
The official AT&T RNC pin (there's a lot of pin trading that goes on here. There's always a handmade sign on the media tent offices of the big media companies, "No Pins"
A pen from the USS Intrepid Museum
Dunkin Donuts coffee. All that's missing is the cinammon donuts.
Red, white, and blue M&Ms. I always suspected those M&M characters were Republican.
Listerine breath mints. Insert your own joke here.
The official New Balance Republican National Convention tote bag.
A disposable camera
A pedometer from some pharmaceutical company
A bunch of books which will sit in the corner of my den until I get enough energy to clear off books off the shelf which I've never read, never will read, and have no idea why I put them there in the first place.
And tonight, before I was heading out to dinner with Ms. McCallum, Mr. Eskola, and Mr. Brian Bakst from the AP (Thai, and yes it was fine, thank you), a knock came on the door with a delivery from the hotel. A card with a box, and it turned out to be a note from Sen. Norm Coleman "Welcome to New York City and the 2004 Republican National Convention! We look forward to seeing you! U.S. Senator Norm and Laurie Coleman." Sorry, no pictures.
In the box was a heavy black paperweight engraved with "U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. New York City. 2004. Republican National Convention."
If you want any of this stuff, let me know. I'm still trying to get rid of the stuff from 1996 in San Diego and Chicago.
Why do today's alarm clocks give you 9 minutes when you hit the snooze button? 9 minutes? Why not 5? Or 10? Why 9?