As Seen on TV

26 Feb

The same jitters that jolted me awake in the dewy dawn of day in elementary school had revisited me once more. Except this time, I’m 23 and the rattling nerves mark my first REAL day of work, instead of my first day of school.

Last week, the newspaper’s manager asked if I would become the paper’s City Hall representative. Amidst the crazy city politics, the management felt it necessary for someone to go down there and get the scoop. Of course, I agreed. . .though, admittedly, after laying eyes on the meeting’s 162-page addendum, I questioned whether the assignment was truly privilege or punishment.

I arrive at City Hall promptly at 8:30 a.m. for the nine ‘o’ clock meeting. Surveying the room, I note a few camera guys and media folk lounging nearby as a sections of the Dallas Morning News circulates through the area. The number of cameras and bodies grow as a couple of eerily familiar faces walk into the room. One guy I’ve watched every morning while devouring cereal since middle school slouches on the wall nearby, idly chatting with his famous golden voice.  Another noteworthy anchor strolls in and plops down on the row in front of me:  Looks like somebody didn’t get his coffee this morning.

It feels unreal. People who I’ve only seen wearing brilliant smiles and alert eyes look. . .human. Their faces show fatigue, grumpiness, boredom and even (gasp) self-consciousness and uncertainty.  As they each throw glances of curiosity my way (a honey-skinned girl with the golden locs kinda stands out), I try not to stare.

I soon learn that no one attends the meetings without purpose. Everybody in the room has come to play a specific role or support a particular issue. Every good and upright citizen transform into terrifying creatures as soon as soon as they reach the podium. And after an Oscar-worthy display of passion and dramatics, all—save one—calmly return to their seats, as though the last three minutes of venting had never occurred. It seems everyone is media-hungry. At recess, I was nearly ambushed. Are you a reporter? What paper do you work for? Cover this event. Put this in your story.

And everything is game.

Michael Vick’s key to the city. Lead poisoning in West Dallas. Racism on the City Council. Low-income housing credits. Environmental effects of gas drilling. Mistreatment of non-CNG taxidrivers. Police terrorism.

My head is still spinning.

Pitiably, of all the City Hall folk, the mayor is the only face I recognize.  And he’s leaving.  At the end of the meeting, he announces his resignation, sparking a media frenzy.

You can bet I’m in on the action.  Jotting down quotes of interest as my tape recorder captures audio, I’m still in disbelief and can’t believe the world in which I’ve somehow managed to land.

Here’s my article.


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