February 11, 2007

Amid arctic media frenzy, Chris Matthews gets frosted

Needless to say, there were thousands of members of the press from literally around the world in Springfield, IL yesterday, technicians, cable haulers, riggers, producers, and of course, the on-air "talent".

There were endless lines of satellite trucks all chugging away spewing diesel exhaust and trying to keep the important equipment from freezing, and outside, millions of dollars of camera and broadcasting equipment. And of course the hundreds of people who operate it, lift it, move it, erect it, guard it, and the people who stand or sit in front of it all, all out in the bone-chilling temps. The spectacle of the massive press circus almost overshadowed the actual event.

There were people reporting on Obama, people reporting on the people who came to see Obama, and people, like myself, reporting on the people who were there reporting on Obama. (how long before someone reports on the people who report on the reporting?)

The downtown and major hotels looked like the staging point for the most massive polar expedition ever mounted, with hundreds of photographers, reporters, and camera operators smothered from head to toe in every coat, scarf, and hat they owned, apparently. So many times I was reminded of the little brother in the film "The Christmas Story", they were so bundled up it looked like if they fell down, they'd never be able to get back up without help.

I noticed that as a sort of badge of honor I imagine, some photographers sported Arabian or Lebanese style scarves as a sign they'd covered the mid-east. Now they were wearing them against the perils of the mid-west.

Walking downtown or in the hotels, you could overhear news crews speaking in every imaginable language. One reporter from Tokyo was wandering around in the arctic temperatures dressed in black leather pants, which are typically not the best cold weather gear, even back in the early 80s when they were last in style. His camera man accidentally leaned on my hand as it rested on a chair and he spent about 5 minutes apologizing in Japanese. Not exactly your stereotypical pushy member of the traveling press.

Even on Friday afternoon the day before, while walking around watching the crews erecting all the elaborate scaffolding and hanging bunting and the networks setting up their live shot locations, a woman approached and asked if she could interview me. She was from the Canadian Broadcast Company and very pleasant, and even better, she didn't have a cameraman in tow, which frankly is my idea of the ideal encounter with the press - no camera and not even broadcast in the United States. It doesn't get better than that in my experience.

After Obama made his stirring announcement speech, the race was on for most of the press to pack up and try to avoid frostbite and hypothermia, especially the so-called "talent", the people in front of the camera, who had to engage in the gargantuan struggle between looking perfect and staying warm.

And we learn that whatever you do, don't bring up Chris Matthews' socks.

As always, click on images for a better view.

The Decatur NBC affiliate had a damn anchor desk sitting out in the Old Statehouse yard. It looked like something out of a Monty Python sketch or something.

Then there was this tent set-up. It was much more elaborate than other media outposts, most of which were in the open air. But this one even had propane heaters running.

Note the sharpshooters on the roof in the background.

Who could command such posh accommodations? None other than Tweety Bird himself, Chris Matthews.

Note the little silver disk in the lower left. It's the propane heater to keep Chris' tootsies warm.

And speaking of Mathew's tootsies, one of the spectators who increasingly gathered around the tent was taken by the fact that Matthews was wearing big, thick, hunting socks. At one point as Matthews was waiting to go on-air, this guy good-naturedly called out, "Hey Chris, nice socks!"

Matthews immediately shot back, "Go fuck yourself!", and he wasn't smiling.

Yep... dropped the f-bomb... again, only this time it wasn't on-air. (See this clip of Matthews dropping the F-Bomb live during the Don Imus program)

I had been shooting video just seconds before, but had stopped in order to take some still pictures. I will go to my grave regretting that. If I had kept shooting only seconds longer, I would have had the remark and Mathew's salty reply live on tape. I'd imagine it would have drawn a fair amount of traffic on YouTube.

He made a few less caustic comments back and forth with his fans before settling in.
The make up woman was working on the next guests, Howard Fineman, editor of Newsweek, and Lynn Sweet, political correspondent for the Chicago Sun-Times (whom I'd met and chatted with the previous evening) Sweet has become a regular on Matthew's "Hardball" show as his "go-to" reporter on Obama.

Howard Fineman

Lyn Sweet with Matthews


Matthews looks on as technicians remove mics and receivers from the previous guests in preparation to bring on Sen. Dick Durbin.

Sen. Dick Durbin is interviewed by Matthews. I wonder if guests have to towel down after having Matthews sputter at them.

Sen. Durbin greets fans and well-wishers after his on-air appearance and before going into the Old Capitol where Obama held a meet-and-greet session for about an hour after the announcement.

As I was eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant around noon, Matthews and a few others came in and sat down about 5 ft. away. The thought of speaking to him or getting a picture crossed my mind, but I think that interrupting someone when they're eating is a bit tacky.

Though I've have many interesting experiences in my life, bearing his reaction to the fan earlier in mind, I wasn't sure I wanted to count getting cussed out by Chris Matthews at breakfast among them.

Then as luck would have it, in order to save wear and tear, I'd shut down my computer, not realizing that this also prevented it from recording the shows I had scheduled, one of which was Hardball. So, after getting home and looking forward to seeing the segment I'd seen being shot live earlier, I found that it hadn't recorded. If anyone has it on tape, let me know.

Coming later.....
Some random scenes of weirdness around the event... including the Obama Superman


At 2/11/2007 4:08 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Why does Chris Matthews have a show?
For the last 7 years he has mostly kissed Bush's a-s.
Now he is saying he doesn't want someone with a ranch?
These pretentious, lazy, overpaid media semi/para/ celebreties are partly to blame for 'the war on terr',
Afraid of losing there cushy station in life if they were to actually do there job.

I bet he didn't tell Dick Durbin or anybody with money or power to f--k themselves!

At 2/11/2007 4:53 PM, Anonymous Marie said...

Hardball. It's not just a show, it's a way of life (apparently).

At 2/11/2007 5:44 PM, Anonymous yinn said...

Great post & shots. Thanks for braving the cold & sharing with those of us who couldn't be there.


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