A Cluster of Reporters

Interesting post today from Carson Clark, a reporter for WHNT-19 in Huntsville.

He blogs about covering the Eric Rudolph sentencing today in Birmingham amidst all of the other reporters and photographers from big market stations in Atlanta and Birmingham. Carson notes that many of the reporters wouldn’t allow the interview subject to complete a sentence before jumping in with another question.

I’ve been there and I have to tell you that some reporters must feel a sense of “I gotta get my question in and sound impressive in front of all of these other reporters”.

I know I did from time to time. Maybe it’s pride that gnaws at you when you’re in that position. Maybe it’s a sense of responsibility of doing your job and getting at least one question in. But I’ve been in several of these situations when there’s one reporter who’s so worried about asking their question, they don’t notice it’s already been asked.

I can’t speak for every reporter, but the adrenaline starts pumping. I’d sometimes get a little nervous before asking a question that no one else had asked yet. Was it a stupid question? Was I about to show my ignorance by asking it? How would they respond to my question?

I guess my favorite story about this type of thing comes from a few years ago when Mike Tyson came to town for a press conference about an upcoming fight. It was a huge presser with hundreds of reporters from ESPN, CNN, BBC, Sports Illustrated, the new york times, Time Magazine and virtually every other media outlet in the country. The press conference was in a huge room at a Tunica casino.

Mike walks in with a baby in his arms. He sits and answers questions for about 30 minutes on the fight, a new tatoo and which body part of his opponent he would try to eat first.

But no one was asking the question I needed to know. I knew people back in the newsroom would want to know “who’s the kid in his arms?”. The baby, which couldn’t have been more than 6 months old was crawling around Mike the entire time he was answering questions.

I could feel the butterflies building up as I worked up the nerve to grab the microphone and wait for my turn. Who was the kid? Was it Mike’s kid? Or his lunch?

“Who’s the little girl Mike?”

“What?”

“Who’s the little girl with you?”

“This ain’t a girl man! It’s my boy.”

“What’s his name?”

“You don’t need to know his name.”

There were a few laughs. The guys from ESPN guffawed a bit as they looked in my direction.

I felt like a heel. Did everyone else in this room know that Mike had a little kid and it was a boy? “Don’t worry about it, I didn’t know” said one of ESPN’s anchors covering the story.

I got kidded about that from everyone at the press conference. My question, and Mike’s response made the Howard Stern show the next day. When we sat down for the free press breakfast the next morning, ESPN showed the clip, with my question and Mike’s answer, over and over and over and over again. Everytime I walked into the press room it was on the tv.

I can’t speak for everyone who asks the questions at these events that reporters routinely call “gang bangs”, but I always got a little anxious asking a question in front of other reporters.

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