Sunday, February 22, 2009

Yolo Cowboy; undercover journalist

My assignment; infiltrate the network of subversives and dissidents better known as 'the press'. Who are these people? What do they want? What motivates them? Why are they dressed like homeless people going to a job interview?

I set out to answer these questions at the California Republican Party Convention. My tools: a Netbook, a digital camera, a digital voice recorder, a spiral notepad, and my keen intellect. I am not sure how keen my intellect is, but it is the only one I have.

I checked in with the Press Office on the second floor of the Hyatt Hotel. The hotel is an ideal location for a political convention, across the street from the State Capitol. As I picked up my press credential, I wondered if the powers that be realized the folly in giving an all-access pass to a cowboy.

Being a news junkie, I recognized many reporters by name. The print journalist from the Bay Area, and other smaller, regional papers all had the same rumpled look to them. I know newspapers are cutting staff and expenses as they try to remain solvent, but do the reporters have to sleep in their cars? The Sacramento journalists have the home court advantage of sleeping and showering on a regular basis, and it shows. My first instinct was to go down to the Union Gospel Mission to find someone who would swap clothes with me, being a fat guy, I wasn't sure if I would be able to find someone my size. Therefore, I loosened my tie, changed my sports coat for a fleece vest, and tried not to stand out from the crowd.

As I listened to the chatter of the reports, they were all telling tales of buyouts, layoffs and reductions in circulation. It seems the glory days of newsrooms full of beat reporters is going the way of bell-bottom jeans. Each remaining reporter receives more territory and more responsibilities at the same or reduced pay. I could almost feel sorry for them, if I was not confident in the knowledge that they are all closet communist sympathizers. I swear I could still see the sun-faded spots on their elbow-patched sports coats where the Obama 08' buttons were. Nice try, but you are not fooling me hippie.

As I attended the various press conferences, I soon found myself surrounded by people who were asking the candidates tough questions. When the politicians did not answer a question in a direct manner, the reporters would ask follow up questions, trying to trick the candidates into answering the first question. This confirmed my suspicions. The reporters had their own agenda; they would not be satisfied just reporting the talking points of the candidates. What nerve.

As the press conferences ended, the reporters would talk amongst themselves, grading the candidate's performance. The journalist could not hide their devious nature as they talked about how the candidate evaded this question, or stretched the truth on that answer. I thought to myself, who do these people think they are? Who elected them? How would they like being up in front of the lights answering question that did not fit into their agenda? Huh, how would you like that Mister fancy pants reporter?

I pulled myself together and spent a few hours walking through the convention, talking to fellow Republicans about the GOP legislators who were lured to the Dark Side. Six voted for the Democrat's budget deal. I started to calculate the amount of chickens we would need to pluck and the quantity of tar to boil if we could ever find Able Maldonado and his pals.

The list of speakers at the convention was impressive. Former Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, former secretary of education Bill Bennett, former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman and former ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Not be confused with Michael Bolton, John is the one with mustache, not the mullet.

Chicken dinners were the main fare served to the folks plunking down the cash for a chance to hear these Republican icons. They do not serve food to the press there, something I will have to bring up to Jim Smith, editor of the Daily Democrat, who is always chowing on the grub when he covers our local Republican events. I had to pack a few Atkins diet bars in my bag to keep up with the frantic pace of statewide politics.

I was blogging every few hours and posting Twitter comments, tweets, throughout the day. Mobile technology is something the GOP is trying to get its hands around right now. The past election cycle proved that a populist candidate, interconnected with young, high tech followers can produce a great amount of buzz. In today's four-hour news cycle, being able to provide timely, updated content and news is essential. Connecting with new, media savvy voters will be even more critical in 2010.

As Saturday evening wound to a close, I was busy posting almost live video of the conference and trying to maintain my cover as a real journalist. The MSM is a small world and I would catch the reporters trying to read my press credential. Who is this person, they wondered, and why can't he type without looking at the keyboard? I had to flee before they caught on and took me out back for some type of journalistic water boarding.

As I closed my Netbook computer for the last time, I was checking my stats to see who was reading my blog. I was shocked to discover that one my posts, written in about three minute’s time, was picked up by the New York Times. I had been discovered. Time to flee back to Yolo County and fight the establishment press another day.

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