One of the best things about my job is the variety. The nature of news is that it surprises you. It also offers opportunities for adventure like few other occupations – outside of world explorer or crocodile wrestler.
So if I were to look back and list the most unforgettable experiences of my career, they stack up something like this…
The Gores and the Clintons
I was of course part of the crowd that welcomed both the Clintons and the Gores to a rousing Chippewa Falls farm reception back in August of 1992. The day was damp, and only so many people could squeeze under the circus tent at the Peck Farm, but that didn’t stop folks from massing outside in slickers to catch a glimpse of the soon-to-be 42nd President.
Being a journalist has its privileges. I was positioned with the rest of the reporters on a makeshift dais about one hundred feet back from where Bill, Hillary, Tipper, and Al sat in folding chairs. Whenever a reporter shifted her weight the entire stage bounced wildly and so did the video.
When the speaking – headlined by Clinton of course — was completed and the four guests schmoozed briefly with the crowd and were whisked off to the next photo op, I walked over and found four paper labels with names written on them taped to each of the folding chairs. For weeks afterwards – until I tired of the game and finally discarded the labels – I explained to people that “this is where Tipper sat.”
I got to see Clinton a second time – at the La Crosse airport. In his trademark fashion he took time to actually stop and wave at the four videographers perched atop the tractor trailer bed before hopping into a limo.
I met Al Gore four times in all — the first time – literally face-to-face-alone-in-the-room–complete-with-handshake — when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988. I ran into him later, in 2000, while he was campaigning in La Crosse.
On that fateful day I was required to accompany him and his campaign on a boat trip down the Mississippi when a national TV station pleaded for help in gathering footage. What I remember most about the trip is not at all positive. The boat felt like a miniature “Ark”, with three levels; on the top were the Gores, the Liebermans, and guests. Below them, security, and on the bottom, the press corps packed tightly together at tables waiting for something to write about.
I remember a USA Today reporter complaining on the phone that “This guy has no clue! He won’t even talk to us! Doesn’t he know we can make him look good and we can make him look bad?”
When I finally got off the boat seven hours later – in Prairie du Chien – it was getting dark and I was literally stranded. After struggling unsuccessfully to beg rides, the boys from WXOW came to the rescue and – after completing their live shot –hauled me the hour-and-a-half drive back north to my car still parked in La Crosse.
Posted under Artist? Scientist? Philosopher? Camera Guy?
This post was written by sbetchkal on February 17, 2011