Sure, sure, the world’s most powerful leaders gathered and discussed ways to solve the world’s AIDS problem, bring democracy to the middle east, and save the turtles, but that has all been well-documented. Instead, I’d like to write about the G8 I came to know and love – the events that occured at the International Media Center as seen from workstation #56, my home for 5 days.
Every day began the same. The alarm would go off at 6:30, I would curse quietly, and get ready for work. Someone from the station would drive me downtown, where we’d see convoys of police cars, army humvees, lots of fences around federal buildings, and national guardsmen on every corner. I would show my ID to several people with guns, who would then allow me to get on the ferry boat which would shuttle me across the river where I would show my ID to more people with bigger guns. After a walk through a metal detector, putting my bag on the conveyor belt, and several body scans with a hand-held metal detector, it would be decided that I was indeed there to tell stories not to destroy democracy, and I would be allowed inside.
The Trade-Center-turned-International-Media-Center (IMC) is a pretty large space. There was the “filing station,” which was row after row of tables divided into 500 little workstations, one of which was rented by our company. I enjoyed sitting at our workstation and just listening. The lady to my right was a writer for CBS Marketwatch. To my left were writers for the LA Times. Across the table were writers from Spain (I loved trying to use my limited Spanish to eavesdrop), another from Britain, and one from Brunswick Georgia of all places. If you stopped for a few minutes anywhere in the IMC and just listened, you were sure to hear a lot of different languages.
There was also a broadcast section, where TV networks bought space to set up all their equipment and created mini-newsrooms. CNN’s was impressive, as was the one for NBC (I’m biased there). The BBC also had one, as did NHK (Japan Broadcasting) among others. Perhaps the coolest people-watching for me was done outside by the river, where a long, white tent stretched down the sidewalk providing shelter for the nearly 50 standup locations. These were the spots where networks (and smaller stations like ours) would do live shots with the river and Riverstreet as backdrops. At any given moment, someone was broadcasting live to somewhere else around the world. I watched NBC correspondents as well as Al Jazeera correspondents telling their G8 stories to the masses. It was fun to watch the crews too. So much equipment, so much work.
By day 3 (third day of coverage, but only the first day of the acutal summit), I was getting pretty tired. The days were interesting but long, and my feet were worn out from running around the cavernous IMC. I still couldn’t complain though, because we had free food, free snacks, and even a machine that created free lattes. However, I had traded my more sylish heels for frumpy flats because I just couldn’t sacrifice for fashion any longer.
My good choice in footwear was confirmed on day four. I had the chance to interview NBC White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell, and I felt sure she’d be wearing stilettos. But when we met for the interview, I was pleased to see that despite her classy black suit, she was wearing white flip flops. Her feet were tired too.
I was nervous about that interivew. I didn’t want to sound silly or amatuer in front of Norah, but my nerves increased when they told me we’d be doing the interview on NBC’s liveshot set. They wanted to shoot it and use their lights because they knew it’d look better. But that also meant instead of being critiqued by Norah, I’d also be watched by a half dozen network crew members. They were all very kind. Just before we began, I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked with surprise to see a crew member wiping off my jacket. “You had a little something on your sleeve.” Another straightened my collar. No one at my station ever straightens my collar or checks for dirt on my sleeve. Ahhhhh. Network.
I also had my picture made with David Gregory, the other NBC White House Correspondent. He was very kind. I became friends with Sylvain Coudoux, a photographer with NHK, and enjoyed hearing his jaded but amusing impressions of the summit and of TV news.
The last day of the summit, I had completely run out of steam. But I was still excited because the President was coming to the IMC and I had a pass to get in to the press conference. It was there that I had my dorkiest moment of the 5 day stint. Sitting next to a coworker, I asked her, “do you mind taking my picture?” This was before the President arrived, when everyone was still milling around and finding seats. I just wanted a quick shot of me in the room. But oh no, that wasn’t good enough. My co-worker insisted, “Get up and stand in the aisle so I can get the podium behind you!” I protested, but she continued so I obliged. Then she took a really long time framing it just so, meanwhile holding up a crowd of journalists who wanted to get past her to sit down. I was so embarrassed. Such a tourist.
As I got on the ferry to leave the IMC at the end of that day, I knew I would miss the latte machine, the open bar at night, and the hum and energy of the IMC – but I was ready for some normalcy. I was ready to go home. Then, one of the network producers boarded the same ferry, and invited me to have dinner with the network crew. Tired though you may be, you just can’t turn down a chance to raise a glass with the network. Especially when the network is picking up the bill. Good times. Good people.
I took a ton of pictures – but this slideshow features a few of my favorites.