Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Reporting Life

I reported on the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden last Friday for a local paper, the Queens Ledger. It was my first time reporting on an event where I was actually an accredited reporter (ah, the swagger a media pass puts into one's walk). The press room is deserving of a satirical article, one which I won't attempt. But I will describe it.

The John Condon Press Room is located on the sixth floor of Madison Square Garden. I walked in and immediately got the impression that I'd stepped into an airport lounge. There was a long oak bar on the back wall of the lounge, square tables and chairs arranged around the floor, TVs hung in the corners of the room, and dark wall-to-wall carpeting. The back room was where the magic happened: it was illuminated by fluorescent lights and the walls were lined with cubicles, each with an outlet, a Internet connection, and a plaque with the name of a different newspaper. When I walked in, half an hour before the games started, several people were already there. Everyone had a laptop and the photographers had spread out some of their equipment on the long tables.

A buffet dinner was served, though one had to pay $5, which would go to charity. So no, the media weren't wined and dined by the event promoters.

Trying to figure out where to sit inside Madison Square Garden once the games began was a whole other matter. There were several press boxes, but the ones closest to the floor were reserved for the big papers. Everyone else could sit in the North or South Press Box, which were quite a distance from the floor. My editor wanted me to write a story involving human drama, not just times and records, so I was really stumped about what to report. For one, I'd never reported on sports before. I have no clue about terminology and the races were so quick that I barely had time to note down what was happening. Coincidentally, I ran into a friend from school when I took a random empty seat. He was a seat away, there to watch the games, and he explained to me what was going on. Eventually though, I circled the arena, going up and down the tiers and looking for people in track outfits, in order to find the human drama for my story.

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