Thursday, August 12, 2010

My 24 hours in the media circus

On Monday afternoon, after my initial tweet about the incident on the JetBlue flight, I went home to my apartment in Brooklyn, had lunch, and settled in to catch up on weekend TV.  I planned to write a post about my weekend in Pittsburgh and I thought I might include something about the flight as part of that post.  Around 2 PM I checked my e-mail and saw a message from a New York Daily News reporter who wanted to talk about what I'd seen.  I don't have much experience dealing with the media, but I thought it would be cool if they put my name in the newspaper so I called him back.  He took down my story and I asked him to make sure to spell my name correctly.  He asked me not to speak to the New York Post, and as I'm not a big fan of the Post, I agreed.

A few hours later I talked to my friend Amanda Rykoff.  She'd seen my tweets about the incident and told me to write the story from my point of view for my blog immediately.  I had planned to wait until Tuesday to write something and include a link to the Daily News story when it came out.  But her point was that I should get my version of the events out right away, so I wrote my blog post and tweeted about it.  My mother called at 6 PM to tell me that the Pittsburgh news stations had stories about the flight, and I watched the local coverage here in New York.

About an hour later a producer at The Early Show on CBS called me.  She asked me to do an exclusive live interview with them on Tuesday morning.  I couldn't believe they'd want me to be on TV but I said yes.  Why not?  At first it was going to be a studio interview in midtown, then they wanted to do a stand-up interview at JFK Airport, then they moved it back to the studio.

That's when my phone blew up with calls, e-mails, and texts.  NBC wanted me to appear on the Today Show.  A local CBS news crew showed up at my apartment and taped me (unshaven and wearing an old T-shirt) for the 11 PM news.  Later in the evening, a Good Morning America producer rang my apartment doorbell every 10 minutes for roughly an hour.  My parents called to let me know that various TV shows had called them looking for me.  Both Amanda and my father convinced me to break my "exclusive" with CBS and go on the Today Show as well.  My father said "Get your name out there!  It's the Today Show!"  Amanda suggested that this story was this year's US Airways Hudson River plane landing and reminded me that those passengers had appeared on all the morning shows.  I was getting overwhelmed with the requests and the details.  But the Today Show producer said that they have procedures for dealing with the other morning shows, and that they routinely hand off guests to one another after interviews.  I agreed to go on the Today Show for a pre-taped interview before 7 AM, then go to CBS for a live spot on The Early Show at 7.  By this time it was nearly midnight.  Even though I went to bed shortly thereafter, I think I only managed to get about two hours of sleep.

I woke up at 5 AM Tuesday, showered, shaved, and put on one of my favorite shirts.  An NBC intern showed up at my apartment with a car at 5:30.  Good Morning America had one of their producers waiting outside as well, and he practically begged me to give them a few minutes after my NBC and CBS commitments.  I told him he'd have to wait and see, then got into NBC's car.  At 30 Rock they whisked me past the plaza and into the green room for a bit of makeup, then I had a few minutes to sit, check my e-mail, and catch my breath.  They took me into the studio, which looks smaller from the inside than it does on TV or even from the plaza.  Meredith Vieira said hello to me from the desk as they put me on the couch.  Matt Lauer came in, shook my hand and said "we can have a little fun with this story."  I was too overwhelmed by the early hour, the lack of sleep, and all the activity to be nervous.  During the interview itself, I focused on Lauer and did my best to ignore the cameras.  As soon as the interview ended, the NBC intern hustled me back out to 48th Street, where I met The Early Show producer and we took another car over to CBS's studio.  The Early Show's team handled me as adroitly as Today's had, getting me into the studio, on the air, and out the door in a matter of minutes.  Again, I didn't even think about the cameras being there.  The thought that I was on live television never entered my head.

I'd had time to check my e-mail again on the way from NBC to CBS.  A CNN producer wanted to know if I could appear on American Morning around 8 AM.  Since I usually go to work at 10 AM, and all these shows are close to each other in midtown Manhattan, I agreed to go on CNN.  When I finished at CBS, a CNN car took me to their studio, which I think was at the Time Warner Center.  I didn't notice because I was too busy reading e-mails from long-lost friends from high school who were writing incredulous things like "Did I just see you on the Today Show?"  I had more time to sit and think while waiting to go on CNN.  My e-mail inbox and voice mail were full of radio and TV interview requests.  Good Morning America had given up, but FOX News wanted me for a spot on their 9 AM show.  I did the American Morning spot and they shot some extra footage in a hallway, for what purpose I have no idea.  On the way out of CNN's office building, a WABC camera crew grabbed me, so I talked to them for two minutes.  Then I got into yet another car to go over to FOX.  The FOX interview experience was almost a carbon-copy of what had happened at CNN, only with more makeup.

After the FOX interview I had to go to work.  And I was exhausted.  I'd been up since 5 AM, I was running on no sleep, and I really wanted to go to my office and get back to my job.  After all, I'd been on vacation since the previous Thursday and I had a lot of work to do.  I did speak to a few more news organizations over the phone in the afternoon, but I ignored requests from the afternoon and evening news shows, including some big names.  I also deleted all the e-mails from radio shows around the country.  You can only tell the same story so many times before it becomes stale.  I saw that there were fresh stories coming into the 24-hour news cycle and knew that soon I would be old, forgotten news.  To my relief, by late afternoon the interview requests had slowed from a flood to a trickle.

Another reason I passed on the vast majority of requests after Tuesday morning was that by the time I was done at FOX, I had the feeling that I'd become a much bigger part of the story than I deserved.  I had made the rounds of the morning shows.  To appear on any other shows in the afternoon or evening would have been completely self-serving.  I admit that I got caught up in the excitement and thrill of the attention in the morning, and I'm not proud of that.  But when else would I have a chance to meet Matt Lauer?  Or John Roberts and Kiran Chetry at CNN?  Tuesday morning was a one-shot deal, and now it's behind me.  I look forward to being anonymous again.

Technology note: I took nearly all the calls, texts, and e-mails on Monday and Tuesday on my iPhone and throughout it all, I only had one dropped call.  And that call took place in a cab headed downtown to my office.  Bravo, Apple and AT&T!


Avirat said...

Thanks for giving us some insight. I really was curious as to how this all went down.

Chris said...

Good for you for sharing and then bowing out when you were ready. Classy move fo sho.