This blog post really started to develop last Thursday.
After catching up on some sleep from my adventures at the DNC in Denver I knew I had to try and get a one-on-one interview with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin during her trip to Albuquerque for a rally.
I got my first break when I was invited to cover radio chores for the local press pool. Yet, I knew the odds of getting an interview were against me. Only recently has Palin agreed to be interviewed by ABC's Charlie Gibson, and that's not until later this week up in Alaska. Other than ABC she isn't talking to my media mates.
I've been called a "pushy" reporter, because I'm usually the one who asks the first and last question at news conferences. And frankly these kinds of media events favor photographers with long range lens. So I was on a mission this weekend to get some audio for the radio pool. All I wanted was to be able to talk to Sarah Palin on tape.
At every stop along her journey in Albuquerque I asked her handlers if they could give me just a few minutes to talk with her about state issues she may have to deal with if elected, including drilling on the Otero Mesa, healthcare, and even western water compacts.
After being denied at every stop, and at every turn, I even thought about calling the hotel operator and asking to be put through to Todd and Sarah Palin's room. Now that's assertive, but maybe too assertive. I figured the secret service would bump me off the tour if I tried the hotel operator tactic.
This morning, I settled in for another long Sunday morning of waiting for the just the right moment. It finally came during a photo op trip McCain and Palin took to a local restaurant famous for their salsa and chile.
Just before 1pm, the press crews were herded off to an outside garden patio. I lingered just a minute to say "hello" to a waitress I knew from working there a few years ago, and somehow got stuck between McCain, several diners, and the photographers.
At that moment, I saw Palin finally walking onto the patio. She was coming my way. I quickly turned on my recorder, and when she smiled and stopped in front of me and I welcomed her to New Mexico.
Here's the audio from our :32 second conversation.
Now you're probably wondering why I didn't start with a hard hitting question like what she thought about the government taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but I didn't want to scare her off. After she started talking I planned a more important question to generate a newsworthy repsonse, but just after we started McCain's long-time traveling press secretary Brooke Buchanan broke us up. Despite the fact that Palin seemed to be enjoying her conversation, looking me in the eye, and smiling. When you listened to the tape does she sound like she's irritated talking to me? Not at all!
Almost instantly the secret service directed me back to the bus.
Eventually I was rescued by one of the local handlers (thanks KL). Actually I think one of the staffers directed Palin my way so I wouldn't go home empty handed. Photographers can always get a shot for their pools. Audio is harder to get for the radio crews.
It turns out TV crews in other cities have sparred with Brooke.
As we got ready to leave the restaurant, McCain and Todd Palin went to the cashier's stand to buy some salsa to take with them. After ringing up a little more than $8 bucks in locally made products the two men were heard haggling about who would pay the cashier named Savannah. In the end, I understand John McCain whipped out a $20 and they families left the restaurant and headed back to the airport where ABSOLUTELY NO REPORTERS were allowed to go near Palin.
I'm sure Gov. Palin will be back to town. I'm also sure I'll try again.
Photo credit: Peter St. Cyr