Early this morning I fashioned a press ID; using a lanyard I actually found lying on the floor of my car (what luck), I attached an atlantic beachlife decal to the end of it, hung it around my neck and voila! My press ID. It was cheesy looking, but you know what? No one laughed out loud, and I accomplished what I set out to do today.
I got up at an ungodly hour after just a few hours of sleep and picked up my two young colleagues, high schoolers Nick Lulli and Megan Moser.
Nick formed the online news network 2News Now, and Megan often accompanies him on assignments. Nick had called Books a Million last week, gave our names/affiliations and was assured that we were “on the list” of those who were to be given press credentials for the Sarah Palin “Going Rogue” book tour, which rolled into Jacksonville this morning.
People who wanted their books signed by Palin were made to queue for wristbands yesterday; having procured the wristband meant that they’d be allowed to queue again today, for a chance to briefly meet Palin and have their book signed by her. I heard that people were forming the line by 8:00am Monday morning, and the coveted wristbands were to be handed out at 5:00pm.
Books a Million was telling people that only 500 or so should expect to make it through the line during the two hour signing on Palin’s schedule. Two thousand people showed up for wristbands, and about 600 did get their books signed by the end of the event. (Sarah Palin left signed book plates for the wristband holders who did not make it in. I managed to snag one one for me, Nick and Megan, being a member of the media and all. Angling for that was an ancillary goal of the day, too.)
But we were going in as part of the media. So no waiting for us, and prime access for camera and video shots for the media.
I couldn’t actually believe that they’d let me in, but you know? I walked the walk and no one doubted my authenticity. For the security that was evident all around – at least 30 members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, rooftop lookouts, and private security – we amateurs arrived early, were the first of the media to climb onto the press riser and stake our spot. No one was there with an actual list, and no one questioned us. We were given the same access as the reporters from Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition, and all the local print and electronic media outlets. This was big.
Whenever someone would ask, “Who are you with?” I’d nonchalantly show my makeshift press ID and say, “Atlantic Beachlife; I’m a community blogger.” And after Palin arrived, made brief remarks to the very excited crowd and introduced her family, they went into the store and the signing began.
We weren’t sure what kind of access we’d have after that, but suddenly I was told, “Hurry on in, the press area is in the coffee shop,” and off I scurried with the rest of the pack, my cheap looking “press ID” obviously worked because now I really was one of them. Once I was in the thick of the action I was behaving like a member of the media on pure instinct: seeking my shot, finding my opening. I got the adorable Piper to tell me that yes, she did style her hair all by herself and that her favorite TV show is “Miley Cyrus.”
Sarah Palin’s Aunt Katie was delightful. We talked after the ET and Inside Edition interviewed her, and we connected, because she hugged me when we were finished.
And why not? It’s the theme of Palin’s book after all. If she can go rogue, so can I. And now that I’ve pulled it off, and successfully, too, I am officially considering myself and this blog a member of the media.
Props to Nick Lulli, who told me it’d be easy to do. I’m not above learning the ropes from a sixteen-year-old. Media’s changed, I know that. Community bloggers have a voice.