A First!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today marks a milestone in my slow but steady journey of becoming a journalist.  Pictured above is the first media credential I have ever been issued to cover a newsworthy event.  For previous assignments, I had to rely upon pre-planning or special access to events in order to attend and report back on the proceedings (and I had my disappointing experience with President Obama's recent trip to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base).  While I did get access to the recognized media area during the local Romney town hall meeting last month, I think that approval was more due to a time and resource crunch and as a favor on the staff's part because there really wasn't a mechanism in place to verify my claim for a credential request (I did ask for one in my RSVP for that event that was never acknowledged).  After I showed several forms of identification to the Secret Service, I was given the 'all clear' and allowed past the area's 'gate keeper' to mingle among the other journalists in attendance.  Today's events ran much smoother and I will detail them below.

Earlier this week, I started doing my research for the upcoming Doolittle Raider reunion that will be held in the Dayton area starting today in Urbana, Ohio and ending in Dayton next Friday.  This is to be the 70th and, unfortunately, final reunion for the remaining crew members of the April 1942 bombing raid of the Japanese mainland just four months after their attack on US military forces at Pearl Harbor (the advancing ages of the surviving members is the reason for ending these regularly annual events).  Two years ago, for the 68th reunion, the National Museum of the United States Air Force hosted a large reunion celebration which included one of the largest gatherings of the remaining airworthy B-25 Mitchell bombers for a static display at (and a formation flight over) that facility.  They will be doing the same thing again this year and the word has been spread far and wide in news releases and online locations for allow aviation and Air Force history buffs to plan accordingly.

Urbana is a key location for this initiative because the city's Grimes Field previously served (and will do so again this year) as the first destination for the participating planes and pilots to assemble.  The city saw a large influx of tourists associated with that 2010 'fly-in' and wanted to capitalize on that previous success for another hosting in 2012 for the 70th reunion.  According to their published agenda, aircraft would start arriving as early as the Friday before the Dayton events and the field would be open to visitors from Saturday (April 14) to the following Tuesday (April 17) when they make an early morning mass departure for the short flight over to the Dayton base.

When I saw just how many planes were anticipated to show this time around, I looked up the event's website and found a link for media credential requests and I quickly clicked on it to draft my email to the approver.  I explained my situation (journalism student, military retiree) and the representative quickly sent me a reply back approving my request and giving me instructions for reporting in on Saturday (today).  Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear when I read his response and felt a sense of pride in knowing that my persistence and focus on the overall goal of my studies had taken a big leap forward.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a similar successful experience with the Air Force museum's approving official (and will be limited to covering events for the general public only) but getting one out of my two last-minute requests accepted is still a pretty good accomplishment for a relative novice who has no sponsoring organization.

In preparation for the morning, I came home earlier than normal last night so I could get enough sleep before today's 6AM wake-up call.  After breakfast, a quick shower and a final check of my equipment, I loaded up my car and headed north.  Serenaded by the sounds of the 'Big Band Era' on my satellite radio ("Blue Moon" by Glen Gray and Chick Webb's "Stompin' at the Savoy" were two of the songs that caught my attention), I made the 30-mile drive up to Urbana and my first recognized reporting 'gig'.  I arrived at Grimes Field around 8:30AM and made my way to the media check-in area (inside the Grimes Flying Lab Museum hangar).  I was met by Mike Wallace (no relation to the iconic CBS journalist who recently passed away) and he briefed me on the rules and limitations for the activities in and around the active airfield.  We talked for a little bit and I found out that we shared a common friend (a former Dayton Daily News reporter who is currently exploring other career options) and that his wife is the editor-in-chief for Cox Media Group Ohio (and someone I wrote about at this blog late last year).  We exchanged contact information and it was at that time that he handed me my lanyard with the coveted credential attached.  I thanked him for his support and advice and then ventured off into the inclement conditions with my media badge prominently displayed to do what I came to Urbana to do--journalism!

Over the next five hours, I took in the sights and sounds at and around Grimes Field, to include 159 photos and 9 short video clips.  I had the opportunity to interview several people associated with the event (pilots, vendors, aircraft restorers, a former Air Force One maintainer, and a 93-year old World World II veteran) that I will incorporate those discussions into upcoming stories from today's as well as next week's events surrounding the Doolittle reunion.  Being on my feet for all of that time, I was starting to feel my age when the rain started falling heavier and was forecast to stay that way for the rest of the day.  I had thoughts of keeping the credential and coming back on Sunday when the weather was expected to be a lot better; however, I was politely reminded by my smartphone that I already had previous commitments and, sadly, made my way over to the hangar to turn it back in.

After I got back to my car, I had the chance to relax and reflect on the day's events.  While I didn't get to use all of my credential's 'powers' (chose not go over to the press-only areas near the runway for photos/videos or stick around to see if there would be any free media seats on the B-25s who were selling rides for between $400 to $500 a passenger), I did get to try out the role of an authorized media member in this small and controlled setting without too many bumps or bruises to show for it.  I hope to build upon this initial experience and let it fuel future formal requests for covering news events in the local area.  As I said for the Obama event, the worst thing that they tell me is 'no' and I'll have to get used to hearing that word if I want to become a successful practitioner of the 'journalistic arts'.

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