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Here's a little backstage peek at reporting

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

I was transfixed by magic and ventriloquism as a kid. Paul Winchell, with his dummy Jerry Mahoney, was a must-see on television every week, as was magician Mark Wilson.

My favorite segments of such shows were the rare ones in which a little of the techniques behind the illusions were revealed. I know I wasn't the only kid in my generation who wanted to amaze friends and break ice at parties with astounding sleight of hand tricks or throw my voice for similar reasons.

So since my earliest years I've been fascinated by behind the scene stuff. Give me the opportunity to see or learn something that isn't general knowledge and I'm a happy camper.

I thought I would share a little of what really happens at a press event with you this week. I know that you understand that what you read or see is a fraction of what really went on. For completely legitimate reasons, no media outlet can afford to present everything, nor do they discuss the process.

I'm going to draw the curtain a bit to the side so you can see what happens back stage.

I received a press release that stated that State Senator Stephen Buoniconti would be announcing his bid for re-election on March 1 at 2 p.m. at the Basketball Hall of Fame and that State Senate President Robert Travaglini would accompany him.

No offense to Steve, who is a nice guy and capable legislator, the big news here for reporters in western Massachusetts was to have a little face time with Travaglini.

So I arrive at the Hall at 2 p.m., which is actually a little late. Amanda Raus of CBS 3 was there as well as John "Don't call me 'Binky'" Baibak of WHYN. A few moments after I arrived, Mary Ellen Lowney of The Republican arrived.

There were plenty of reporters but a noticeable lack of politicians. So we did what reporters are apt to do: trade insults (John and myself) and generally gossip and complain about working conditions and politicians who don't turn up at their own press events on time.

I said my one question to Travaglini would be whether or not he needed a road map to find Springfield. I was still smarting from inviting him to lunch and not hearing back from him a few weeks ago.

About 2:10 p.m. one of Steve's aides came up to the group and announced that Steve was anticipated in about 20 minutes. Mary Ellen asked her if Travaglini needed a map and the aide said they did give him one. Apparently this nugget might wind up as a "Cries and Whispers" item.

I'll send them an invoice.

Twenty minutes, though, is a major pain, as we all had another assignment. Something like that can throw off your entire day. But we all persevered.

I noticed that there were two TV stations missing and I was told that one said it didn't cover re-election announcements by incumbents and the other wouldn't commit.

The one thing no one teaches in journalism classes is creative waiting. It's a skill you learn on the job.

Finally the pair of politicians turn up. They schmoozed their supporters who had gathered and we all started urging them under our breath to get this thing rolling. They asked their supporters to stand behind them as a statement of support something for television.

About 15 minutes later it was pretty much over. I was back in my car heading through the South End at 3 p.m.

Forty minutes of waiting for 15 minutes of substance is a debatable cost to pay, but considering that two television stations, WFCR and the weeklies that compete with us didn't get a shot at a Travaglini quote tipped the enterprise to the profit side of the ledger for me.

Ah, little victories are the sweetest.

The media lesson for today is that most elected officials will be late. (There are exceptions: Charlie Ryan is always on time.) So, be prepared to amuse yourself and don't schedule something too close to a political event.

These are my opinions alone. You can send your reactions to or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.