Media Management

February 24th, 2006

(Left: Senator Cantwell with biodiesel in hand.) I’ve been following biodiesel for a little while now. Not that I’m a biodiesel “groupie” (said with utter respect) as I drive a gas-guzzling lemon of a Subaru. I’ve been following it because Gov. Gregoire wants to turn our state into a domestic renewable fuel producer.

Enter Senators Clinton and Cantwell. According to major media (I’ve got the articles bookmarked but I’m too lazy to link them here) Clinton doesn’t have much re-election competition so she’s able to support her fellow democrats (Cantwell) and fundraise for herself around the nation. And who knows about the next presidential election.

But Clinton is a fan of alternative energy. So is Cantwell. I mean, heck, Seattle mayor Greg Nickels gave the Bush administration the finger by getting 200 other mayors to endorse the Kyoto protocols and Cantwell’s got that Seattle connection so…

So there I was, returning to the ‘office’ after meeting an attorney to talk about sexual violence cases (one guy is likely to be nailed for hoarding 25-30 pair of underwear…that belong to someone a lot, lot younger). I open up the web page of the local paper to find Cantwell and Clinton will be at Seattle Biodiesel. In 20 minutes.

It’s a little disappointing to have repeatedly tried to work the media channels of your politicians’ offices only to get your ‘press release’ from the local paper. It took all of a minute to grab my gear and walk right back out the door, calling Seattle Biodiesel on the way–fortunately I’d been there only a week earlier and the admin person remembered me, handed me off to a Cantwell flak (media person) who ok’d my attendance.

“But you can’t park on site,” was the last thing she said.

I squeezed in beside a rail car filled with soybean oil and ran down the street. Seattle PD stood around looking tough. Some guys in suits too–you never know if they’re Secret Service, Federal Marshals, State Patrol, or from the Sheriff–until you look at that little pin on their lapel. Around the corner, out of sight, was the media. At all of these events it’s a little reunion, a catch-up, repeat introductions, etc. The still photogs and writers talk and the TV guys talk…we don’t seem to mingle much beyond that. And, of course, the TV reporters dress waaaayyy better than the rest of us.

“Here they come…” and there they go. Into the building while we wait. Then our watchers let us in. It’s just us (the media) and them; the two Senators and the President and the CEO of Seattle Biodiesel standing in front of the refining equipment.

They talk, the reporters ask questions, the camera guys stand there, the still photographers dance around each other vying for different angles, getting closer and closer…kind of like stalking prey. And then it’s over, some more questions, and they are shepherded out the door–of course, not without our watchers getting upset about who is standing where….it messes with their system.

All in all, this was a good one. Simple. A chance to move around, a decent backdrop, the Flaks were cooperative and understanding, they didn’t get between us and the subjects, and…really…it’s these smaller events that are nice because you can get close to the politicians to try to make an image which (hopefully) reveals more of who they are. And, for me at least, it emphasizes that they actually are real people. And they make the decisions that run this country.

But what I want to know is, as a Senator, do you get your own podium? And if so, was it Cantwell’s or Clinton’s?

(NOTE: This event took place January 27, 2006)

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