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In the Studio: MSNBC

September 28th, 2007

You would think it was all hustle-bustle, phones, people running, papers flying, tv’s blaring on a large, brightly-lit floor of an office building. At least, that’s how it often is in the movies when “ding” goes the elevator and the camera follows the protagonist down the aisle of desks and cubicles, co-workers nodding curt hello’s, phones glued to their ear. After all, it is MSNBC, one of the most-viewed–if not *the* most viewed–news website. (at left: “control room”)

You would think.

In reality it is a fairly small, dimly-lit office crammed with waist-height cubicles on the impeccably manicured Microsoft campus in Redmond. Yes, there are desks with racks of flat panel monitors and enough digital equipment to pilot a Boeing 787, but at lunch hour–which is often done at the desk–it was pretty quiet. They’d like to move to Seattle but with all the satellite communications equipment they need and the Seattle real estate prices, well, it just doesn’t make sense. (at right: Meredith editing “The Week in Pictures”)

I had wrapped a portrait shoot of Microsoft executives Robbie Bach and Steve Berkowitz and was visiting multimedia editor Meredith Birkett, an old acquaintance I met through Teri Boyd and Brian Storm when they worked there. Teri, my original Blue Earth Alliance mentor, later went to the Seattle Times, back to Chicago, and is now in Paris. Brian, a pioneer in multimedia and visionary for the early MSNBC site, moved on to Corbis and then to his own company, Mediastorm. Speaking of Mediastorm, they received an Emmy for “Kingsley’s Crossing,” an undocumented immigrant’s journey to Europe for economic opportunity. (at left: multimedia journalist Jim Seida)

Meredith gave me a long overdue tour of the studio and then wanted to hear what stories I was working on. It was a good practice session for “the pitch,” but all four were shot down. Their freelance budget is pitifully small (ie. my proposal was too expensive), their readers won’t be interested, and (for my Antarctica pitch) “we just did that.” Last year they covered ANDRILL, a deep sediment coring project. (at right: Meredith)

Well, it’s not often one gets this kind of time from an editor, even one who lives just down the street, and work-stuff aside, it’s just nice to reconnect and see the cool things other people do for work. Not that they’re going to, but if they offered me a job I’d take it. Even if they don’t get the Microsoft stock option.

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