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Life in the media room Friday, February 23, 2007

Craig Mitchelldyer (front, left) and Miles Vance compare notes in the media room between sessions at the State Wrestling Tournament in Salem on Feb. 17.

The general public often seems to be in awe of the "media pass," like it is some kind of master key that allows you access to anything, anytime, anywhere—backstage at concerts, across police lines at crime scenes, better-than-front-row seating at sporting events, etc. While there are often perks associated with having a media pass, the reality is far less glamorous.

As I mentioned before (here and here), I recently covered the State Wrestling Championships in Salem. As well as getting me into the event for free, my press pass got me premium parking, access to the stadium floor right next to the mats, and access to the media room. (It also got me $2 off a combo meal at Subway, but all the spectators got that, too.)

The media room at the Pavilion in Salem was friendly and practical, but as you can see in the picture, hardly luxurious. What you can't see in the picture is the sunny, 62°day outside. Neither could we. The room itself is underneath one of the sections in the Pavilion. If you're in there when people are wrestling, you hear it every time someone scores.

I don't know how many writers and photographers were there throughout the tournament, but it was a couple dozen at least. For our benefit, the OSAA had equipped the room with folding tables, chairs, and wireless internet access. Even five years ago, I imagine that competition among journalists was for phone lines to contact sources and transmit their stories back home. Now, the competition is for plugs—there are only so many outlets available in the room, and lots of laptops looking for juice. I was never hung out to dry, but a couple of times I had to stretch my power cord as far as it would go. Next year, I'm bringing some kind of a splitter.

What goes on in the media room? In the daytime, it's pretty quiet—a few people arrive, drop off their gear, say hi to friends, compare notes, look at each others websites, and check in with their editors back home. Every now and then the volunteers in the adjacent copy room come over to our side offering Xeroxed packages with the latest results. If there are wrestlers on the mats, most of the media are watching.

In the evening, as deadlines approach, the room starts getting busy. The chatter between colleagues is replaced by the clatter of keyboards and occasional cell phone calls to check facts. As the end of the night comes, attendance gradually declines with nothing more than a quick good night, as the remaining journalists are still concentrating on their stories and pictures. I don't know what happens when the last person leaves ... there was always somebody still there when I went home.