October 16, 2009

CNN and Me

Category: News — Ira @ 6:37 pm

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I make my living off the evening news.
Just give me something, something I can use.
People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry…

Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down.
Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down…

We can do the innuendo, we can dance and sing.
When it’s said and done, we haven’t told you a thing.
We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry.

—Don Henley, lyrics: Dirty Laundry
_____________________________

I really don’t know how this stuff happens. Generally I mind my own business pretty well. It’s not like I’m out there, beating the bushes for publicity. But once in awhile, it seems, strange events bombard me, events so far beyond the remotest realms of possibility that the aftermath leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. And a little shaken.

It all started a few weeks ago one morning at work. I stumbled in bleary eyed, sipping my coffee, with nothing more on my mind than the day’s work schedule. After firing up my computer and checking my email, I noticed a message from a strange source. CNN. Probably spam, I thought. That close, I deleted it. But then decided to check it out. The sender claimed to work for CNN in New York. She had noticed on my blog that I listen to talk radio. They were doing a program soon on conservative talk radio listeners. Would I perhaps be interested in an interview?

It seemed legit. So I returned a short message. You want to talk to me. When? How long? I’m available evenings. Within two minutes she replied. Could I call her right away? It wouldn’t take but a minute.

So I called, setting off a chain of events that will culminate next week. The nice lady’s name was Nailah and she hadn’t lied. She actually needed only about two minutes. Where was I located? Lancaster, PA. How long had I listened to talk radio, specifically Rush? Since 1992. Do I still listen every day? Yep. Which local station do I listen to? WHP 580 in Harrisburg, Bob Durgin’s afternoon show. And RJ Harris in the mornings.

And that was about it. Kinda wild. Nothing at all about being raised Amish. That’s my shtick, where most of my stories originate, and why my readership is what it is. But she didn’t go there at all. By George, they were on the subject of talk radio listeners, and that’s what they’d stick with.

She told me that the Lancaster area would be quite attractive to them, since the producer and other personnel could drive up, and get it done in one day. After giving her my contact numbers, I hung up. I didn’t think enough of the conversation to mention it to a single soul. The chances of CNN interviewing me, I figured, were about as remote as me winning the Mega lottery. Ain’t gonna happen. Not after they read some of the rants on my blog.

The following week, I left for my niece’s wedding in Indiana. The CNN thing was so far removed from my consciousness that I never even mentioned it to one person. I returned to the office on Monday, Oct. 5, again with nothing more on my mind than the work that had piled up in my absence.

Before 9, my direct line rang. Unknown number. 212 area code. I answered. It was Bob Ruff, a CNN producer from New York City. Would I still be interested in doing an interview? Sure, I said. We talked a bit, and he told me he would arrive with the filming crew on Wednesday afternoon. The filming would be done for their morning show, American Morning. I would be interviewed by Carol Costello, from CNN’s Washington D.C. office.

He paused a bit after speaking her name, as if awaiting my startled exclamation. I said nothing. I wouldn’t know Carol Costello if I saw her. Never heard of her. I didn’t say that, just thought it. It also flashed through my mind that being interviewed by some wacko left wing feminist anchorette from DC was probably just about the last thing I needed. But I didn’t say that either.

Bob thanked me and hung up. He’d be in touch to finalize details, he claimed. I hung up. About then I started to freak out just a bit. I approached Pat, my boss, and filled him in. Sorry, I said. I should have told you before. After picking himself up off the floor, Pat allowed that he had no problems with the plan. Go for it, he said. After lunch, Bob called again. It was set. They would come on Wednesday.

I tried to grasp what had just happened. CNN had just called and they were coming out to interview me. CNN. That bastion of left wing, Obama-worshiping liberalism. CNN, which for years has been leaking viewers like a sieve. I’m no fan of CNN. And that’s being polite. I never watch any of their programming. Never. My head would explode. (I don’t watch Fox News either. I’m fair and balanced. I don’t watch any TV news.) But now CNN had somehow located me and wanted to interview me about conservative talk radio. It had to be a trap.

Tuesday arrived and I expected to hear from Bob the producer again. But the phone stayed quiet. He never called. Maybe they weren’t coming after all, I told Pat as we discussed the situation. Pat asked if I was preparing any comments. Nope. I didn’t know what they’re going to ask, and besides, if you know what you believe, you don’t need to prepare statements. Just state your beliefs. That’s what Rush always says.

Strangely, I slept well on Tuesday night. Slumbered. Wednesday dawned. I dressed and set out for the office, half thinking the CNN people wouldn’t show up. But as I drove along, listening to RJ Harris of the local WHP station in Harrisburg, he suddenly announced that CNN was coming by that day. To interview them and local listener Ira Wagler. Believe me, when you’re driving along half asleep early in the morning, sipping coffee, and you hear your own name booming over the radio, that jolts you awake. Big time. Big Blue almost dove for the ditch. And about that moment I realized without a doubt that CNN was indeed coming to interview me that day.

At the office, the day proceeded. No calls from Bob the producer. Noon came and went. Still nothing. Then about 1 o’clock, my cell phone rang. Bob the producer. They were just wrapping up at WHP in Harrisburg. They would be at the office by 2:30. They wanted to film me at my desk listening to Rush on the Internet before 3:00.

I tried to stay calm. But I was freaking again, just a bit. What in the world had I gotten myself into this time? Around 2:30, after fielding a few calls from Bob and the cameraman, who claimed to be lost, the main crew arrived. They wasted no time. The cameraman, whose name now escapes me, opened a large case and extracted a huge filming camera. He set up in my office and filmed for the next fifteen minutes. Just me sitting at my desk, working (or pretending to) while listening to Rush. Another cameraman was on the way, and Carol Costello should be here by 3:00, they said.

The second cameraman arrived, and moments later the door opened and she strolled in. A lovely, polished lady, perfectly coifed. Carol Costello. One of the “beautiful people.” She walked right up to the counter where I stood, half frozen, smiled graciously and extended her hand. We introduced ourselves. And stood there and chatted while the cameramen set up their equipment.

There was about a ton of it. They opened cases, set up bright lights, strung electrical cords, plugged in stuff. Everyone in the office pretty much shut down and stood at a safe distance, gaping. Carol and I chatted. She immediately put me at ease. No, she didn’t have a list of questions. She would let the conversation flow naturally, she said. And no trick questions.

“Are you really going to use this film on CNN, or is this just one of many?” I asked.

“It’s definitely running,” she answered. “I make those decisions. This filming should have an actual air time of around three minutes, which is a long time.”

“I’ll look forward to it.” I said. “But I’m withholding judgment until I see the final presentation. I don’t really trust you guys.” A huge understatement. She laughed.

“You better treat me right,” I said, half jokingly. “Or I’ll whack you on my blog.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “We just want to do a piece on people who listen to talk radio.”

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Getting wired.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get nervous. The cameramen approached and wired us both with tiny mics. A few practice runs, and we were off.

She was a class act. Gracious. Good, really good at what she did. Looked me in the eyes. Talked directly to me. I did the same to her. And strangely, even though my coworkers and some customers stood on the peripheral of things and watched, I was able to tune everyone out and focus almost entirely on Carol and her questions. She kept her promise. No trick questions. She didn’t try to trap me. She allowed the conversation to flow.

It was mostly about Rush. I mentioned Glenn Beck, but Rush was the focus. When did I start listening to him? 1992, I said. Do I agree with him? Not on everything. My political views? Ron Paul libertarian. And so on. At the very end, she asked a few questions about the local WHP station and the guys there.

And I stood there in front of the counter behind which I work every day, a hick country boy from hardscrabble roots, and talked for probably twenty-five minutes to this beautiful cosmopolitan jet-setting CNN correspondent from Washington, DC. Who had briefly left her world and inserted herself into mine. Unbelievably, time flew. I stammered and stuttered a few times, but overall, I spoke slowly, at least for me, and gave fairly articulate answers. At least I think so. Watch the film prove me wrong.

THE ACTUAL INTERVIEW. Thanks to Rosita Martin for her pics.
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And then it was over. At least that part. Now, Bob the producer instructed, we needed to go for a ride on Big Blue, with both cameramen squashed in the back seat, as I drove “home” and listened to local firebrand Bob Durgin, whose show started immediately after Rush. So we walked out and piled in. Carol and I up front. Two men with large filming cameras in the back. By this time, Carol and I were chatting it up like old friends. I was completely at ease. She was just a person, doing her job.

She claimed to have met my hero, Ron Paul, numerous times in the CNN studios. I believe her. I startled her only once. She spoke glowingly of some of the bipartisan Republicans she knew in DC. Like Lindsay Graham, for instance, she said. I said nothing, just mumbled under my breath, “Lindsay Graham is a pansy.”

She heard me and gasped. Couldn’t stop herself. I hastily explained. “He’s moderate. Bipartisan. I don’t want bipartisan. I want someone who stands on principles.”

We then took another short drive in Big Blue, just me and her, as the cameraman filmed us from our yard. We sat in the truck, chatting like two old friends.

“Does anyone here at your office watch CNN?” She suddenly asked, almost wistfully. I wanted to tell her that we did. But I couldn’t.

“No,” I answered gently. “But we will watch this episode.” She nodded, looking mildly crestfallen.

And then her part was over and it was time for her to leave. “Before you go,” I said, “I want a picture of just me and you.” She agreed readily. So we stood and posed.

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Carol Costello and me.

“Now I want an autograph,” I said. And she was genuinely flattered. She wrote me a nice little note and signed and dated it. “This is big stuff,” I told her. “Nothing much ever happens in this hick town.”

“I still have to pinch myself sometimes,” she replied. “That I actually work at CNN.” And then she smiled and waved and left us. Back to her home in Baltimore, and her office in DC. The intense savage world of broadcast journalism.

The cameraman still wanted footage of me walking to Big Blue with my briefcase, “going home.” Shot after shot, in scene after scene. He got it all.

And all that footage will be edited down to around three minutes of actual air time. Probably interspersed with opposing viewpoints. Who knows? It will show on CNN’s American Morning program on one of three dates, Oct. 19, 20 or 21. After airing, it will be available almost immediately on CNN’s website. After it’s posted, I will link to this site and also on Facebook. I’m curious indeed as to what will be shown and how it’s presented.

The next morning, Thursday, RJ Harris of the local WHP station called me at work to discuss the event. We spoke live on the air for about four minutes. And with that, the whirlwind twenty-four hours of abnormal activities ended. Only then did I stop, relax and try to absorb what had actually happened.

I’d been interviewed on CNN, for their American Morning program. Which is aired nationally from coast to coast. I’d been picked from among three hundred million fellow Americans. Randomly, it seemed.

Why, one might ask, would I even do such a thing? It’s risky. Even though I didn’t say anything stupid, they can still make me look stupid, with their editing and cutting. Cut short a sentence. Splice words together, to make me say something I hadn’t said. There’s any number of things that might happen.

It could be a hit job. I don’t know. And won’t until I see it.

If it is, it is. Either way, it was a grand adventure. The kind of adventure most people don’t get to experience in a lifetime. Besides, I figured I held a trump card. If it is a hit job, I can at least expose it for what it was to the people that know me. Right here, on this blog.

Unlike most people, at least I have somewhat of a public forum out there to defend myself. I hope Carol Costello and the folks at CNN treat me right. If they do, I’ll gladly credit them. If they don’t, well, they’ll stir the old writing juices again. Get me roiled and riled. And we’ve all walked together down that path before.

***************************************
POST NOTE:

THE FIRST SEGMENT WAS BROADCAST MONDAY, OCT. 19. IT’S THE ONLY ONE THAT INCLUDED ME.

Link to Monday’s broadcast

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(20 Comments) »

  1. I cannot believe it! I know a famous person!!

    Congratulations on the interview. We will certainly be watching – if we can find the channel. I am very curious to see if the name of Arlan Spectacle ever came up.

    Comment by Ed Yoder — October 16, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  2. WHAT!!???? I am sure you did an awesome job with the interview. I hate to turn the TV to CNN, but I guess I will have to just this one time!

    You’ve hit the big time, Ira!

    Comment by Dawn — October 16, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  3. Uncle Ira, the big TV star! I’m sure you had fun and did well. Maybe Pat will present you with a healthy bonus from the extra revenue that is sure to flow from the publicity.

    I’ll definitely set the DVR for that show on those days.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — October 16, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  4. Ira didn’t comment in his blog how he couldn’t decide what to wear, was asking advice from Dorothy and me in the office. He ended up bringing in 4 shirts but still wore what he wanted and not what we suggested!! Oh well, he did a great job anyway, didn’t matter what he wore!!!

    Comment by Rosita Martin — October 16, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

  5. Based on your honest, interesting and vivid interpretation of the Amish in your blog, I believe CNN likely picked the best guy around to interpret Rush for liberal America.

    Comment by Allen King — October 16, 2009 @ 8:31 pm

  6. There perhaps aren’t that many folks around that have listened to ‘The Fat One’ since 1992, and still have their smarts ….. Congrats. I’m sure you did well.

    Comment by Grandpa Jess — October 16, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  7. Now this is the proper use of the word, “well known”. Hah, good for you. I’ll look forward to seeing the interview.

    Comment by Jerry Eicher — October 16, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

  8. Congrats… Who knows what doors this may open for you…

    Comment by RG — October 17, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  9. Can’t wait to see it! I cracked up when you said that being raised Amish is your “shtick” – everybody’s gotta have something, huh?? Did they say how they found you? It’s funny how one thing leads to another, and you’re smart and “well read” (no pun intended) so I’m sure you were able to give good answers. Hope nothing was in your teeth!! HA HA I like how Rosita (above) spilled the beans about choosing your shirt ~ Mr. Cool was a bit nervous, huh? :) Have a good weekend ~

    Comment by Bethrusso — October 17, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  10. Rats. Now I am going to have to watch CNN.

    Ha! Congrats Ira. Proud for you and of you.

    Comment by RagPicker — October 17, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  11. Wow! You will no longer be famous only to ex-Amish etc.! Now the whole world (or at least the liberals) will know your face & name! Congrats, Ira! Now my only problem is watching CNN for 3 mornings!

    Nate Wagler

    Comment by Nate Wagler — October 17, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  12. First of all, BIG CONGRATS!

    And second, I wonder if all the many hits from DC that I’m having again and again on my blog in the last few weeks could be connected to something like this? People reading blogs looking for interesting news coverage? I’d wondered what was up. . . .

    Comment by happymom4 AKA Hope Anne — October 17, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  13. Your readers are very proud of you for many reasons.

    This must have been a fun experience. You have once again provided us with something new and interesting. What possibly could be coming next???

    Comment by Robert Miller — October 18, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

  14. From a little Amish boy to world-wide media. CNN of all people, who would’a thought, but we will watch anyway. Who will call for the next interview? Perhaps it will be from behind the Golden EIB microphone.

    Congrats, wish you the best.

    Comment by P. Graber — October 18, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  15. Talent on loan from God. Good job, Ira!

    Comment by Tom B. — October 20, 2009 @ 4:07 am

  16. It’s on CNN… http://amfix.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/19/talk-radio-who-is-listening/

    Comment by John Doe — October 20, 2009 @ 8:14 am

  17. Congrats Ira! You did a great job! -gs

    Comment by Gary Swartzentruber — October 20, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  18. Congrats on what you said on CNN. Not trusting politicians – or news reporters. Good doctrine, that.

    My guess as to why you (were chosen): you now represent perhaps the single most important opinion molder for Amish and ex-Amish in the country, at least in regard to outside-the-community politics.

    Not that CNN knows that necessarily. But it is a spiritual conspiracy. The interview focuses on Rush, neo-con (which means Trotskyite), and partisan Republican. This is the target liberals want to have, since he is the alter-ego moving to the same overall statist plan. By making him “the liberals’ bad guy” they avoid the fact that third party or independent candidates are just as electable as anyone else, if we avoid the “news.” They also thereby move you to keep listening to Rush, after he should have been shut off years ago (especially after promoting the one-worlders’ NAFTA).

    Some of you think I’m joking. Others think I’m a nut. Hm.

    Comment by LeRoy — October 23, 2009 @ 12:12 am

  19. I just read your post. I grew up with Carol in rural Ohio. She may appear to be sophisticated and “cosmopolitan,” but we’re just country people who have also gone out into the world. I have a Ph.D. in French, and have traveled to many countries. Many of us can relate to your memoir, because we have had a less intense but equally momentous experience of leaving a “safe” enclave behind. No wonder you could relate to Carol.

    Comment by Candice — June 21, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  20. What an experience!

    Comment by Francine — February 2, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

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