Last night before leaving the station — KQED in San Francisco — the news desk at NPR in Washington called to ask for a “spot” — a brief story (45 to 60 seconds) for the network’s hourly newscast. They wanted something on our governor ordering a furlough for most state workers — two days a month starting the 1st of February — and a 10 percent pay cut for managers. The order runs through June 30, 2010, and was imposed because the state faces a $42 billion budget deficit between now and then. (Unfortunately, California doesn’t own a printing press to help bail itself out of trouble, and lots of people and institutions are going to pay for the problem we’ve got.)
No one else was available to do the story, so I did it. It consisted of a lead for the NPR anchor to read, a script for me to read, and a soundbite. My understanding was that the 45-second limit was close to absolute. I wrote something that timed at over a minute (the timing was done with me reading the script with a stopwatch running). I hacked 15 or 20 seconds off of that, went to a sound booth, called the NPR editor and read it to him, then recorded myself, added the soundbite, and sent it off to the network.
And that was that. I listened to the newscasts last evening, imagining my little piece would be ringing out over the airwaves. Nothing. I figured other stuff had gotten in ahead of that and put the episode into the valuable experience column.
Then this morning, while we were walking the dog, my sister called from Chicago. “Hey, you have your first groupie,” she said. One of her friends had just called to see if she had some relative who might have had occasion to be on NPR news. As Bozo the clown said once — no, many times — “Hey, that’s me.” So sometime this morning, I made my national debut. Stay tuned for the collectible DVD of the occasion, complete with bonus features, including “The Making of the December 20, 2008, News Brief on California State Employee Furloughs: The True Story.” Autographed, individually numbered, and guaranteed suitable for investment purposes (compared to whatever that Madoff fella sold you.)