Friday, July 27, 2007

A Day in the Life of Day to Day

I have not had much time to process and reflect on my internship here so sometimes I forget how bizarre my job really is. A few days ago I called home and my sister asked me how my day had been. As I prattled on, it suddenly struck me how delusional I must sound when I start talking about my job here. The stories. The people. The chaos. To illustrate this and to devote a moment to reflection, I'm just going to take a look back at the first couple of hours of my day yesterday to see what daily life at Day to Day is like.

The first thing one needs to know about Day to Day is how young it is. Tomorrow, it will celebrate its fourth birthday, but additionally, the mean age of the people who work on the show must be around 30. The part of the West office devoted to the show is always bustling and energetic with people laughing and voicing opinions at the giant white board. Someone is always excited about something, whether it's the interview that's coming in five minutes or the frosted left on the table or the latest Youtube video.

Yesterday morning, when I arrived a bit before six there were a couple gaps in the show (blank slots on the giant white board): not good news. My initials were already next to two story tags under the category "chasing" (this would change several times over the course of the morning).

But before I could begin to pursue a San Francisco cabbie with the unlucky a medallion number of “666”, our line producer was asking me to put in a request for an interview with Senator Charles Schumer. And then, Arlen Spector. When one of my requests was denied, I could feel a slight rise of panic in the air as the gaps in the show remained. After a quick brainstorming session, I was asked to find a Washington correspondent who could confirm for us if a retired general involved in the Pat Tillman case would be demoted. This is the part of the day where things started to get...messy. I placed a few calls to correspondents from different news outlets and then waited. (Waiting is always the hardest part). As I waited however, I started looking up contacts for other stories. I called a professor in England about cycling and a facilities manager in Texas about crickets. As I jotted down contact information for wildlife conservationists in Rwanda, I started getting calls back from the Washington journalists. And then emails from the library about taxi cab numbers in San Francisco. As I put people on hold and tried to keep up with the emails I was getting back, our producer called me over. "Quick! Watch this," he said, and on his computer screen, hundreds of Philippine prisoners danced to Michael Jackson's Thriller. I stared at our producer blankly as my phone continued ringing. "Can you get us in touch with a prison guard in the Philippines? Or maybe the person who originally posted this video? It'd be great on today's show."

The most exciting and frustrating thing about working here is how fast-paced it is--every day is a chance to start fresh, fill in the gaps, to get a little better at booking, chasing, etc. All of the previous days victories or confusions are wiped clean at the end of each day when Neal washes off the board and my initials disappear. Days here flash by and my last two weeks will no doubt go by as the past two months. And one of these days, my initials are going to be wiped off the board for good. I'll leave my press pass and right to say "This is Haley Bridger, calling from National Public Radio" at the door.
It's gone by fast, hasn't it?

Anyway, I need to get back to pursuing prison guards in the Philippines and find out more about gorillas at a park on the border of the Congo and Rwanda. And who knows what else in an hour from now!

Happy fourth birthday, Day to Day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Touched By an Angel? Not quite.*

This week I have been touched not by an angel, but by another winged creature -- the pigeon.

*Due to the shift from mind speculation to blog entry, this will probably not be as interesting to you as me. But I'll try.

I love my office. It's really a cubby, a random narrow alley furnished with a desk that leads to a huge ten-foot window. Not bad, not bad at all.

There's a big cement block coming out of the wall next to my window, and there's a big sheet of window glass on the face of it that extends past the sides of the cement. This forms a little corner of cement and glass just outside my window, a perfect shelter for birds. These avian visitations have been welcome by me, as I like looking at nature while I'm working.

But recently, a gray pigeon with a black head and orange eyes has taken up permanent residence in the corner ledge. It sits calmly and, I discovered, has a pigeon mate.

This pigeon is the source of my unexpected fascination: It's a black-and-white patchy pigeon and I think it's the male (I don't understand how birds are sexed). I have never seen pigeon nest-building behavior until now, and it's fascinating -- I really had no idea pigeons could be so smart. At first I only saw it arriving, stick in beak, to deposit the find either on the nest or on the other pigeon, who would navigate it into a new position. This afternoon on my way back from Phillips Cafe, I saw the sprightly guy fly over and start vigorously bobbing up and down the sidewalk looking for choice sticks. It turns out pigeons are extremely detail-oriented! I thought he would just pick whichever stick came first, but no. He first picks up a stick that looks good, and weighs it by picking it up and dropping it a few times, and then shaking it up and down with his beak. I have seen the pigeon actually REJECT a stick -- how sad is that stick? After he's found a good one, the pigeon flaps back up to the nest-in-progress, and starts the process all over again. He's been at it for days now.

Sure, it's a pigeon, but this is a pigeon building a home and a future. I can't help but feel for this cute pigeon pair. And I can't help but worry about speeding cars when I see Mr. Stickfinder bobbing around on the street. And I have to admit I find it pretty awesome that the Discovery Channel is right outside my window when I walk over for a break.