Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is it Election Day Yet?

It is! Some thoughts on that in a later post. But first, a look back at an 'experimental' approach to radio news coverage.

In the latest 'bike-centric' news: I covered the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear by bike.

WTOP and its staffers are pros at covering live events like the rally in DC this past weekend. But times and technology are changing, and we change with it.

I've always hated the hassle of trying to drive and park downtown in heavy traffic (uh, like any day of the week) but facing major events with restricted access can be a real pain in the...driver's seat. Now that I live where I work, and have gone carless, I proposed covering the event by bike. My boss, Jim Farley, who's embraced the changes in our industry and put us way ahead of the curve in so many ways, gave me the thumbs up. And hey, he knows an opportunity to cut fleet costs when he sees it.

So I kitted out my Gazelle Medeo and took off for the Mall. Along the way, I noted lots of folks taking advantage of Capital Bikeshare Bikes, others trying without much success to hail cabs, and many others who decided to go old-old-school and walk.

The bike valets were not available on the Mall, though WABA did make the pitch to Comedy Central, so finding bike parking was actually, a bit of a challenge. Good news in a way--a signal that many folks are indeed finding bikes a viable form of transportation.

My first stop was getting my credentials--a very hot commodity. The line was a bit long and I had a noon deadline, but I was able to put together a quick report via iPhone.

I had some scrambling to do throughout the day. Getting cell service was a challenge, so we figured the bike would allow me to hightail it off the Mall and better my chances of being able to file electronically.

At one point, after my 2pm filing deadline,,a man seated next to me on a bench said he'd just come from the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station where, as he described it, there had been an escalator "collapse". I snagged some sound from him, hopped on my bike, shot on over to the Metro stop, and found ambulances and Metro Transit police vehicles at the 9th and D entrance. Click here to listen to DC Fire/EMS spokesman Pete Piringer and the man who initially reported the trouble to me...

For reporters, the day was a challenge in one way: getting cell service. We are all so dependent on being able to file electronically. We knew we'd face this challenge going into the event. That's one reason I opted to experiment by bike coverage (I've covered events by bike before, but not when expected to go live, thoughout the day).

Even using the tactic of speeding off the Mall to find a more 'open' signal in cyberspace, I ran into trouble electronically. It was frustrating to have sound that I could not get to air as quickly as I'd like.

But the upside was how easy it was to get around. Traffic was of course light, as people wisely opted to leave the cars at home. Foot traffic was heavy, but I was able to cut through fairly easily. My Gazelle Medeo had an effect similar to that which you see when mounted police move through a crowd--the sheer bulk of the thing helped cut a swath through the crowds--in the streets. The Medeo is a lot like a good police horse: It's solid, not speedy. Of course, I'm not a speed demon either, so I suppose we are a perfect match.

I don't know that covering news events in blazing heat or pouring rain would be as much fun, but I have to say this experiment in sound (iPhones, Twitter) and mobility (pedal power) was a blast.

And biking to meet deadlines? A definite fitness booster.

And yes, if you are curious, I wore a helmet, outfitted the bike and myself with lights (I'll get a pic of that at some point for you) and abided by traffic laws. I always try to operate under the premise that any time I'm on the bike I am a bike ambassador, and that's especially true when I've got the WTOP logo on display. And no, the WTOP lawyers don't make me say that. It's just good, common sense.

For pix of the event, head to my Flickr page @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/kryan1035/sets/72157625276242000/


  1. Kate, this is awesome. I've really enjoyed watching your progress on a bike.


  2. Thanks! The true test comes this winter. Although, as you'll hear and see in future reports, bike commuters say, keeping warm: not as challenging as you think. More in future reports here and on WTOP 103.5 fm and WTOP.com.