First Interview: The Los Angeles Times
Note: the L.A. Times story is online here.
On Wednesday, July 23rd my phone was still ringing about once every 15 minutes. The online comic strip had been up and available to the world for exactly one week and while the phone calls and emails were slacking off a little, they were still too much to respond to immediately. I checked my messages in the early afternoon. Most were well-wishers saying things like “go get ‘em” and “I wish you were running for office in my area.” It was fantastic and overwhelming at the same time.
One message was from a Los Angeles Times reporter who said that a friend of hers had emailed her one of the most interesting campaign fundraising Web pages she’d seen and wondered how it was doing. I’d been expecting The Kansas City Star to call, but the L.A. Times? That’s one of the best newspapers in the country. Absolutely I was going to call her!
I called the reporter back and told her how long the page had been up and about the amazing response I had received. She offered to fly out to Kansas the next day to meet me, which was stunning to hear. In my experience, all newspapers today are facing economic challenges as fewer and fewer people subscribe to the print edition of the paper. The idea that any newspaper would fly a reporter to Kansas seemed extravagant. “Are you sure you don’t just want to do a phone interview?” I asked. “No, I want to see Olathe,” she said.
We met on Thursday at a restaurant across from Oak Park Mall. I walked in and looked around. A woman matching the reporter’s description waved me over to her table. She was on her cell phone so I sat down across from her and took the opportunity to check my own messages. A friend who had worked as a journalist in L.A. had left me a message giving me the “scoop” on this reporter, so I listened as he described her as smart, energetic, and that she likes to write stories that have lots of human color to them. She was off her phone and I just smiled at how surreal it was to hear my friend describe the person sitting three feet away from me. “Everything okay?” she asked. “Sure,” I said.
She interviewed me for about two hours. First were all the background questions: where are you from, where did you go to school, etc… I knew it was meant to get an interviewee to open up and make it easy for them to talk, but despite being wise to it, it still worked. We talked about how I got the idea and the email feedback I’d received. When the interview seemed over, I began thanking her for coming all the way out to meet me and that’s when she told me that she wanted to call my mother. “She’s making the DVD videos, right? I want to ask her some questions.”
I left the restaurant and drove directly to my mother’s house to give her a fair warning. She started fretting immediately. “What am I going to tell her?” she asked. “Anything you want,” I offered. Mom told me that she’s tell her all of my most embarrassing stories—a sort of subtle revenge for putting her on the spot. “That’s fine, mom. You’ll be great,” I said.
I didn’t hear from the reporter again until Sunday evening. I had been spending nearly every waking hour working on the campaign for 10 days and I needed a break, so I went to go see “The Dark Knight” at the AMC Olathe 30. I was really, really enjoying it. My mind was at ease, finally, when I felt my cell phone start vibrating. I pulled it out, saw that it was the L.A. Times and sat there for a moment or two. I thought, “Do I answer this and miss seeing the movie or do I skip out in the middle of the movie and make sure the L.A. Times story runs?”
I chose the story, of course. They read through it and fact-checked everything. I paced around the theater lobby for 25 minutes with my cell phone glued to my ear to hear the reporter over the crowds of teenagers. She had spent Friday in Olathe and interviewed my opponent at length. She had called my mom whom she said was charming, despite her stories about my first teddy bear.
The story was available on their website the next morning. Now if only I could find a printed copy!