From the Editor’s Notebook:
It was quite the show.
Let’s just say that in all my years of being a small town newspaper editor, I had never really participated in anything quite like it.
“It” was the media event which was Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg’s visit to the Johnson Family Farms south of Wells last Wednesday afternoon. And, media event is exactly what it was.
To be honest, I crashed the party. I was not an invited guest. On the feeding chain of the press hierarchy, small town newspapers are at the bottom of the list.
Like many others, I heard about this visit at the last minute. Like others, I also wondered if it was for real. A presidential candidate was going to visit a farm in Faribault County? In January? On a frozen winter’s day? And it wasn’t Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar?
If it was true, and former New York City mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg was actually coming to Faribault County, the Faribault County Register was going to cover it, by golly.
Apparently so was every single other news organization in the whole United States.
To be honest, I was treated fairly well. When I arrived at the Johnson farm, a member of Bloomberg’s staff welcomed me, took my name and email and name of my newspaper and then instructed me what was going to happen, and where I could stand. In a nice way, he let me know to stay out of the way of the TV camera people. And there were a lot of them. He had even put white tape on the floor of the machinery shed, in a semi-circle with the names of lots of media on cards on the floor. No, the Register was not one of them.
I would guess there were about 30 news outlets from the area, and the Twin Cities, listed on the floor and they were busy setting up. But, I would soon learn more were coming.
Bloomberg was supposed to be there about 1 p.m. His motorcade showed up by around 2 p.m. He then met in another office at the farm with the Johnson family and his staff. Meanwhile, at least another 30 to 40 news media people, who were traveling with Bloomberg, also set up in the machine shed. That included national TV network people, reporters and photographers from the New York Times, Washington Post and lots more.
The place was getting crowded, and it is a big machine shed.
Then everyone headed outside into the cold and the wind, to get film and photos of Bloomberg getting a tour of the farm from the Johnsons. Then it was back inside to try and warm up while Bloomberg met with his staff privately. Next, he came out and joined the Johnsons for a discussion of farm issues while cameras rolled and clicked.
Fifteen minutes later it was all over and the media were all dismissed.
It was a well orchestrated media event. Some of the video cameras and still cameras were operated by Bloomberg’s own staff people. I am sure the photos or video will appear in future Bloomberg commercials.
Did I mention there were no members of the general public there? Not even the mayor of Wells, or representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.
There were tons of folks present, but they were either media, part of the campaign staff, a member of the Johnson family or with the Minnesota Soybean Association.
Bloomberg didn’t give a speech or take questions from the gathered press.
Like I said, it was an event. The last time I had been at Charlie, Scott and Darin Johnson’s farm operation, it was just me. I was doing a story about their four generation family farm for one of our Ag sections in the Register. That time it was me getting the tour of the farm. And, it was a beautiful summer day.
A lot different “media event” than the one last Wednesday.