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Face Time

Face Time


Who? What? When? Why me?" I leap from the cab, phone clamped to my ear. Roger Zelinsky, managing editor of the 11 o'clock news is giving me the lowdown in bullet points: Attorney General Oscar Ortega. Announcing for governor. Lead story. Every other reporter out on assignment.

"You're going on the air live," Roger says. "Soon as Oz makes his move."

Oscar Ortega is often called "the great and powerful Oz," and word is he likes the nickname. The state's first Hispanic Attorney General, he's a take-no-prisoners politician with a big bucks machine behind him. If he's running for governor, he'll be tough to beat.

The parking lot outside Ortega's red brick Beacon Hill office is full of scurrying TV types, scrambling to cover this breaking news.

"Found the van," I say to Roger. "Talk to you later."

It's got to be less than five minutes until airtime.

A row of cameras perch atop metal tripods like electronic flamingos, set up and ready to roll. One tripod is empty. Ours.

Not good. Not good. Not good.

I snap open my cell phone to send a frantic Mayday. Just then, I see my photographer Walt Petrucelli, sweaty and disheveled in a baggy Channel 3 T-shirt and voluminous khaki shorts, muttering to himself as he lugs his camera from the trunk of a news car.

"Why me?" He questions the universe as he peers through his viewfinder, adjusting focus. "Buncha bullshit."

Ignoring him, I position myself in front of the camera. Using the lens as a mirror, I take a second to check my reflection. My high-maintenance blond bangs are reasonably straight, my trademark red lipstick reasonably applied, and the black suit I put on for work today—about a million hours ago—reasonably unwrinkled. As good as it's going to get.

Every mosquito and midge in New England dives and swoops across the klieg lights in front of me, probably deciding which ones will go on the attack during my live shot. Happy-go-lucky motorists out on Cambridge Street, also attracted by the lights, honk their horns as they drive by.

I twist an earpiece into place, clicking its cord into the control room connection box I've clipped onto the waistband of my skirt.

"Can they see me back at the station?" I ask Walt, tuning everything else out. I pat my lapel. Nothing. "Where's my microphone?"

Right now, a camera inside at the news conference had better be feeding video to the station. If this all works the way it should, the producer will put the statement, live, on the news. I'll know what Ortega says because I'll hear it on air through my earpiece.

Right now I'm hearing only silence.

"Two minutes," Walt says.

I contemplate ripping out my earpiece, yanking off my microphone, and going home. I have no idea what's going on. I'm about to appear live in front of a million people. And undoubtedly, my darling Josh is one of them. And my mother. They'll all watch this live shot crash and burn.

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© Hank Phillippi Ryan