Friday, May 18, 2007

Strange day at work

An hour into work yesterday, my boss tells me to go out and "find an illegal immigrant." No, the AP has not decided to find cheap labor. The national desk was working on a story on reaction to the proposed bill the Senate is discussing this week, a "touchback" system for illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship. I don't think it's going to persuade a lot of them, however. I mean requiring a $5,000 fee and to return home and wait eight to 13 years. Not exactly ideal conditions. Anyway, I had to go get the opinion of an actual illegal immigrant, which meant finding one who would talk to me. So, where did I go to fulfill this quest? Why, Home Depot of course.

I went out to the parking lot of a Home Depot supply store near my old place and sure enough, there were like 10 Mexicans waiting for work. At first they all came toward me out of curiosity. As soon as I explained I was a reporter, more and more began to walk away. Can't say I blame them. I had to talk to them really loud over the noisy traffic and, switching from Spanish to English, assure them we were not out to report anyone. I just needed someone's opinion. I ended up meeting a nice 56-year-old from Morelos, Mexico named Daniel. Another guy, Jorge, interpreted Daniel's answers for me. It was interesting talking to them and of course, I felt fortunate that I did not feel such a need for financial gain, that I would make a risky journey into another country. I don't want to get political but let me just say I understand Daniel's perspective.

The day still goes down as strange because in the afternoon, my boss informed me I would have a small but pivotal role in covering an execution. Next Tuesday at 10 a.m.., Arizona is scheduled to hold its first execution in 20 years. A man guilty of repeated raping a woman and killing a man at a camp site in 1987 will get taken out by lethal injection. Another reporter--even younger than me but much more savvy--will be covering and witnessing the actual execution at death row. But the media there won't be able to get to their phones for about 30 minutes because they aren't allowed to. There will be a media staging area in the prison nearby where phones are allowed. That's also where a corrections officer will come out as soon as the execution has occurred and inform everyone. So, I need to be in that room to call the office as soon as that happens so they can put out an urgent news alert on the wire. That's pretty much all I'll be there to do. And to top off the wierdness, I might have to help with "American Idol" coverage that day. What a juxtaposition. My boss says "executions and 'American Idol,' two things that happen no matter what."

Jordin Sparks, one of two remaining contestants, is from Glendale, Ariz. She has also become a "beat" for me. I had to write a profile on her and wait outside last Friday in 100-degree heat for her to show up at a very staged hometown visit put on by Fox. I think Jordin is great and deserving of praise. I just think the PR machine around her is disturbing. At that visit, I thought I was going to puke after seeing how much was about catering for the cameras of the local Fox affiliate. The whole thing was just too slick. Though I'm far from an "American Idol" addict, at least the coverage got me a chance to go on the national wire.

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