In Kansas caucuses, reporters call rural areas key, then avoid them

For the couple days leading up to the Kansas caucuses, prognostication pieces in the news said that the rural parts of the state were going to be a huge factor in deciding the winner.

In her Trail Mix video, Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez made her key number in the race 44%, representing the number of voters in 2008’s general election who hailed from rural areas (more on this video later).

The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog put together this map showing that Kansans outside the three metros comprise 58% of registered Republicans in the state:

With all that talk about rural Kansas, you think there would be some unusual Kansas datelines from reporters — perhaps Protection, Kan., Skiddy, Kan., or Piqua, Kan.

Let’s take a look at the datelines from various news outlets in the days before and of the caucuses:

NYT: Topeka, Wichita

WaPo: Topeka, Wichita, Lenexa, Olathe (last two surburbs in Kansas City metro)

CNN: Kansas City, Kan.

LA Times: Wichita, Topeka

Not the case. When time came to report, journalists stuck to the metro areas, never leaving their bubble less than an hour from an airport.

Candidate chase

I know the main factor in where political reporters set up shop is where the candidates visit. All those cities you see in the datelines received a visit from either Rick Santorum or Ron Paul in the days before the caucuses — Newt Gingrich gave up on Kansas days earlier, and Mitt Romney saw Guam as more worthy of a visit (ouch).

The big fight in rural areas is drawing candidates there; the reporters will tail. But as the time between races shortens, candidates opt primarily for a touch-and-go gameplan focused on metro areas, and reporters follow suit.

But if you lead up to the caucus talking about the rural areas being key, why not stop and gather a story from a rural area, even if it’s just for 30 minutes? Grab a sandwich and a few quotes. There could have been a really good, unique angle about the Gray County caucus and its 73 voters. Or perhaps the die-hards who had to drive 45 minutes to vote in Parsons because their county didn’t hold its own caucus would make for a great anecdote. Maybe your Kansas caucus story could have stood out from the rest of the press pack’s robotic offerings that day.

But instead nearly all the reporters headed to Wichita, site of one of the largest caucuses, and reported the same anecdotes, interviewed the same folks and capped off their stories with the same victory comments by Santorum’s wife, who was in town as Rick had already moved on to another state to stump.

Basically every reporter took the easy way out and stuck by the airports. It’s disappointing.

WARNING: Things get really snarky from here out. If you’re not a fan of snark, consider jumping to the comments section.

Sticking to stereotypes

Back to the Trail Mix video. Sonmez says she’s recording from a field in Olathe (incorrectly pronounced) before discussing the implication of the rural vote.

And my soul dies as Kansas is cast as a giant field for the rest of the country. Can’t wait for the Idaho standup from atop a mound of potatoes, or the West Virginia standup from a meth lab (or is that Missouri).

And here’s the kicker: Olathe is not rural Kansas. Far from it. Olathe is a city of 125,872.

I guess I should breathe a sigh of relief nobody opted for the Wizard of Oz stereotype, shooting from the Yellow Brick Road in Sedan, Kan. Fortunately, it’s almost four hours from the Kansas City airport.

Google Plus and iCloud can save your footage from police suppression

UPDATE: Friends pointed out Ustream or other streaming apps are best for making sure your video gets saved. My picks are aimed at those with mobile data caps, which make streaming a less-viable option.

In hectic settings like the Zuccotti Park police riots on Occupy Wall Street earlier this week, those gathering photos and video from the scene face dangers including arrests, violence, threat of having equipment lost, stolen or broken and, in some instances, having cops delete your footage.

While none of those are welcome outcomes, having your footage deleted is the most heinous to plenty of journalists. But for those shooting with smartphones, the Google+ app and Apple’s Photostream part of its new iCloud services can offer a way to save your photos on the fly in case someone tries to delete them.

Both services allow you to automatically upload your footage to the Web immediately after you shoot it. Google+ saves it to your personal album on its service called “photos from your phone.” Google+ also gives you the option to have it shared on your G+ page immediately, or to keep it to yourself in that album until you’re ready to release it at your convenience.

To activate the automatic upload, turn it on in the photo portion of the app’s settings. And don’t ignore those “When to upload photos” (Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and mobile networks) and “on battery” options to ensure that your photos get uploaded ASAP. If you’re being accosted in a park, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to make it to a Wi-Fi hotspot or an electrical outlet in time to save your shots.

Apple’s iCloud for iOS devices serves a similar purpose with Photostream, but the automatic upload doesn’t work for videos; they must be uploaded manually. Since I don’t have an iPhone, I’ll leave the explanation to somebody with one. Also make note that Photostream saves only your 1,000 most recent photos and they expire after 30 days.

The big thing with each service is to make sure that the automatic upload features are on before you go out shooting. I can understand not wanting all your photos uploaded to G+ all the time, so make sure to toy with the options before you go out.

It’s important if you find yourself in a situation where someone’s trying to delete your photos that you limit their access to your phone, buying it time to upload your shots. One of the easiest ways to hold somebody up is to lock your screen with a PIN. Don’t forget you have the right to remain silent, including remaining mum on your unlock PIN. Your upload will go through unless the officer removes your battery or you’re in an area with shoddy service. Also don’t tell him that the footage is in the process of uploading. Then he’ll be even more likely to pull the battery. I know it’s fun to gloat when you’ve outsmarted someone, but trust me here.

If you know of some other apps that serve this purpose, feel free to share them in the comments. Offer up your own tips for keeping your photos safe in such a situation, whether with a smartphone or a DSLR.

For more on photographer and photojournalist intimidation by civilians and police, check out the Pixiq blog.

And remember: Photography is not a crime.

Obama’s announcing what?! My night on the wire desk

It wasn’t all adrenaline and belly fire for me last night. But it turned out to be later, which is why I’m awake and blogging about my night on the wire desk.

9 p.m.-ish: AP NEWS ALERT: President Obama has scheduled a news conference for 9:30 p.m. (CDT), White House not providing details about content.

9:15 p.m.: “Bah crap. I knew it was too quiet on the wire tonight. They must know I’m almost off the clock. Jerks.”

Fast forward to expected start of Obama speech, watching CNN: “We can now confirm that President Obama plans to announce that Osama bin Laden has been killed and the U.S. has his body.”

Me: “Oh god. Oh crap. They do not want me running the wires tonight. Uh oh. I’ve only been doing wires for a couple months. This can’t end well.”

Let’s fast forward past all the eye-rolling each time Obama’s speech is pushed back, past each call about holding all editions until we have the news, and more experienced wire editors offering encouragement and offers to come in and help.

6,000 gigantic gulps later, the adrenaline starts kicking in. “OK I’ve got this. Let’s do this. Actually, hold on a sec. I need another Dr. Pepper.”

$1.25 later, after gulp No. 6,001

“OK now let’s knock this mother out.”

The speech finally starts. Three minutes in, I glance over my shoulder. One of the normal wire rats I told I would be fine is over my shoulder. “O hai. Glad you’re here.”

“We don’t have cable, so I might as well.”

Obama’s speech concludes: “And god bless the United States of America.”

Batteries are re-charged. Let’s sex up some history.

Now we wait to see what the wire gods bestow upon us.

12 slightly usable wire briefs later, “OK. Let’s make lemonade out of these tiny-ass briefs about the speech, Bush’s reaction and this gigantic obit of bin Laden detailing his background.”

“This works here. This answers that other story’s giant gaping logic hole. Ooh. That’s and important guy talking. Let’s add that in.”

“How do I transition from … wait. Got it.”

18-inch story completed in 15-ish minutes.

Now for the big enchilada: The city edition.

“OK, Bloomberg’s got a serviceable version with none of those over-the-top adjectives.”

“This AP version’s got a connection between the raid and a downed helicopter in the same town. That’ll work great here. We’ve got some pretty good quotes from NYT sources. Add those to the soup. State Department’s warning U.S. citizens. Sprinkle that in, too. Washington Post has more details on the attack? Yes please.”

An hour later (90 minutes of overtime in), with the help of my surprise help, I’ve got the skeleton and organs for this larger bin Laden story spliced from at least a dozen wire stories and congressmen’s news releases.

“You mind taking the lead from here? You likely know better where the holes are.”

20 minutes and 15 inches of background and details I missed later, the sausage has been made.

Off to the designer and another pair of eyes.

“OK I’m off to the bar. Who’s coming with me?”

— Update—

And the best compliment comes the next day: