August 29, 2004 | 2:20 p.m. ET

Below is John Lichman's first blog. John is what you TV people call a "runner." His job is essentially, is to do a myriad of tasks and provide support for the 'Hardball' producers. You'll be hearing from him all week as he runs back and forth from the 'Hardball' set in Herald Square, and Madison Square Garden.

John Lichman
I Began my career with MSNBC Hardball at the Democratic National Convention. I worked with an intern, then a Runner, from Hardball in DC named Malcolm. He showed me more about working in the office than I could’ve gathered on my own. We were essentially partners at the Fleet Center, where MSNBC guests were sent to the NBC sky booth to talk to Chris Matthews.
Thanks to us, Steve Buscemi had water when he didn’t need it, and P. Diddy’s bodyguard didn’t
have to be inside the studio while Ron Reagan interviewed him.  I would learn important life lessons during the DNC, ranging from how to bring a camera crew to a specific point near the California delegation to finding a case of bottled water. But more importantly, I learned how to tie MSNBC T-shirts.

My job didn't end at 11 PM however, when the speeches concluded and the delegates went to their hotels or to the nearest party.  I’d walk back from Fleet Center, usually a few minutes before the final speaker concluded his remarks, toward Faneuil for MSNBC's "After Hours" program which aired from Midnight to 2 am. My duties required me to stand within a fenced-off
barricade with two other interns, and tie up t-shirts. The art of tying a t-shirt was lost upon me, since mine always looked like something you’d find on a floor after a night of hard drinking. Everyone else had an uncanny gift of making perfectly aerodynamic shirt/balls.  During the brief moments before and after commercial breaks, we (the interns) were commanded by higher powers (read: the producers) to throw the tied-up shirts into the audience.  Because "beverage impaired" people would show up each night, the importance of t-shirt throwing lies in its accuracy; or rather not aiming at people's heads no matter how tired you are. Most importantly, where is this going to be on my resume?

With each pathetic throw of an MSNBC shirt, you begin to realize how drained you really are after a day of racing around the Fleet Center double and triple checking shoot locations and if a producer isn’t in need of anything drastic.

The Convention had a funny way of being controlled chaos inside, and completely random on the outside. Take for example my last night at the DNC in Boston. After a brief scare about transporting the Reverend Al Sharpton, my duties were to procure enough Kerry/Edwards signs for the producers back at Faneuil Hall.  The problem with the Reverend Al came from Fleet Center’s amazing way of blocking cell phone signals. My partner in crime, Malcolm, was originally supposed to handle transporting the Reverend—and oh yeah, he only had ten minutes to move him from the sixth floor to the main convention floor. The problem seemed diffused when Sharpton canceled his appearence.

But lo and behold, at 7:30 PM who should decide to surprize us than Reverend  Al himself!  Here was the tricky problem: Malcolm’s phone wasn’t picking up,  and I was enjoying a seat literally near the ceiling of Fleet Center.

After a call from one of our producers, I started running frantically around  the Suite levels searching for Malcolm.  My calls were being cut off after every third ring, and the eight o’clock deadline was drawing near. Luckily,  Malcolm had received a phone message from before. He led the Reverend to the right position, and then I figured my job was over for the final night.

But then, I found out Malcolm had just been kicked out of the Fleet Center. The details, along with the reception, were fuzzy. But the order was simple: find campaign posters. After I received the phone call to hunt down signs, I noticed people scrambling up the stairwells.

There was talk earlier about security shutting down the convention if too many people were inside the building.

With complete disregard to the men with badges and guns, I made my way to the third floor where the secret room stocked with a few thousand political signs waited around a simple security checkpoint.  As I walked out of the stairwell, security grabbed me.  I showed the guard every pass I had, including a floor pass that I just happened to find the day before.
Nothing would make him budge and I was thrown out the Causeway St. entrance with every other photographer, journalist, and delegate that stopped to get a Dunkin' Donut.

My second-to-last job failed, I left the security area to find the LaRouche Krishnas offering Kool Aid and promises of a magical meteor that would take us to a land run by LaRouche.  Maybe there wasn’t Kool Aid, but they were singing songs dedicated to their pseudo-savior/candidate.  Along my walk back to Faneuil, so I could work the remainder of my time for MSNBC After Hours, the Pro-Lifers waved their appetizing signs; then there were the
Baptists and other Churches who handed out tickets that would let you attend their services.

And when I came back to the Hardball pit, there were my personal favorites: the three guys and one girl who came out every night to the show for free shirts and hats.  I think they got away with the most “free stuff” out of anyone in Boston.

But my point? Are conventions simply insanity that run for four hours, and then longer as people linger toward a bar or a hotel? Will New York be crazier with everyone and their grandmother coming out to the streets?  I’ll be honest; I’m not quite sure.

I just know that working for MSNBC at the Convention is a perfect exercise in dancing from one
fire to a frying pan and back into the fire. Besides, I live in New York.

The great upshot that the Republican convention has over Boston is my ability to buy dinner at a Bodega when I walk back to Chinatown at two in the morning.

  


Discuss:

Discussion comments

,