Meeting MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield in Chicago on her 'Across America' Broadcast!

NOTE :: This story is from LGT2.com I am migrating some of the fixed stories over to the LimeANALog as part of a web site overhaul that will take place sometime this year ;)

Meeting MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield in Chicago on her 'Across America' Broadcast!

A real news anchor, a 'real' person.

Three for three! First there was Bea Arthur, then Tina Wesson from Survivor, and now Ashleigh Banfield from MSNBC. All three girls, who I have admired on TV, are now like friends after meeting them in person.

Every night and day I have watched MSNBC, ever since the last presidential elections. On September 11th, 2001, I was reintroduced to a reporter, Ashleigh Banfield, who covered the live events of the terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Ever since, I’ve been following Ashleigh Banfield as she risks her life on the front lines from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and back to New York City and the rest of America.

What differentiates Ashleigh from all the rest of the reporters is how she speaks our language, covers the story adequately, and remains a ‘real’ human being throughout the good and bad times she faces. She speaks to us as a friend on television, and now after meeting her, proves that she is not only doing her job, but also doing a humane service to us all.

On August 12th, 2002, after a well deserved two week vacation, Ashleigh Banfield started traveling across America with her crew in a well marked bus, asking Americans how the events of 9.11 has changed their lives. I knew then, that she had to be coming to Chicago soon, for Chicagoans had also dealt with the effects of the terrorism attacks. Sure enough, while watching her show last Thursday from Oklahoma City, she announced that the following Monday she would be in Chicago at the Sears Tower. There was no way that I would miss this opportunity to meet Ashleigh.

At first, I assumed that Ashleigh would be outside of the Sears Tower, doing her show. However, I called the Sears Tower to confirm, where I learned that she would be doing the show from the Skydeck within the Sears Tower. That meant that I couldn’t just waltz up to her during the show, instead, I would have to go through the tourism trap of the Sears Tower. Long lines, more lines, sit through a 15 minute movie about the Sears Tower and Chicago, and then more lines. Nevertheless, it would be worth it all just to see and possibly meet Ashleigh.

Monday night, a friend, my boyfriend, and I got our tickets and headed up to the Skydeck. As we rounded the corners of the Skydeck, we were relieved to only see a few people, most of whom didn’t know what was going on. We found a well open spot in front, around the cameras and portable stage they had set up. Then to our delight, we spotted Ashleigh stuffing her face with a sub sandwich. She then left to the bathroom, and on her way back, she started taking pictures with some of the people. Not wanting to lose our spot, we waited patiently for her to come closer. Matthew jumped out and introduced himself and asked for a picture. She then introduced herself to us… like we didn’t already know who she was! We took a few pictures and then she ran back to get ready for the show.

The actual taping of the show seemed quite relaxed. Ever so often her assistant would count down and she would then start her intro or interview. There were no monitors to watch the live show, so the footage that had been previously taped would play, and we would just stand around while Ashleigh pleaded with the security guard at Sears Tower to smoke a cigarette.

15 minutes before the show was to end, an assistant asked the crowd if anyone wanted to speak about any of the subjects that she quickly listed off. The subjects were relevant to the footage that had just been shown. I remained standing, feeling comfortable to just wanting to get my head on television, but no need to actually speak. I know myself, and I crumble when trying to speak to more then five people at one time, let alone to a whole nation on live television!

As we went live, I could feel that I was on air, in the background and was completely content with that. She then moved to the other side of where we were standing, stepping on Matthew’s foot, to ask the opinions of others that previously said they would talk. To my surprise she kept getting closer, asking a question to my friend Brian that was standing right next to me. He did a great job answering the question and appeared very comfortable. At that point I tricked myself into thinking that she would skip over me and either ask Matthew or someone else the next question, just to break up the space. So I remained relaxed. Unfortunately or fortunately, I was completely wrong. She went right to me. As always, my heart started pounding so loud to myself that I thought I was going to have a heart attack on live TV. I had to remain focused on the question that she was asking me, for all I could think about was that I’m on live, national television and everyone in the room had all their eyes on me. Remember, I’m not good at all speaking in front of a group of people… I’ll be the first one to admit that! But, then midway through, I realized that Ashleigh was asking me a question and it was like talking to her and not the rest of the world. She didn’t rush me, nor take the microphone away, so that calmed me down some. [You can watch me freak out by clicking on the animated graphic at the top of the page. I’m the guy in the green shirt]

Next, I thought for sure that she was going to talk to Matthew, who was on the other side of me, but unfortunately she passed over him. The show soon ended and we were done! She still had a little work to do, that we had to wait for before she signed photos and took more pictures with the crowd. She sat down and recorded all the voiceovers for the next days show that took place in Dearborn, Michigan. After she completed that, she took questions from the audience and then signed photos and took individual pictures with everyone.

When I arrived to her to get my photo, she said that I did a good job. I replied like she was crazy, saying that I almost had a heart attack. She then explained that the more I do it, the easier it gets. So, did this mean that I’m going to be doing this often, I wondered! She then explained the real job is remembering and getting everything organized for what you are to be talking about on the shows. Again, like a life long friend, she was very easy to talk to and a delight to be with.

So, even though I almost had a panic attack on nation television, the whole experience was a true delight! I was so honored to have finally met this incredibly courageous woman that I have been following for the past year. I wanted to thank her for helping me through this whole ordeal over the past year, but never got that chance too. Hopefully, I can the next time I meet her!



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