Bin Laden night on the wire desk

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

Originally written May 2, 2011, by a very 23-year-old version of me.

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: