A royal screw up…

February 19, 2009

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Did you ever walk into some important situation thinking, “I sure hope I don’t screw this up?”

I have.

And yes, I did screw it up. Royally.

I took the picture above to prove to a Spanish secret service officer that my camera wasn’t a gun. Moments later, when asked to empty my pockets, I realized that I’d brought my pocket knife to a meeting with the King and Queen of Spain.

Oops…

Lots of things happened in short order after our mutual discovery that I’d broken a very serious rule. Things were said very quickly, and very loudly, but unfortunately, they spoke only Spanish, and what little bit of Spanish I know went out the window as soon as that secret service guy started waving my pocket knife in my face.

The only other English speakers in the area turned tail when the shakedown started. I can’t say that I blame them.

I finally managed to say, “Lo siento. Mi Espanol no es bueno.”

It seemed to help a little.

Eventually, an international incident was averted when they realized I was a jackass, not an assassin. I put the pocketknife in my car, and was allowed back in.

But this guy very noticeably stayed within arm’s reach of me at all times once the king and queen arrived.

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“Dos fotos y your done,” he told me.

Yo comprendo.

Nice guy that he was, he let me get off about 30 shots before I felt his hand on my shoulder.

Viva Espana!

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This is the king. Forgive me for saying this, but I was a little disappointed that there was no crown.

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These are the people he was there to meet — a group of Spanish citizens and nationals who live in the local area.

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I include this picture, because as I was editing this afternoon, I realized that one guy was really giving me the stink eye when I took it.

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One of the rules of meeting the king and queen is you are not supposed to extend your hand for a handshake until they do it to you. From this guy’s expression, I think he was worried about screwing up that rule.

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That’s the queen on the left. As I took this photo, the secret service guy told me it was time to leave.

So I did. I went downstairs to find some of the non-Spanish spouses that has also been kicked out (only Spaniards were allowed into the meeting). Instead, I found our governor, Charles Crist, doing what governors do…

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A guy with a disposable camera taps me on the shoulder, points to Crist and asks, “Is that the King?” I had to laugh.

“It depends on who you ask…”

As it turns out, the guy was from Louisiana, (on the left) he was in town on business and just happened to be staying at the same hotel as royalty. He wound furiously on his little disposable camera between shots of the Governor.

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He did finally get his picture of the king though. And I got mine.

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Not the best thing ever, but my favorite of the day. Makes me want to keep trying stuff like this. If it wasn’t for that piece of bamboo going down the middle of his nose, I would love it.

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Sansom speaks at ethics breakfast. Reporter’s ethics questioned.

February 9, 2009

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Florida’s former speaker of the house of representatives spoke at a Governmental Prayer Breakfast Saturday morning. It was a bit ironic, because just last week, he stepped down from his position as speaker of the house amid a grand jury investigation into his relationship with a college in Destin.

Long story short, he accepted an unadvertised six-figure part-time job at the college on the same day he was sworn in as speaker. Many people think it may have been a reward for steering millions of state dollars to the school for construction projects over the last couple years.

Before the breakfast, I spoke with him for several minutes about the controversy. I asked him how he reconciled speaking at a breakfast about “moral and spiritual values in government” while he was under investigation for wrongdoing.

He answered my questions thoughtfully, and I wrote a story about it.

Cue the hate mail.

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Quite a few of the attendees at the breakfast were not happy about my story. One of the less insulting e-mails:

Your article in Sunday’s Local section titled “In midst of scandal, Sansom talks ethics” is why I get so disgusted with reporters. It’s call “half-reporting”. Whichever half sounds the worst, print it. …

… No mention in your article is the recipient of the “God In Government” award to Judge Mike Jones. Such an award merits at least a paragraph. If you are going to report on an event, report about the whole event. You totally missed the intention and the meaning of the occasion. …

This is a fair criticism, I think. I had some tough decisions about what to include and what to leave out while writing. But the focus was on Sansom and not on the event.

After I spent a half-dozen paragraphs explaining the controversy that followed Sansom winning the God in Government award last year, it didn’t feel right saying, “By the way, Judge Mike Jones won the award this year.”

We could have written a brief somewhere else in the paper, but that’s not always possible.

On Saturday, I was the sole reporter in the newsroom most of the day. Between writing this story, editing and filing the photos, researching and writing a column, writing the death notices, answering a torrent of phone calls, following up on structure fire calls that came across the police scanner, and trying to catch up from being out of the office on Thursday and Friday I just didn’t have the time.

It’s tough replying to e-mails sometimes. You just want to scream that you’re doing your best with what you’ve got to work with. You’re not trying to upset anyone. No, I’m not a member of the liberal conspiracy. No, I’m not a member of the conservative conspiracy. No, it wasn’t my intention to make someone look bad. Yes, I did go to journalism school. No, I don’t think that a monkey could do this better than me.

You just have to let it roll off your back.

In this case, a smaller story got usurped by a bigger one. I’ll try to make space for both next time.

Thank you for the e-mail,

-Weary Reporter


The trouble with snapper

February 6, 2009

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More than 100 fishermen and scuba divers turned out to give a piece of their mind to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Sandestin Thursday, and I was there.

The commission was considering a vote that would shorten the red snapper season in state waters.

Fishermen were furious.

Despite the pleads of fishermen, the commission voted to shorten the season. I like the photo above because of the “little guy vs. big guys” vibe.

I also like it because I had to climb through the shots of three TV news people and past the refreshments table to get in position to shoot it. Holding a full-sized SLR gets you places…

I’ve been all across the panhandle in the last two days covering this story and another biggie, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter training program at Eglin AFB.

Two days of reporting, and then writing, editing photos and filing stories from the passenger seat of my car or two-top tables at coffee shops.

I couldn’t be happier!

I’m exhausted, and don’t have the energy for another story, but here are some shots that didn’t make the paper.

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Ever tried to white balance a camera in a room with multiple colors of incandescent lighting? I’ve been looking for a reason to do some black and white work, and the nasty yellow tint in the last two photos was more than enough motivation to get me to Photoshop the first one into B&W.