It's a little after 9 a.m. as I start writing this, and we're about to talk to Ted Koppel. He's not in the room; he's visible on a big TV screen, beaming to us by satellite from Guatanamo Bay, where he is filming his first special for the Discovery Channel. It will be about security and personal liberty, and will air on the Sept. 10, the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11.
The first question to Koppel involves working for Discovery after reaching the larger audience available to the big networks. He admits the numbers are smaller but goes on to say that it is almost impossible to get, say, a serious program about foreign policy into prime time.
He doesn't apologize for being old school in some ways: ''The old school is a good school,'' he says. Later, he notes that foreign-policy issues are not just material for wonks. They're ''issues that going to have impact on the lives of all Americans.'' And he fears that newsgathering will be weaker in the future -- that, for example, there's little attention paid to India even though it is an increasingly important story for the world.
There's a little lag in the discussion, since it takes a moment for Koppel to hear the questions. (Koppel also lost his phone connection at one point, able to talk but not hear the queries from Pasadena. He asked a Discovery exec to vamp until the sound was restored.) And I'm fighting a little bit of time disorientation.
Not jet lag exactly. More of an attempt to remember what time it is while working odd hours of the day and night.
Last night, after watching ''Rescue Me'' and doing some writing, I went to the hotel's parking deck, which had been decorated with a beach party theme by GSN. I talked some with Danny Bonaduce; I had missed his press conference earlier but had read the transcript and had a couple of follow-up questions. Also, I like talking to Danny, who's been a good interview every time I have chatted with him over the years.
But when I was done, I looked at my watch. It was about 11 p.m. It didn't feel that late, even though I had been going pretty hard for most of the day and knew I would be up before 6 a.m. today. You get into a bubble on these things where most of your life revolves around the next press conference and the next in-person interview, and when you're going to screen things. (Earlier this morning, I was watching a new DVD of Sally Field's ''Sybil'' because I'm still hoping to put together my TV-on-DVD column for Friday.)
Still, there is a world beyond the walls of these meeting rooms. All right, there's California beyond these meeting room. Some of that is pretty nice. I had a good walk this morning through tree-lined residential areas, the sun bright, the only challenges coming from the need to dodge lawn sprinklers and the occasional evidence of the many dogs around here.
Walking is certainly more fun than a car trip. Yesterday, I had to drive over to Los Angeles to pick up my credentials for tonight's ESPYS taping. Driving in L.A. is close to the adventure you've heard about; there are just so many people doing it, for starters, that traffic sometimes stops for no noticeable reason other than the sheer volume. When I got off one of the snaking highways and onto regular roads, I hadn't driven far before I came to a police car blocking the road. Flashers could be seen down the block. At least one chopper rumbled overhead.
Working along smaller side streets, I got to my location. And near it saw one of those things that reminds you that all of this area is part of show biz. A historic but long-closed coffee shop still stood; on the building was a sign declaring ''available for filming.''