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Why I REALLY Like Being Here

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 23, 2006

I've posted from press tour about being in nifty places, and dropped some names of the people I've talked to. Those are fun things and, as I have said before, I have a cool job. But when I tell those stories, what may get lost is that the cool stuff can lead to something of value to readers.

When you're at these things, you get to see how people's minds work. Sure, there's a big load of nonsense tossed around at press conferences -- answers that are pat or evasive or flat-out untrue. But almost as often, you can get at a real emotion, and have a  feel for what the people in television do. And, outside of those press conferences, you may get a chance to ask other questions in a more casual setting, and get a little deeper into how people think and feel.

Last night, for example, I stood and talked with John Madden about his going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I had expected a few quick questions and answers. But Madden is really excited about going into the hall; he offered a wonderful description of what it was like when he was waiting for the news -- and how thrilled he was when he finally got it.

That -- or sitting for an hour with Ray Wise, and hearing him explain how important ''Good Night and Good Luck'' was to him -- gets you into people's hearts. Then, tonight I sat at a table with Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment, and talked to him about the issues in a couple of projects I'm working on. (I'll save the specifics for closer to when the stories run.) We talked somewhat about his shows, but there were bigger issues to kick around as well, and he was more than willing to do some kicking.

The odds are a lot longer that, sitting in Akron, I could pick up a phone and talk to Reilly. And even if I did, it wouldn't be the same as sitting a couple of feet from him, watching him wrestle with an issue that should be interesting, if not important, for readers.

It was a good moment. It wasn't the only good moment of the night; on an entirely different plane, I had a nice chat with three of the models from ''Deal or No Deal.'' But my conversation with them will probably intrigue some readers, too, and make them look at TV in a little different way. Which is, after all, what this job is about: talking about TV, and thinking about it, and wanting it to be better, and trying to see if there are better ways to look at it. And I wouldn't spend this much time away from my family if this didn't make me do a better job.

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