While most of us will at home, sitting on our fat asses monitoring the Presidency 5 summit circus from the safety of our couches, beer clenched firmly in hand, former Orlando Weekly intern Casey Morell is taking one for the team. He's at the Orange County Convention Center right now. Here's his first missive from the front lines:
At present, I'm sitting on a couch in the media filing room, watching a live feed of Fox News ahead of tonight's debate. Whirring behind me in the background, though, is a blender.
Yes: a blender. Making delicious smoothies, not unlike the strawberry one I'm sipping right now.
You see, while Fox News may be handling the broadcasting of the debate, it seems as though their partners at Google are taking care of the press. I'm propped up on this couch by a pillow with the YouTube logo embroidered into it. Everything is in the company's ubiquitous colors – red, green, blue, yellow – and the press generally seem to be happy with the arrangement. A Politico reporter with whom I ate dinner (which was a buffet of pastas, salad fixings and hamburgers – all free of charge) mentioned that these surroundings were the nicest of any of the debates so far; Bret Baier just mentioned the room by saying "uh, it's getting rave reviews from the press."
Another reporter just asked me rhetorically "Interactive democracy? What the fuck does that mean?" in response to hearing Google's chairman speaking to Bret Baier. i laughed and said it was a buzzword. Maybe we're cynics.
Fox has said nearly 6,000 people will be in the audience here at the Convention Center for the debate, and based on the scene downstairs, I believe it. A far cry from our cushy position in the press suite, it's like Marrakech down there. Advocacy groups hawk wares – like a cardboard cutout of the sainted Ronald Reagan – for a silent auction benefitting the Republican Party of Florida. A couple of tea partiers, decked in Revolutionary War regalia, are ostensibly thinking that the British – or someone else nefarious – are coming to take away their freedoms. Young Republicans, old Republicans, African-American Republicans all trying to outshout each other (the Log Cabin Republicans were absent). A Jimmy Fallon doppleganger asked me if I would support "nixing Nelson," referring to the GOP's efforts to unseat Florida's senior senator. I pointed to my press pass and smiled wryly.
Oh, and the food down there? It'll set you back at least $5 for just a cup of soup.
Free market indeed.
Casey Morell is the general editor of the New College of Florida Catalyst and interned with Orlando Weekly in the summer of 2010.