LatinaLista — I’ve tossed and turned all night about whether or not I should write about what happened to me. It’s something that I would rather forget. I also realize that through this post that I am giving publicity to something that probably was missed by a majority of Latina Lista readers and is not even on the radar of very many people otherwise. Yet, being a writer, I feel compelled to share this experience and if it helps in warning, in any small way, another blogger who finds her/himself on the receiving end of an invitation to appear live on CNN, then it’s worth it.
The invitation appeared randomly in my inbox last week: CNN Interview Request.
To be honest, such requests are not uncommon from media outlets. Usually, they just want to get your perspective on issues they know you write about. So, I answered with “How can I help you?”
Little did I know that my response would open the door to a night that totally misrepresented their claims to me and leave me looking really bad.
The request came from a likable woman named Nicole who was in charge of booking guests. We exchanged phone numbers and soon I was on the phone with her.
She had seen Latina Lista and was contacting me to appear on a show on Sunday night with a host named Tony Harris in a segment called “Blog Buzz.”
“We get a liberal and conservative blogger to tell Tony what’s happening in the blogosphere,” Nicole innocently explained.
“Hmm, this isn’t where you pit one against another, is it?” I asked half-jokingly.
“No, no,” she replied quickly laughing. “We’re not looking for knockdown, drag-out fights. Just tell Tony what you see that’s being said in the blogosphere.”
How hard can that be? I mean I do that everyday. Though I had my reservations about my appearance being live, I feel way more comfortable with tapings, I agreed but not before first asking one more important question: “How long will I be on-air?”
Because of a static connection, I thought at first she said 30 minutes. “Whaaat? I asked.
“Three minutes,” Nicole repeated.
“Oh, ok. Good,” I replied. Though I knew, three minutes can seem like 30 minutes, and in some cases 30 days, I thought that should be easy enough.
“Great,” said Nicole. “The show airs live at 9 p.m. on Sunday EST. Your segment will go on at 9:30 p.m. The studio where you’ll be taping is in downtown Dallas. If you don’t know where it is, we can send a car for you.”
Seeing that it was a 30-minute drive into downtown for me on a Sunday night and I wasn’t getting any kind of compensation for my time (and little did I know humiliation), I opted for the car.
Because I just never know how I’ll do on such interview shows, I don’t really tell family and friends about it. Something in my gut told me this was one of those times where I should probably keep quiet. Aside from telling my immediate family, I told no one.
Besides, I didn’t have much time to dwell on it with other projects I had going for Latina Lista.
Well, Sunday finally arrived. The car, or should say, limousine got to my home at exactly 8:30 p.m. The chauffeur, in full uniform and hat, stepped out, opened the door and ushered me into the subdued lit leather backseat.
“Help yourself to the water bottles,” Barry, the certified professional chauffeur, told me. “I’ve got a whole case in the trunk. I’d say listen to the satellite radio but someone already broke the knob off the radio dial and the car is only a few weeks old.”
“Amazing how people treat things when they know it’s not theirs,” I replied trying to keep the conversation going.
“Yeah, oh by the way, you can control the climate in the car. The settings are in the middle console next to you,” said Barry as he eased onto the highway.
The next 28 minutes was a smooth ride to the downtown studio. Barry let me out and a girl unlocked the front door of a nondescript building in the heart of a warehouse district.
I was the only one there, besides the camerawoman and her husband, whose actually going into the grocery business but came along to keep her company.
The girl, I think her name was Andrea â€” this is where I think my mind is kicking into self-preservation and making my memories a little hazy â€” outfitted a small spiral-shaped rubber earpiece into my ear, duct taped the lapel mic onto my jacket and had me sit under a bright white light.
Little did I know, that should have been my cue to go into the light!
The minutes ticked by slowly. Watching a small monitor tuned to CNN, I finally saw Tony Harris. Nice looking, affable kind of guy. The show opened with the news of Nancy Reagan’s hospitalization. It quickly went to other topics: the vote in Palestine, the terrible weather and line of tornadoes somewhere in the US. A commercial break highlighted an upcoming segment on “Hispanic Harassment.”
I started to get a knot in my stomach. Could it be possible that they had misled me and were actually going to question me on this topic? Not that I didn’t have plenty to say but given CNN’s track record when it came to Hispanic issues, I was beginning to feel a little leery.
Yet, the segment aired and I soon heard a small voice in my ear from far away say, “12 minutes.” A commercial came on and suddenly I heard a familiar voice â€” “Madeeeesa TreviÃ±Ã±Ã±o. How are you? Meet Amanda.”
It was Tony Harris. We exchanged pleasantries. Amanda was the conservative blogger Nicole had gotten. Amanda blogs at Townhouse and the next thing I knew I heard a voice say “3 minutes.”
From here, the next few minutes, though I could have sworn it was at least a full 30 minutes, run all together.
It started out with me answering if the Republicans had a chance with Latino voters after which I hear Amanda’s voice vomiting out a response that included somewhere that Latinos got offended by Republicans because we didn’t like the music they played or the shirts they wore.
Since, I can’t see anyone’s faces and I’m just hearing these voices float towards me like I’m having an out-of-body experience, I just kind of freeze. What Amanda just said sounded like fighting words to me but I was told this wasn’t supposed to happen.
The rest of the show continued with Tony deferring way too much airtime to Amanda to make her case for Republicans. It was obvious that she was very comfortable there and he with her. I got the distinct impression that she was a regular.
The thought crossed my mind to challenge Amanda on her comments and just when I was ready to do so, Tony would go off on another tangent.
Tony did throw it to me a few times trying to press me into saying who would win the Latino vote. I’m not ready yet to say that and if I can be proud of anything, it’s the fact that I didn’t cave in and say who I thought would win â€” just what the polls were saying.
Needless to say, I’m not the kind of “political pundit” they envisioned I would be.
If things couldn’t get any worse, in trying to explain that the Texas Latino vote was split down the middle with endorsements from such groups as the Tejano Democrats and the Mexican American Democrats each one endorsing a different candidate, I couldn’t get it out â€” my apologies to both groups.
When the end came, Tony and Amanda were cheery with Tony saying something like “Well, she didn’t do so bad. We’ll have to have her back, what do you say Amanda?”
I’m thinking I feel like a deer whose been run over once by a car and then hit again when the car backed up.
Aside from feeling rather stupid and knowing that I sucked big time, I truly felt blindsided that the exchange was something I was not prepared to do nor the kind I wanted to be a part of.
Unfortunately, it’s indicative of what broadcast media attempts to do all the time to create a story â€” pit sides against one another, not for an even exchange but for an entertaining one.
Anyone who reads Latina Lista knows that I’m not one to attack others unnecessarily or resort to demeaning anyone. My firm belief is that solutions must be reached and an honest dialogue can’t even begin when such tactics are undertaken. I believe in being fair and that’s not a quality that translates well onto a show that wants the mental equivalent of a Las Vegas fight.
I’m not sharing this experience to evoke sympathy or ridicule but as a reminder to myself that my forte isn’t in verbal sparring on live TV. Was I naive to think I could appear and talk about issues that are important to me without being an unwilling participant in a mud wrestling match, yes. But as the saying goes â€” Live and Learn.
Somehow, I know my legs were connected to my body because I made it outside and a smiling Barry was there holding the car door open for me.
As I fell into the backseat and he eased onto the highway, I reached for the water and just had to ask, “Don’t you have anything stronger, Barry?”