#595: Media’s Rest

February 15th, 2016

Innovation. Luxury. Sleek design.

These were some of the watchwords at the Chicago Auto Show’s media center.

In my pre-blog newspaper days, I was no stranger to the event media center. These are little rooms, tents or other quiet spots where reporters covering everything from auto shows to music festivals can get away from the throng and commit the hard-hitting acts of journalism you can only get from local reporters covering auto shows and music festivals.

If you want some quiet, a cup of lukewarm coffee and a spot to transcribe a 5-year-old saying “I liked it. It was fun.” an event’s media center is where you want to be.

And the 2016 Chicago Auto Show had the greatest media center I’ve ever been in.

I attended the yearly show through the auspices of one of my freelance clients, a university whose students designed a car that gets more than 1,000 miles to the gallon.

It’s an amazing machine and a cause worthy of attention, but since it gets a maximum 40 mph if they really gun it and they only get the crazy-high mileage if the driver is a 5’ 3” freshman engineering major named Marissa, don’t expect to see one heading down I-90 any time soon.

But it brought me to the yearly spectacle of wheels at the McCormick Place convention center on the lake. And to the greatest media center I’ve ever known.

As for the show itself, I’m not really the guy for that. My car is a bike, my other car is a Ventra pass and my other other car is a carshare membership I rarely use.

But, from an outsider perspective, a few observations:

  • Everything looked shiny and the convention center smelled like churros.
  • They didn’t have ladies in sparkle-dresses gesturing at gently spinning cars like I was expecting. Now the average auto show presentation is modeled after an Apple products release, down to the white guy with an earpiece mic gesturing as Steve Jobbishly as possible.
  • That said, Alfa Romeo did stuff a bunch of size one models in size zero miniskirts and sent them around to chat up the Giulia Quadrifoglio to men petrified or over-willing to glance south of the neckline.
  • I saw a J.D. Powers and Associates award up close. It had the faint aura of fame clinging to the air around it, like getting to see a minor celebrity’s local daytime Emmy.
  • Someone set one of the iPads by the Smart Fortwos to Google “cock.”

But, oh, that media center!

Endless tables with endless power strips. Lockers for personal possessions. Outlets for charging USB devices. A printer. Free wifi, but also a series of desktop computers — both Mac and PC — to write breaking coverage live from the show.

(Disclosure: This is being written on a desktop Mac in the convention center while interns chat, trade journalists type, photographers download in RAW and I’m on coffee three or four. I’m also eying a can of root beer from the soft drink table.)

Sheer magic. I never want to leave.

The non-secret secret of journalism is that the less important the work, the better the people are treated. The reporters who dug into the Chicago Tribune’s recent “street files” investigation get bullshat by cops in warehouses. I get coffee and comfy chairs at a convention center.

While people like Maudlyne Ihejirika get tossed around covering Black Lives Matter, I might go down to the convention floor and get a churro.

Maybe it’s predictive, that you can tell how socially useless your coverage is by how nicely they treat you. If the people you’re looking into love what you do so much they give you things, maybe you’re not doing the lord’s work.

The students and their supermileage car deserve the ink, and I am proud to give it to them. But as for the churro-scented trade show of Jobbish presentations and alpha Juliets for Alfa Romeo, this beautiful, comfortable media room I never want to leave makes me think I probably should.

The Sun-Times photographers wish each other goodbye

Two journalists transcribe the world in cartoon

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