Friday, December 26, 2008

Reporters' Plight: Ranch to Beach

WaPo: For the White House press corps, covering Obama's 13-day Hawaiian sojourn is a departure from past holidays hunkered down near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex. They've upgraded their offices from highway hotels in Waco to the Westin Moana Surfrider Resort on Waikiki Beach. They've traded a backdrop of rusted farm equipment and bales of hay for sailboats, longboards and crashing waves.

And they've hung up their winter coats.

"What a difference a year makes," exults NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, leaning back in a padded armchair on a veranda overlooking the Pacific.

"No offense to the people of Crawford, Texas, but taking the presidential retreat from Crawford to Honolulu is change anyone can believe in," Henry says, borrowing a phrase from Obama's campaign.

Although Obama is staying about 15 miles away in the quiet beach town of Kailua, the television networks decided to broadcast from the beach in front of the Honolulu hotel where journalists and Obama's staff are staying. The location affords a stunning backdrop of Diamond Head, one of Hawaii's most recognizable landmarks. Since the isles are five time zones behind the East Coast, the sun is blazing during reports on the evening news.

But broadcasting live from a tourist-packed beach can be dicey. Sunbathers stretch out just a few feet away, and shirtless vacationers gather close to the correspondents to snap pictures during their reports. And there's no telling if a strong wave might splash the cameras or whether kids might get silly in the background.

"I was really surprised to see how exposed we are," Guthrie says. But, she adds, "you develop a tunnel focus. If I'm doing a live shot, there could be a pack of wolves in front of me and I wouldn't notice."
Here's another good story about how Hawaii helped Obama get his calm:
NYT: The mood of Mr. Obama, to many observers here in Hawaii, embodies the Aloha Spirit, a peaceful state of mind and a friendly attitude of acceptance of a variety of ideas and cultures. More than simply a laid-back vibe, many Hawaiians believe in a divine and spiritual power that provides a sustaining life energy.

“When Obama gets on television, the national pulse goes down about 10 points,” said Representative Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, who was close friends with Mr. Obama’s parents. “He has this incredibly calming effect. There’s no question in my mind it comes from Hawaii.”

Mr. Abercrombie, who has known the president-elect since he was born, said Mr. Obama’s tranquil, even-keeled mannerisms resembled those of his grandfather, Stanley Dunham. As a child, Mr. Obama would follow Mr. Dunham everywhere, walking through the neighborhoods of Honolulu and beyond.

“He gives off a little oasis of calm,” said Mr. Abercrombie, who is spending the Christmas holidays in Hawaii. “He is peaceful water in the maelstrom, which will serve him very well in these circumstances when there happens to be a crisis.”