Two minutes and 57 seconds.
That's how long it took to get Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna a working microphone at the Governor's debate in Yakima. A lot of people have asked me what I was thinking as the seconds turned to minutes and still we could not get his microphone to work correctly. Yes, my first thoughts were "OH NO". But I quickly realized that I could not freak out. My thinking went from "OH NO" to "be calm" and "do not panic" and "don't say anything stupid" and if possible find a little humor in the situation.
This has happened to me before, but not during a major debate like this one. Over the years, I have been in numerous 'live' situations where the audio has failed or something unexpected has occurred. As a television news reporter, I had a fellow walk up to me during a 'live' shot and start cursing at me loudly. Another time, a Taiko drum group that performs with large and loud Japanese drums, started playing just as the anchor tossed to me to start my 'live' report. The sound literally shook me. Those 'live' experiences and others taught me a lot about staying calm and focused.
Still the nearly three minutes in Yakima was during a Governor's Debate being broadcast and streamed statewide. It was a debate between two candidates in one of the tightest gubernatorial races in the country. As the seconds turned to minutes, I had to keep my composure, talk slowly and succinctly, and wait it out. Finally, the crew got a working microphone to Rob McKenna and moved on with the debate.
It was just a blip. Well, ok, a big blip. But we got it fixed and the debate between the two candidates happened. It was fiery and contentious and in the end the content of the debate mattered more than audio failure. I apologized profusely to Rob McKenna and his campaign manager Randy Pepple. They were gracious and understanding. The broadcast received a lot of great press coverage. Not much was reported about the audio problem. There were also excellent ratings for KCTS which shows that people care about this type of public affairs programming. I want to also acknowledge the hard work and Executive Producer of Public Affairs Ethan Morris who spent many hours negotiating with both campaigns about the format, staging and even the coin toss to decide the order of opening and closing statements. Our crew deserves a big shout out as well. They put in two long days setting up the equipment and then taking it all down after the debate.
It was a memorable night. Yes, a little tense at times, but I have to admit, it was a lot of fun.
Enrique Cerna, Host and Moderator