When I set up the bio for this website I posted a photo of my first press pass with the notation I only used it twice: at the White House and the Cummington Fair. My friend Teresa said there must be a good story there. Yes, and here it is.
When Bill Clinton was elected president, he chose Anthony Lake, who advised him on foreign policy during the campaign, as his National Security Advisor.
Tony and I had something in common. We both lived then in Worthington, a very small town in western Massachusetts. He had left behind Washington, D.C., where he was heavily involved in national and international politics, to raise cattle and teach at one of the local colleges. I knew Tony from covering the town — plus others — as a reporter for The Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton. I recall once when Tony came to a Worthington health board hearing — one neighbor was complaining about another’s pigs — and he spoke up for the pigs.
When news broke about Tony’s appointment, he was gracious enough to grant me an interview. He wanted his neighbors — in the broadest sense — to know what he was doing.
And then, when he was in office, he consented to an interview at the White House. Gordon Daniels, a photographer for the Gazette, and I traveled to D.C. He gave access to those who worked with him. That’s Gordon’s photo of Tony and me. It looks like we were having a good time. I believe we were.
Yes, White House officials did a background check and yes, I had to show my press pass at the gate. I bet things are more stringent post-9/11.
Now for the other time I used the pass. The woman at the gate of the Cummington Fair seemed to doubt I was there to do a story for the Gazette. I never had to use the pass in the hill towns, where I could cover fires, accidents, crimes, trials, meetings, etc. with only a hello to whoever was in charge or by just showing up. Maybe the woman thought I was only trying to get in for free to view the farm animals and vaudeville show. But after a close inspection, I was allowed inside for free. Yes, I did do a story.
I do have a press pass at The Taos News, where I have worked for nearly eight years, seven as its managing editor. I really don’t have a need for a pass. But one time I was part of the team covering Taos Pueblo’s 40th anniversary celebration of the return of its sacred Blue Lake. I don’t remember why but I clipped the pass to my jacket. The Pueblo man directing traffic spotted it and directed me to the VIP parking. Well, that was unexpected.