I hadn’t been expecting to see the place.
We were rolling through the country in a vehicle that was something out of an old-time science-fiction writer’s most vivid futuristic dreams.
This was during the autumn in which Barack Obama was campaigning for president—the campaign which would culminate, that November, with his history-changing victory.
"We’ll be at the hotel in a few minutes," Dale Fountain called back to me.
He was the driver of this vehicle—it was called the CNN Election Express, and from the outside it looked like a massive bus. Inside, though, it was a live television studio on wheels—control consoles, editing suite, satellite-uplink hardware, ten high-definition monitors. From the bus, even as it was speeding down a highway, we could transmit pictures and sound that would instantly be seen on television screens around the world. I was writing columns about the presidential campaign every day for CNN’s political site on the Internet; we could stop in a town, report on a speech or a rally, interview some potential voters, snap their photographs . . .
And then, even as the bus was on its way, I could write the column, send it and the pictures skyward, and within minutes, before we had reached the next stop, it would be available for reading by an audience in every corner of the globe.
We had been in many places during the course of the long campaign—in the days just before arriving in this town, we had reported from Washington, D.C., from Maryland, from Pennsylvania, from West Virginia, from Mississippi, from Arkansas, from Kentucky. In a new-media age, the bus was an electronic marvel—it provided an almost incomprehensibly advanced digital delivery system for every kind of storytelling imaginable.
So I was writing away in the middle section of the bus—I was a sixty-one-year-old man enthralled by all the ways this three-million-dollar vehicle suddenly enabled a person to communicate his reporting to viewers and readers in the blink of an eye—and I looked up to see that the town into which we were heading was the capital city of Ohio. Columbus.
I stopped typing, and looked out the window.
On a downtown street—the address was 34 South Third Street—there was an old, stone-fronted building.
I had been there before, many times.
There once had been a certain room on the mezzanine.
Inside the bus, transmission-equipment lights blinked silently on and off.
I looked toward the building and tried to recall a sound from long ago.
Excerpted from Late Edition by Bob Greene.
Copyright © 2009 by John Deadline Enterprises, Inc.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.