I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille - Bob Paslay

When I first got into this business, a friend of mine told me I had a face for radio and a voice for newspapers. No one mentioned television.

On Friday, I was asked to be a panelist on a political forum for the three Clayton County candidates taped at WPBA in midtown Atlanta and aired Sunday.

I didn't have the guts to watch myself when it showed Sunday, but I am sure I proved what my friend said about my face and voice.

Everything about television is daunting. I applaud them for being able to pull everything and have it run smoothly.

I love journalism and always thought I would love to be in television (certainly not out front but maybe off camera). But I don't know if I have the stamina for the split second aspect.

I was a child of television. Sprawled out in front of the set watching the Native American test pattern and the pitched whine as my brother and I waited for the first flicker and then Howdy Doody to come on Saturday morning.

If you are old enough to remember when television signed on and off, then you are as old as I am or pretty close.

On Friday, I arrived at the station on time and was told I could go into makeup. MAKEUP? Well it wasn't as bad as it sounds. The very nice lady just patted some of the shiny spots and squirted a little this and that. She even taped down one flap on my collar where I apparently had lost a button.

"So," I asked. "Can you make me look like Brad Pitt?" I asked. A station pundit over my shoulder said, "She's a makeup artist, not a plastic surgeon."

As a nosey journalist, I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass. As I was being blotted and squirted, I asked: "So besides me, who is the most famous person you ever made up?"

She said she had made up both President Bush and his father and Ronald Reagan. "Mr. Reagan was a very nice man," she said. "Did he dye his hair?" I asked. "Yes," she said quietly.

I have done a few discussion shows live and they are more frightening than live on tape. Live on tape means unless a light fixture crashes to the floor or some other catastrophe, the viewers will later see what you do, warts and all.

As you are sitting there with cameras everywhere and people all about, you are more numb than frightened.

I kept telling myself, Please don't get Mickey Mouth and talk like a Disney character. Please compose your question in your head so it doesn't ramble on. Since the candidates were probably as fishy out of water as I was, I comforted myself thinking they are Jell-O trying to act like a block of ice and I can do the same.

I guess people who do this for a living learn to concentrate and it is just another day at work. They are comfortable with their voice and their face and all the surroundings. The moderator Fox 5 News' Morse Diggs certainly seemed that way. If composure was weighed in gold, he would certainly be swimming in treasure.

It was once in vogue for newspaper journalists to hate television journalists and vice versa. I never fell in that trap. I loved from Day One everything about television. My friend Randy Travis once had me watch a live news broadcast from the control booth back in South Carolina and I was like a hog in pig heaven. Every aspect of it fascinates me, everything from the technology to the calmness that prevails.

I tell print journalists they could learn from television reporters. When you are told your story is going to lead the 6 o'clock news, you better have it ready. When you are told that your story is one minute and 40 seconds long you better get the stop watch out and be precise. I can say for my end of the profession that I think television journalists could learn a lot of good things from print journalists too.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at bpaslay@news-daily.com.