When covering a major event like a papal visit in situations when you don’t know when you’re going to be back at the office, one needs to be both compact and resourceful.
Here’s a personal checklist, augmented by CNS International Editor Barb Fraze, of things reporters — well, at least this one — has on their person or carrying in a bag:
ID. Check. I’m wearing four lanyards with eight separate pieces of identification. One or more of them should enable me to get where I need to be.
Cell phone. Check. Luddite that I am, I only got one two weeks ago. If you call, think twice about leaving a message. I’m not sure I’ve learned yet how to retrieve them.
Cell phone charger. Check. You can’t leave yourself incommunicado by your own negligence.
Cell phone instruction manuals. Check. In case I had time to learn a new feature. On the third day of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, they’re still new to me.
Pocket change. No. Too much trouble to scoop out of pockets and return there if going through security checkpoints.
Pens. Check. One black (my preferred color), one blue and one red. When note-taking is fast and furious, it helps to be able to differentiate or highlight when the situation warrants it.
Camera and extra film. Check. I’m not a photographer by trade, but even amateur (but not amateurish) work can help tell the story if no one else is on the scene.
Cassette recorder. Check. You never know when you need to talk to someone who talks so fast you couldn’t possibly keep up with written note-taking. Also helpful when covering important personages who don’t speak from prepared remarks.
Wallet. Check. Clear out the clutter — charge- and debit-card slips, old ATM receipts — and stock with fresh bills. Not everywhere you go will accept plastic.
Business cards. Check. In case an interview subject has something to add or amend after the interview is over.
Subway fare card. Check. In case you need to get from someplace where the reporter shuttle buses can’t or won’t go.
Handkerchief. Check. When I was 9, my mom told me, “It’s a long day without a hankie.” At first I doubted her; isn’t the day going to be 24 hours long anyway? But thanks to her adage, I learned the theory of relativity.
Jacket. I regretted bringing it yesterday when the sun warmed up the packed-tight White House crowd. I left it behind for the today’s papal Mass without regrets.
Notebook. Check. I brought two, in fact, just in case note-taking gets out of hand.
Book with the liturgical texts of all of the Masses and prayer services led by the pope. Check. A handy reference. Note to self: Be sure to make it available for reporters on New York leg of trip.
Masking tape. Check. CNS staff had prepared pens with duct tape wrapped around them. A nice thought, but I found it a pain to peel off withough scissors or a knife — a big no-no when passing through metal detectors. Need to secure something? Masking tape, generously applied, turns the trick.
CNS placards. Check. I used my allotment of two at the papal visit media center in Washington to secure some prime real estate in the front row. I got two more in case I needed to secure a similar spot in the press box in Nationals Park. Outside the Vatican Embassy, I was prepared, had the need arisen, to use both placards and masking-tape them around my shirt to make sure interview subjects came over to me.
Laptop computer. Check. The computer bag must be filled with all sorts of wires and connections.
Power strip. Check. Just in case a venue supplies electricity but not much else.
Printed e-mails. Check. In case you’re somewhere you can’t access e-mail from a laptop.
Comfortable shoes. Check. I have a pair of go-to-church shoes, but when going to church is part of going to work, as it was at Nationals Park, the go-to-work shoes win.