Eagle smooths way for media horde | VailDaily.com

Eagle smooths way for media horde

Kathy Heicher/Special to the Daily
National media journalist rushed to the media tent set up by the county to work on their stories during breaks in the hearing.

Eagle County’s preparations for coverage of the Kobe Bryant trial apparently paid off.

Although some 75 news organizations and about 300 media employees were present at the Justice Center, the scene was surprisingly orderly. Television satellite trucks were neatly parked a vacant lot across the street from the Justice Center; and press photographers were corralled in a fenced-off area across from the courthouse door. During breaks in the hearing, reporters scrambled to stations in an electricity-equipped tent where they could hook up their computers, tap out their stories and immediately e-mail them to their agencies.

Television crews worked off of temporary plywood platforms constructed across the street and adjacent to the parking lot of the building.

“Give credit to the press corps. They know what to do, they are extremely resourceful, and very collaborative,” said Eagle County Assistant Administrator Becky Gadell.

She said the county spent about $16,000 renting the parking lot for satellite trucks and setting up the media tent. All that money was recouped from the $555 rental fee for the spaces. Gadell said any leftover funds would be used to cover other expenses. She stressed that the county is not making money from the effort, but rather is striving to break even on costs.

Gadell said she was kept busy with press briefings; focusing on the logistics of finding space for every organization; and dealing with practical matters such as dirty port-a-potties. The county provided bottled water for the media, cooled in an ice-filled horse trough.

Plenty of parking was available in the just-completed parking lot to the north of the district attorney’s office. Although the county commissioners pushed to have that lot paved in time for the Oct. 9 hearing, extra parking has been needed at the Justice Center for several years for overflow jury crowds and other court visitors.

County and town officials initially struggled with the question of how to deal with the influx of national media for the high-profile case. Gadell said the board of county commissioners ultimately decided it would be appropriate for the county to act as the agent renting the vacant lot, owned by Gallegos Masonry; and then to rent back spaces.

“Keeping people together was the way to go,” said Gadell, noting that there were fewer electrical cables strung across county property and Chambers Avenue, a busy street serving a commercial park.

She said county officials were initially wary about charging the press for spaces, noting that typically there is no charge for accommodating the press.

“These big stories are not the same,” she said, noting that the news agencies had a budget allocated for coverage of the Bryant case.

Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said organizing the media space and charging the rent was the correct thing to do.

“I have no sympathy for people who are complaining. They’re spending of lot of money to be here,” he said.

Several national media representatives commented that the town, county, and local residents have gone out of their way to be accommodating.

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