RNC 2000: Memories of Mo Rocca and mac & cheese


Somewhere, there’s a photo of me channeling Richard Milhous Nixon, standing at a podium at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, arms raised, hands signaling double Vs for Victory.

I have no idea, though, where that photo might be. All I know is, I was 16 years younger, about 20 pounds lighter and paid, well, about the same as I’m paid now.

Hey, it’s journalism. No one promised me I’d get rich in this business.

Next week, I’ll be back in the Wells Fargo Center (which in 2000 was still the First Union Center). A lot has changed since then — not least the name of the venue, which has actually changed twice since 2000.

My last trip went straight down Broad Street, from the Inquirer’s old building at 400 North Broad to the sports complex. A lowly editorial assistant, I begged my boss to let me go down there and check the place out. She sent me down to run film (you remember film, right?) to the photographers and miscellaneous supplies to the reporters in the media tent — though I suspect it was less because she thought they needed anything and more to get me the bleep out of her office. I can be a pain when I really want something. Just ask my husband.

So off I went, riding shotgun with a fellow EA in a battered white Inquirer van. I walked around outside, agog at the celebrities I saw wandering casually about … well, news celebrities anyway.

I almost literally walked into the late Helen Thomas, the diminutive White House correspondent and one of the few adults I’ve met shorter than me. I saw Mo Rocca, now a CBS News correspondent but back then in Philadelphia for “The Daily Show,” incredibly tall (to me, at least; apparently he’s only 6 feet) and wearing a bright yellow suit with a white shirt. News anchors and famous bylines, sweating and working right before my very starstruck eyes.

I can’t remember how I managed to get inside the building; it was early in the day, so the arena was empty except for photographers, a few political staffers and the facility’s workers. A photographer for the RNC was looking for volunteers to help him get a sense of lighting from the stage, so a few of us said sure, and one by one, up we went to stand behind the podium to pose and pretend we belonged there.

The photographer handed us each a card, saying he’d upload all the photos to an FTP and we could view them there the next day. But when I looked for the picture back at the newsroom, I realized there were hundreds of frames on the website — finding mine might take longer than two presidential terms.

For my troubles, one of the reporters gave me his swag, a collection of RNC goodies that included a canvas bag with the convention logo; a mini first aid kit (helpful for paper cuts, but not much else); a special issue of Philadelphia Magazine that, curiously, covered over not only the RNC’s host city but also its own namesake with a big “KING OF PRUSSIA” sticker; a reporter’s notebook; and a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a rather severe-looking elephant on the front holding a sign that read “Republicans in 2000!”

Just in case you’re wondering, I still have the swag, mac and cheese included. As for that photo of me pretending to accept the party’s nomination for president in 2000, well, that’s lost to the ages.

Maybe Thursday night, after the balloons have dropped and my adrenaline’s dissipated, when the Courier-Post car drops me off at the paper and I return home, exhausted after days of tweeting, Snapchatting, Facebook Live-ing and, oh yeah, actual reporting, I’ll break out that box.

It’s probably still good. And cheesy.