Random Thoughts: Reporting comes with perks


By Travis Mounts, managing editor

Being a journalist can come with some perks.
Sure, money and power and prestige are nice things to have, but those normally aren’t afforded to your run-of-the-mill reporter like myself.
Community newspaper reporters have a little bit of sway, I guess, at least in terms of people not wanting to be in the paper for wrong reasons.
If money was the goal, I chose poorly. The very top of the media business offers money, although most of it is for the talking heads on TV. If money was my main focus, I should have been a CPA. I got A’s in the three accounting classes I did take, so I suppose there was some potential. Alas, that career path is now a lost opportunity.
However, there are still times where it is fun to be me and to do the things that I do.
Monday was one of those days. I spent part of my morning interviewing former Cheney Mayor Scott Tatge. With a long career in aviation as a pilot and flight safety instructor, Tatge has recently taken on a new part-time gig – one of the pilots for “Doc,” the B-29 World War II bomber that was made in Wichita and is once again back here, living in a beautiful hangar when it is not traveling the country to various air shows and other events.
The story will be in the February edition of the East Wichita News-WestSide Story that will be inserted into next week’s Tsnews.
After visiting for a while, we shot a few pictures in front of the plane’s nose. The plane is in the hanger for the winter undergoing maintenance. One of the propellers is off as that engine undergoes an overhaul.
I casually mentioned I had not seen the inside of it. Scott offered to take me inside, and I took him up on his offer in an instant.
It is a tight fit inside but really cool. I reminded myself how few humans were six feet tall in the 1940s. My 6-2 frame with extra pounds was not part of the calculus used to build this amazing plane.
For the most part, the plane is the same as it was during World War II. There is a Garmin navigation device inside now, making flights much simpler. Some other practical modifications have been made, including a staircase that goes up inside the front of the bomb bay. These days, nobody has to climb in on a ladder.
My work has taken me onto the roof, into the basement and through the back parts of Century II. I’ve been inside the attic area of a flying Pentagon, and once got a glimpse of one of the airplanes known as Air Force One when a president is on board. I’ve seen the inside one of a plane owned by a king.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ victory at Arrowhead Stadium reminded me of the times I’ve been a sports reporter or photographer at games. My first trip there was in the early 1990s. I watched a game from inside the press box, stepped onto the field after the game to find my videographer, and then went inside the locker room to interview players. About 15 years ago, I snagged a field pass to photograph the Garden Plain dance team at a pre-season game, and got to shoot the game from the sidelines. That was a huge thrill. Shooting a Kansas State Wildcats football game also was a ton of fun.
I’ve met a few celebrities. I used connections to shoot at a Weird Al Yankovic concert, and proudly got a photo of the legendary spoof artist performing an accordion solo as bubbles surround him.
One of the most fun interviews was with country singer Neal McCoy. He called me from his tour bus a few weeks before a Sedgwick County Fair performance a few years back. He was as nice and down-to-earth as any interview I’ve done, and he remembered me when we talked in person a few weeks later.
I’m not a huge country music fan, but Neal McCoy does so much more. His Fair performance did not draw well, but he has packed The Cotillion. If you like music, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better show.
There are small rewards, too. Shooting high school sports from the sidelines on Friday nights gives you an entirely different experience of the sights, sounds and even smells of sports. Sometimes there’s food. Sometimes there is really good food. Put out some tasty grub if you want to attract a friendly press.
Anyway, as I finished another 15-hour work day on a Tuesday, it was nice to know there are some perks that make it all worth while.