Reporter's Notebook

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Web Extra!

‘West Wing’ Drops In

You never know who you might run into at a national political convention.

Emily Wenzel, a Minnesota delegate and teacher from Rochester, Minn., was milling about on the convention floor when she spied actor Richard Schiff, who plays White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler on the "West Wing" TV show. Like most delegates, she had a camera handy.

"I asked this guy across from him if he could take our picture," she said. It was only afterwards that she learned the identity of the photographer: Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

"I had no clue," she said with a laugh, until later when a group of reporters were peppering him with questions.

Fifteen Minutes ...

Julie Blaha, another teacher-delegate from Minnesota, has been busily typing away on her laptop this week. She's one of several delegates writing an online journal for describing her week.

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Audio Extras:

  • Education Week editor Mark Walsh reports on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's appearance at an early childhood education forum. (2:27) Windows Media format | MP3 format

"I'm a delegate diarist," she said. "They picked us to write for them."

One day, the 34-year-old wrote about her experiences with the media. Beyond sitting down with Education Week, she's also been interviewed for television and radio programs and by the Associated Press.

"I've kind of sought it out," she said. "This is an opportunity to tell our story."

Ms. Blaha, a math teacher at Jackson Middle School in Champlin, had another special responsibility this week. She's among the lucky group of delegates who sit in the seats directly behind the staging area, which often serves as the backdrop for television coverage of speakers.

"Its incredible," she said.

The opportunity arose by chance. During a layover in Milwaukee, she came across some campaign aides to Sen. John Kerry who asked if she'd like to sit there.

"We're not big donors up there," Ms. Blaha said. "I'm just a regular person."

There are some strict rules to abide by during her 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. shift.

"No cameras at all, no buttons, no pins, nothing that's going to glare or distract from the speaker," she said. "It's live TV, so our goal is not to do something like roll your eyes or yawn at a dumb time."

—Erik W. Robelen

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