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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The buzz begins

OSLO, Dec. 10, 10:56A local time

Still waiting for a copy of the president's speech. The White House folks report it probably won't be in until 10 minutes or so AFTER the presentation. The word has been so conflicted from the start. Folks thought he was getting in last night, then press reports said he was coming in this morning. Norwegians are a bit irate upon hearing that President Obama was not meeting with the king and queen -- but most did not hear that the luncheon was cancelled, but he was still meeting with the royals. There's nothing like spin to set the nerves off.

It's a veritable United Nations in the press area. Most heads are down, in front of laptops or mobile devices. Thanking the Lord for the free wi-fi that's available.The White House Press Pool is hustled away to the right side of the room. Snacks and coffee are available. People are milling in and out, mostly seeking an electrical outlet. The soundcheck has finished. People are swapping notes and scrambling for the best spot.

Caught up with my man, Michael Fletcher, who writes for the Washington Post. We met years ago, as members of a Knight Fellowship for specialized reporting on race and ethnicity at the University of Maryland. Fletch flew in yesterday, and won't be able to catch the concert because the president is flying out in the morning. That's the thing about being in the Pool. You get herded like cattle, without a lot of time to check out other things in and around the area. Not crying for Fletch, or any of the rest of the reporters. They'll do their job, and make it happen.

The same is true of Gloria Browne-Marshall. A law professor, author, and playwright by day, she's freelancing work for a few black papers in New York and WBAI-FM. Ran into her at the Nobel Peace Center on Tuesday, and have been running into her ever since. Good woman, working with her husband, Ernie, who is capturing video.

Other than us, can't say there is large representation of the black press here. The assumption is that most folks will rely on the wires. Still, it's not quite the same as getting down on the ground quotes from the folks.

Outdoors, the children's choirs and local talent continue to serenade those assembled under the gloomy skies by the river, in full view of the Nobel Prize Center. The Oslo City Hall sits just a few feet away from them both.

With its gray, 1950s interiors, walking through the corridors is not much different than any other city hall in and around the United States. That makes it no less regal. The walls are adorned with portraits of leaders past, and classical murals reminiscent of Cezanne. Gilded ceilings and goldleaf wallpaper compliment the marble archways and walls.

The assembled chairs should seat a few hundred people, and the big-screen TV will make viewing easier for those who don't want to dangle from the balcony for the festivities. Of course, coming this far, it would seem nutty NOT to be in the midst of the room next door.

A new soundcheck is underway. More photographers dangle along the balcony, everyone angling for the best shot. Showtime is but 90 minutes away.

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