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My City_My Life

In L.A. when Michael Jackson dies

  • Story Highlights
  • My City_My Life producer Laura McGeary blogs from L.A.
  • She is there to record a show about celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck
  • She finds herself reporting on Michael Jackson's sudden death
By Laura McGeary
For CNN
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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- My City_My Life producer Laura McGeary writes a diary about her experiences on the road. In this first part the L.A. shoot is caught up in one of the biggest news stories of the year.

Last night I flew in from New York, our photojournalist Darren from London and Wolfgang from Sydney -- hopefully no one will suffer from jet lag.

Fans gather at Vine and Sunset in Hollywood, California, on Thursday evening to mark Michael Jackson's death.

Michael Jackson arrives at UCLA Medical Center in los Angeles. The My City_My Life team were filming as the drama unfolded.

Today our driver Terry was at the hotel bright and early. We learn early on that not only is he a driver, he also is a bodyguard, which begs the question: "Does a TV crew need a bodyguard in LA?" I guess we'll find out.

The first day of the shoot is scheduled to be an 'orientation day' allowing us to get our bearings where Hollywood is in relation to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, etc. Having only been to LA once before, I quickly discover it is without doubt a driving city. First stop we head up into the hills, the Hollywood Hills to be exact, to get a few minutes on tape of the iconic "Hollywood" sign.

Then it's down Sunset Boulevard. and onward to Rodeo Drive. This takes all morning to get from location to location, jumping in and out of the van to get a minute of footage here, 30 seconds there -- all of this will make up about 40 seconds of the actual show. It's amazing how much recording time is necessary to put a natural sound show like this together.
Video Watch Wolfgang Puck take CNN on a tour of L.A. »

During lunch, at the aptly named 'Newsroom' café, we notice on CNN screens throughout the restaurant that not only did Farrah Faucet sadly loose her battle with cancer early in the day, but that Michael Jackson is reported to be in a coma. The buzz around the restaurant is that Jackson has died.

We hop back in the van and on our way to Santa Monica Pier call into the LA bureau to see if they need our assistance with covering the MJ story. They do, so we take a detour straight to the hospital where a crowd is forming outside. Darren jumps out of the car and we head to the CNN satellite truck already setting up on the street, then over into the crowd to get initial reaction from fans on a lawn.
See pictures of Wolfgang Puck's Los Angeles

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I was most touched by a college student from India who talked about how even half a world a way, she was a big fan. Some fans are wearing old concert t-shirts from the 80s, one mother and adult son stand, arms draped around each other -- mom crying, son comforting. Then the crowd shifts, and you must be quick. We are now outside the hospital waiting for a potential press conference with the family. With the hospital staff now in place, a queue of media is forming to check badges.

Darren is allowed into the hospital to set up for the press conference -- then a slight debate, only one member from each station is allowed. Eventually they let a few more CNN staff into the room, including me. Because the room is in the basement, a satellite signal is not an option. I stand behind Darren ready to run to the satellite truck as soon as the press conference is over so that we can feed the footage to Atlanta to be broadcast across networks.

Jermaine Jackson comes out. His voice quivers when he tells us how his brother died. Being in the room, hearing Jermaine's voice -- it hits me that Michael Jackson is really gone. The whole speech lasts about a minute, Darren hands me the disk and I run -- in my slippery sandals out the door of the conference room, up the stairs, back outside through the crowd and to the satellite truck -- its reminiscent of a scene from the iconic 80s movie 'Broadcast News' when Joan Cusack runs into the water fountain trying to get a tape on air...and I think to myself, " It doesn't matter how many years you've been in the business, breaking news is the adrenaline rush that keeps us all wanting more."

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After we drop off the tape and the press conference is over, we check back in with the field team. The rest of the LA bureau staff is into place so we are free to go back to do what we flew to LA for in the first place. I check back in with Wolfgang's folks to let them know -- the interview is still on for tomorrow.

We pile back into the van and to the Santa Monica Pier for an amazing sunset shot. An eventful and productive day, sometimes just being at the right place right time is what its all about.

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