Into the Limelight
By Jessica Meyers
Kathryn Garcia's 15 minutes began when she answered her phone at Texas' Corpus Christi Caller-Times during a slow Sunday day shift on February 12. The caller was Katharine Armstrong, who said that the vice president had accidentally shot and wounded a friend, Harry Whittington, while hunting quail the previous day at her family's ranch near Corpus Christi. Garcia, who had worked for the paper for just over a year, then wrote an article for the Caller-Times' Web site (www.caller.com) breaking the story about Dick Cheney.
Meyers is an AJR editorial assistant.
Since then, Garcia, 25, has not only learned what birdshot is but also has become part of the story. She appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" and MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."
AJR's Jessica Meyers caught up with Garcia to discuss the story and her new-found fame.
Q: What was your reaction to Armstrong's call?
A: To tell you the truth, I was just so surprised. She told the story, never saying Cheney's name, only his title. Afterwards I asked, "I assume we are speaking about Vice President Dick Cheney?" She paused, laughed and said, "Yes, absolutely." Then I asked her to repeat it a few more times. I kept thinking that I hadn't seen it on the news that morning. Who knows when you go to the newsroom to work a Sunday shift that you are going to get a phone call about Vice President Cheney shooting someone?
Q: What did you do next?
A: When I got off the phone with Katharine, I immediately looked for the White House number. I thought, "Oh my God, how does someone find a phone number for this?" I went to the White House Web site desperately looking for a way to contact them and found a number for the switchboard. The woman said the press office was closed until Monday, so I tried to act really dramatic and said, "This is not going to wait. Cheney shot someone." She patched me through to an emergency number. The spokesperson said my information was accurate. She knew what had happened.
Q: How does it feel to be thrust into the spotlight?
A: A little much. It's strange, honestly, to be on this side of the camera or the pen or whatever you might call it. I knew it was a big story, but I didn't expect it to be this big, getting me types of phone calls like yours. It all happened so quickly.
Q: What is the most bizarre question the media have asked you?
A: They keep asking me hunting questions. I am not a hunter. I think I would probably cry if I shot anything. But maybe it was not appropriate to have told "Good Morning America" that Cheney should have looked before he shot. The thing that was a little harsh was from [MSNBC's] "The Abrams Report." Dan Abrams asked me what a typical story is for us on a Sunday, "Do firemen pull cats out of trees?" I was a little insulted. We are an award-winning newspaper.
Q: So, what do you usually cover?
A: Generally health and religion. I guess this story is a little on the health side with Whittington's condition.
Q: What has surprised you about this experience?
A: I did get a few e-mails about conspiracy theories, but that's common. I was more shocked to have this kind of attention put on me and not the story. We just did our jobs and tried to do as good a job as possible.
Q: What have you found most rewarding? ###
A: Getting e-mails and phone calls from all over the country. I got one call from a woman in a small town on the coastal bend of Texas. She said, "Mi'jita [my dear], you made us so proud." Another was from a college classmate of mine from Texas Christian University who had just given a presentation in a broadcast journalism class there. He said the whole class was talking about me. That felt good.