Let's Run the Tape

A German TV network uses a marathoner to win the anti-convention footage race

On Sunday morning in Manhattan, a producer for the German network ZDF turned to Stefani Jackenthal, handed her a DVCPRO tape, and said, "Go." Jackenthal once completed a 10-day adventure race that mixed trail running with mountain biking and kayaking. She has taught blind kids in Tibet to rock climb. She has run the New York City Marathon in just under three hours, and last year completed it while filming three other runners for a German reality show. But when Jackenthal set off at 11:23 a.m., it wasn't to contend with rapids and rocks, but to ensure that ZDF's footage of the anti-Republican march made it on the air.

Jackenthal was hired by the network because of the logistics involved in getting material from ZDF's reporters down in Chelsea through the march and back to the broadcast base near Madison Square Garden. The march was expected to reach them around noon, but the ZDF crew had to have footage ready by 12:50 p.m. in order to make the German evening news. "I originally called a bike messenger," says Renee Silverman, who was working as a freelance producer. "They said, 'I don't know if a bike is going to be so useful. I'd call a runner.' "

It was a novel idea to Silverman, who'd never heard of using a fleet-footed carrier. But she thought of Jackenthal, whom she'd worked with on the reality show about the NYC Marathon. So on Tuesday Silverman called her with a unique proposition: racing through the maze of protesters, cops, and media to deliver footage before ZDF's deadline. "Renee called me this week, saying they were covering the convention," says Jackenthal. "I called her back, she explained, and we were cracking up. So she hired me to literally run the tape."

Stefani Jackenthal, action hero
photo: Cary Conover
Stefani Jackenthal, action hero

For the job, Jackenthal came prepared with a pair of Brooks running shoes, shorts, and a top, along with a North Face backpack equipped with a waist strap to secure her precious cargo. Unsure of how many runs she'd make, Jackenthal also brought some Power Bars and water. The crew assembled at Union Square, and Jackenthal used her journalist's eye to help them find interviews. With enough footage assembled, Silverman handed Jackenthal the goods, and the race was on.

"I looked down at my watch, and the crew was giving me all sorts of crap, like how long is it going to take," says Jackenthal. "I didn't know if it was going to be tear gas or what. When I left, my goal was to make it under 10 minutes. But I was hoping for eight."

Despite being unusually clothed for a media type, she made it past cops at the checkpoints. "It was just more of the same sort of lunacy. They just shook their heads and laughed," says Jackenthal. "They were really confused at what I was doing. But New Yorkers are very hard to shock. So they were like, 'Yeah, go ahead. Whatever.' "

Jackenthal arrived in exactly eight minutes—including the 45 seconds she lost after getting some bad directions.

It turned out to be her only run of the day—ZDF's film crew got hamstrung by technical difficulties. Still, Jackenthal says that she had a ball, and that running through garrisons of Bushwhackers and New York's Finest ranks right up there with teaching blind Tibetans to rock climb. "This was such a New York thing; I absolutely loved it," says Silverman. "I love that I had a dual purpose. I was part of the media and protest thing in New York, but I also had to be the jackrabbit."


And now, back to Web content

Michael Azerrad is back online. The veteran music journalist has authored such classics as Our Band Could Be Your Life and Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. He also served as music editor for sonicnet.com, one of several music sites that launched during the Internet boom and sank when it all went bust. Now Azerrad will be heading up the addition of editorial content to the download subscriber site eMusic.com.

Despite the fate of sonicnet.com, Azerrad is still high on the Web. "eMusic was one of the first music download sites," says Azerrad. "They've managed to stay in business this long. There's no reason to think that they won't be able to keep going." To that end, Azerrad will lead a bevy of hip music writers helping subscribers comb through eMusic's 400,000-song library. "We realized we needed to find a way to help people discover the music we have in the catalog," says David Pakman, chief operating officer for eMusic. "The notion is that these people are working in the service of our subscribers, helping them as guides."

 
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