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December 9th, 2009
03:20 PM ET

50on50: Guarded at CNN


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Private Patricia George, a security guard at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta.

Private Patricia George, a security guard at CNN's headquarters in Atlanta.

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

I feel safer now at work than I did yesterday. Not that I didn’t feel safe in the first place. Turner Security is first rate. But something one of the female security guards here at CNN did to me this morning left an impression. It started with a big wind.

First of all, let me give you fair warning. If you ever see the woman in this photo, don’t even THINK about trying to sneak past her. Don’t even THINK about trying to divert her attention from the mission at hand. She will NOT be distracted.

How do I know?

It was 9:57 am this morning. I was walking up the outside stairs to the bridge that only Turner employees are allowed to use as a work entrance.

It was raining this morning, so right there, by the guard’s side, at the entrance to the bridge outside, was a metal stand with about a hundred of those long plastic bags to put your wet umbrellas in so the floor inside doesn’t get wet.

Just as I was approaching the bridge, the wind kicked up, and the bags blew down. The wind was preparing to carry the bags away. I immediately jumped on the bags and wrestled them to the ground – with the help of the Turner Security woman’s boot. I did the hard work. All I could see was her boot on the bags. I could also hear her infectious laugh. It was a slapstick beginning to the day.

I was able to grab up all the bags, and, with a little help from the guard, get them anchored. She said she’d call Facilities to have them taken away. This all took a couple of minutes. I then proceeded to walk across the bridge to the CNN entrance, satisfied that I’d been able to help out. That’s when the guard called out to me. “Did you swipe your card?!”

In my effort to capture the bags, I’d forgotten to swipe my CNN ID security card. And the security guard NOTICED. The blowing bags did not distract her.

When I realized what a wonderful example this was of situational awareness I ran back out to the bridge to find out who that security guard was. She had already left for her shift at an indoor post. I tracked her down and introduced myself.

Her name is Patricia George. Private Patricia George. I took her photo, with her permission. And I started peppering her with questions. She answered everything with good humor, as she directed me to her side so that I wouldn’t to block her view of any potential work crasher.

As the flow of people approached her post to get on the elevators she interrupted each answer to my question with – “Mornin’ – can I see your badge ma'am? Mornin’ can I see your badge sir?” Question – Answer – Badge Please – Continue Answer - staccato style for 10 minutes.

She let me know she wasn’t ignoring me. “I’m watching my badges,” she said.

How does this story fit into my 50on50 campaign to destroy the worshipers of the 18-49 year old audience “demo?” How does this fit in to the idea that making 49 the cutoff point in the search for the most valuable audience is insane?

I had to leave my manners aside on this one. I asked Private George if she minded telling me her age.

“57,” she answered. And a grandmother too.

Yes! I’ve struck gold again. Private George’s savvy and situational awareness, built up over more than a decade of experience in her field, and many more years of life experience, provides me with more evidence, as if I needed any more, that leaving the Private Georges of the world out of the prime audience “demo” makes no sense.

I did not want to put Private George in the position of formally endorsing my 50on50 mission. But I’m confident about this.

I can trust Private George.

And I know, if she were in charge of the entrance for the ideal audience demo, she would not arbitrarily exclude the 50+ crowd.

When I succeed in creating A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE, I’m stationing Private George at the checkpoint.

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Follow Michael Schulder's battle against getting kicked out of the 18-49 demo here


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