National media swarm hits St. Lawrence Avenue
JANESVILLE When Larry Barton opened his door to get the newspaper Saturday morning, he saw no fewer than four television satellite trucks in the next block on St. Lawrence Avenue and a police car on the corner.
Sometime in the night, the national media had arrived for morning broadcasts showing the home of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.
Before going for his morning walk, Barton decided he would not talk to national reporters.
“When I see the mass media out there, I become protective of my neighborhood,” he said.
Other residents of Courthouse Hill on Saturday reflected Barton’s feelings as neighbors of Paul Ryan reacted to the national media setting up shop to learn about Ryan’s hometown.
Barton and his wife, Susan, have lived in their St. Lawrence Avenue home since 1973. Since Paul Ryan, his wife, Janna, and their family moved in down the street, they explained that they do not talk politics with them.
“We think of this as a neighborhood and of the Ryans as neighbors,” Susan said. “We all have various political beliefs in the neighborhood, but we all get along.”
“We have a great deal of respect for someone’s home. The proper place to make a political point is at the office, not at his home. We have a great deal of respect for his privacy.”
Both agreed that the chances of the Ryans maintaining any degree of privacy now is slim in light of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney picking Ryan as his running mate.
Residents of Janesville’s Courthouse Hill describe their neighborhood of sprawling 19th century-homes as quiet and family-friendly with an emphasis on children.
About 40 years ago, Paul Ryan’s uncle, Tom, started a Fourth of July Parade for neighborhood children. The Barton’s daughter at age 5 wore a cardboard crown after being named queen of the parade more than 30 years ago. The parade continues today as a way to celebrate neighborhood children and to bring neighbors together.
Susan felt a little breathless Saturday, when she took time to remember that the new vice-presidential nominee had been a student of hers in nursery school.
“If someone had told me back then that one of those kids would be going into politics, I think I would have guessed he would be the one,” she said.
Susan has memories of Ryan playing with groups of other children and organizing them to do various tasks.
“That’s an unusual skill for a 4-year-old,” she said.
The Bartons are not the only ones who woke up to the media frenzy on St. Lawrence Avenue. Rick Riley lives about a block from the Paul Ryan family.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Riley said. “The satellite trucks arrived around midnight, and there have been a lot of reporters. I got a call from a reporter in Boston this morning.”
He and his granddaughter Anya walked toward the media in front of Paul Ryan’s home about noon on Saturday.
“Anya wants a closer look at the satellite trucks,” Riley said. “She is friends with Paul Ryan’s daughter.”
Riley called his neighborhood “very social” and “the kind of place where you want to raise your family. Until now, media attention has not been an issue, but I think the whole dynamics will change.”
Sitting in a satellite truck near the Ryan home on Saturday was Mike Meinhardt, a freelancer with CBS News. He got a call Friday night to go to Janesville for a Saturday morning broadcast.
“The story is not really here, but it is a good place to provide a backdrop,” he said. “A lot of people want to know who Ryan is. Going to the town where he lives is an easy way to show them. We had to hurry up, get here and get on the air.”
The cameraman based in Chicago was preparing for another live broadcast Saturday night. He had been up all night and was waiting for instructions from CBS News in New York.
“We sleep in our vehicle, if we have time,” Meinhardt said. “We have crews and correspondents covering the story. It’s been busy. All of us just covered the shooting in Oak Creek.”
Jed Henry of CNN also was waiting for instructions from his boss Saturday on what to do next in providing news coverage from Paul Ryan’s hometown.
“My job is to have the camera ready to go,” he said.
Outside the satellite truck where he sat were several rows of cameras, tripods and duffels filled with broadcasting equipment.
“It’s just another day of work,” one cameraman mumbled as he checked the lighting for his camera.
Not far from the Ryan home, a neighbor stood with her dog in her front yard and did not pay much attention to the satellite trucks.
“This is a neighborhood,” she said. “This is where children play. The sanctity of our home is important.”
The woman expressed concern about the safety of the neighborhood after national media attention.
“There’s so much craziness out there,” she said.
“We don’t want to invite it into our neighborhood. We’ve seen it happen elsewhere. Now all of America knows what Paul Ryan’s house looks like. If you want a picture of Ryan, you should get it at the office. How does Mrs. Ryan come out and get her mail? How can she do anything now?”
The Ryan family was in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday morning for the formal announcement of Paul being named Romney’s running mate.
Several media representatives said they planned to leave Janesville by Saturday night.