Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This blog has moved to a new home

My blog has continued, but is in a new home. I needed one place to put everything! Thankfully, now I have it.

On the News Desk

Thank you for reading and for following!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Walking into the middle of the dance with no rhythm to add

Drove back from Vegas this morning. Rushed to work. Walked into a newsroom that was buzzing with urgency of covering tornadoes. I've been gone for a week. Almost every day that I was gone there was severe weather coverage. (Many have joked tornado alley moved, but actually I believe this is more traditional to Colorado weather patterns and what's been out of the ordinary is the lack of such weather.)

It was obvious this dance had been done quite recently and people were in auto-mode; which does not mean less effort. If anything, it's more effort. Interns sat answering phones and taking the calls they could to let the desk and producers do their jobs. Anchors were making cold calls to businesses and homes in the tornado area to see if they could find witnesses who would do phone interviews. The reporters and photographers were already on the road. Producers were writing and ordering graphics to be made of the pictures emailed or shared via Twitter by witnesses. Managers were working with the program department to clear time for live cut-ins for live updates. Finally, the desk, my home, was moving news crews to reported areas of damage, calling officials for information that could be aired, calling potential eye witnesses for interviews.

My two desk coworkers each took turns rapidly filling me in on what was happening and what crews were where in what live trucks. I replaced one coworker by taking over the hot seat. There's no better way to get caught up then to jump on in! But it had been a week since I'd been in this seat. The breaking news dance was going on around me with everyone already in practiced steps. There wasn't much I could do but try to keep up with emails and help with the phone calls. There were only a few minutes left of the live cut-in so I wasn't even needed to arrange phone interviews. I even tried to jump on Twitter and Facebook to at least help in those tools that are sometimes overlooked. Today they weren't overlooked. I didn't make one entry on either station account until after the breaking news coverage was over. I did what I could on my Twitter account, but I was late in the game and sometimes it's best not to play catch up in social media platforms that are so instant that breaking news can quickly become old news. So I said hello and thanks to those on Twitter who welcomed me back. I tried to explain what are crews were doing and answered a few questions.

The fast-paced dance I'd walked in on had slowed down to a waltz. The danger of the severe storm was over. There was little more I could do here but help our crews with directions. Frankly though the crews were the ones in the field and had to find sporadic tornado damage in a large rural area on their own. There wasn't much I could do to help them.

As things slowed the new cut-in times were given to the producers and they decided what elements were to be used in each cut-in. I alerted the crews to the plans and shouted in the newsroom what each crew had or had not found that could be broadcast. Everyone was well settled into his or her individual tasks. For me that was monitoring the desk and assisting others when needed. My third desk mate signed off for the day leaving me alone on the desk with a calm newsroom, and even relatively quiet scanners.

I'm left waiting for the next dance.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Two too many Jennifers...

Friday night, 9:58pm: I hear the producer say over the RTS "Misty - Somebody tell Jennifer Zeppelin we're less than a minute away from the show!"

My head snaps up and I see Jennifer McRae half-way between me and the weather center. "Jennifer! Go tell Jennifer Zeppelin we're less than a minute away!"

Jennifer looks at Jennifer Miller standing across the producer pod from her. "Jennifer! You've got less than a minute! RUN!"

Me: "NO! Wrong Jennifer! Jennifer Zeppelin, ZEPPELIN!"

I'm not heard because Jennifer McRae is still yelling at a confused looking Jennifer Miller. I hear Jennifer Miller exclaim, "Me?! Now?!" She takes off running out of the newsroom.


Jennifer McRae "OH!" She starts running to the weather center as she's yelling after Jennifer Miller, "Wrong Jennifer - not you! You're fine! Not you!" But it was too late Jennifer Miller was long gone down the hall.

From I hear the producer, "Never mind, Jennifer is good."

"NO! Jennifer! Jennifer is now good! Don't need to..." I was too late, Jennifer McRae had rushed into the weather center to tell a perfectly prepared Jennifer Zeppelin that she had less than a minute.

She comes back out breathless. I just broke out in laughter. Then she was laughing with me.

The whole event took place in less than 30 seconds, but it seemed much longer. So much confusion with all the Jennifers!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Abortion stories are never taken lightly in the newsroom

Yesterday I took a call from a woman so upset I knew she was shaking from head to toe to yell at me. She and a man in the background were furious that the newscast used a statement from a local abortion doctor, Dr. Warren Hern, and his picture. The statement was released to the media by the local doctor himself on his reaction to the fatal shooting of Kansas abortion doctor, Dr. George Tiller.

The caller truly believed our phones were "ringing off the hook" with furious complaint calls like hers. Worse, she believed by airing the statement and picture the station had signed his death warrant. She demanded to know who had made the decision to do the story.

I calmly looked in the script to see who had written it. Next I searched our information database to confirm where the original information had come from before I told her the script had been approved by the executive producer and it was all done with Dr. Hern's permission since he'd emailed the media himself to release the statement. She called me a liar and hung up me. I'm pretty sure she was muttering I was a murderer as she slammed the phone down.

Her call was the only complaint call the newsroom received regarding this story. I others reacted the way she did, they chose not to call. After she hung up I did brace myself for similar calls, but sighed a breath of relief when none others came.

I know many people believe media is there to push it's own agenda and has no care in the world on how people react to the stories. This is simply untrue. We are all very aware of how passionate people are regarding pro-life and pro-choice. There isn't a person in this newsroom that would ever track down an abortion doctor just to air his picture to cause him harm. Decisions regarding any stories on abortion are discussed thoroughly and are not taken lightly.

In telling the tragic news of Dr. Tiller's killing, we looked for local reaction. The order of stories was: update on the killing and the suspect in the case, followed by Dr. Hern's statement followed by a statement from Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput. None of the stories lingered on either statement or said anything other than here's local reaction.

We strive for fair and balanced. We never strive for outrage and hate.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh the frenzy one missed email causes

I've mentioned this before and will mention it again: we received HUNDREDS of emails DAILY from PR professionals, viewers, and Public Information Officers. To handle all of the emails we have one email address that goes to all of us on the news desk as well as all of the producers. The more eyes that can see what is sent to us, the better the chance something isn't overlooked.

This is exactly what happened today. A police department sent out additional information to a situation we'd covered today. The new information completely changed who we were covering the story. What was just going to be a mention in the newscasts, turned into a reporter package. The press release also stated the PIO would be available to do interviews at a specific time. However, this press release was only sent to my coworker on the desk, who was so overwhelmed by other desk duties, he didn't see the email until AFTER the interview availability time.

I really don't understand how things like this happen. We have made it very clear to every major PIO to always email the desk account to avoid problems such as this! All day the desk email address received the updates on this situation. How does one update only get sent to one individual email instead of the desk account? If anyone can explain, please do.

When it was realized what happened there was a frenzy of action and shouts as we tried to figure out how to still get the interview. What crew to send? How soon can we be there? What other elements do we still need to get to do a larger story now there are new developments? What changes needed to be made the to 5pm and 6pm newscasts?

My coworker called the police department since he was the one who received the press release. I called another organization looking for another interview to add to the story. My call went smoothly. My coworker on the other hand was on the phone for at least 10-minutes with the PIO explaining why we missed the email and asking for the PIO to stay afterhours to do an interview with our only available crew who was 30-minutes away from the police department. (Ugh. I admit I was glad I was not on that phone call.)

In the end the PIO agreed to stay for the interview. The PIO never could explain why the email only went to one person instead of the desk account. That's frustrating. If that email had been sent to the right email address, we wouldn't have missed the interview time, the PIO could've gone home on time, and in general we'd have avoided a headache.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No, I don't watch TV while I'm on the news desk

I have the Nuggets playoff game on the TV to my right and I actually have the volume up just enough so I can make out what is being said, but it's no louder than any one of the 11 scanners that surround me. This is rare. I have so much else to pay attention to I rarely pay any attention to the TVs. Same goes for the producers and writers doing their job to get ready for the newscasts. Unless we're watching another station's news lead or breaking news coverage, the TVs get little attention.

Just a few minutes ago I answered the phone and was asked what song was just sung for George Straight. What? I had to tell the caller that I didn't know what he story he was asking about and I asked if he knew the date of the story that aired.

He paused, "Um, I'm talking about the show on your air right now. What song did SugarLoaf just sing for George Strait?"

"Sir, I'm sorry I didn't realize you were asking about current programming. I don't know what song was just sung."

"Don't you watch what you broadcast?" he asked.

"No, sir, I'm working and am not able to watch the TV, but I'll ask if any of my coworkers happened to hear the song." I then asked the producers if they had been watching our air. Their answer was no as well.

"Sir, I'm sorry, none of my coworkers were watching the show either. We don't know which song was just sung for George Strait."

"I don't understand how you don't know! Unbelievable you don't watch your own programming." I could hear the genuine surprise and disbelief in voice. He continued with a sigh, "Ok then, have a good night." Click.

I can't count the number of times I've had conversations like this. I don't know how many times I've had to say, "I only have access to information that ran in the local news. I don't have access to other shows, even national news that is aired."

I bet most of you aren't able to watch TV while on the job. So why would it be different for me?

In the silence

It's as silent as it ever gets in the newsroom. I only hear background noise of scanners, keyboard keys clicking and a far off television. My shift is only half over but I feel spent for a job that is relatively sedentary.

I'm spent because from the moment I walk in the door until about this time every night it's go go go time. I may walk off the desk to track down photographers, editors, engineers, producers, etc., but I'm mostly confined to the news desk where everything comes at me. Constant phone calls. Emails that don't stop. Producers, reporters, photographers and interns ask for help. I may not be physically spent, but mentally I'm done or at least I need a break to rejuvenate.

With the way schedules work on the desk I'm not usually able to take a break. If I take a break it has to be before 5 p.m. but I only come into work at 1:30 p.m. and am slammed most of the time and unable to actually get away. I even eat on the assignment desk!

Today besides the usual craziness and duties of the assignment desk I also pitched several stories that the producers actually wanted. Usually I'm good for one or two stories out of every 10 I pitch, but today I was three for three! I had to multitask to set up these stories for future newscasts at the same time as I was dealing with today's newscasts. It's what has to happen when everyone else’s business day ends at 5 p.m. I have to reach all the contacts on their time tables, not mine. This made for an extremely busy afternoon. I am thankful there was no breaking news added to the mix.

Although if there had been, I still would have made all the calls necessary and done all that was asked of me. That's what it means to be on the news desk. Everything comes through this desk, through me and my coworkers on the desk. When the desk is left out of the planning and the conversations, bad things happen. Live shots are lost. Stories are lost. Crews end up at the wrong locations. It makes me shudder to just think of this!

We yell A LOT in the newsroom. It's usually the only way to be heard over all the other noises. So when I say it's relatively quiet right now, I mean for the first time of the day I can actually hear my own thoughts and process the day and what's still to come.

As long as there's no breaking news I will be able to catch up on all the tasks I have to put off until this time of day such as filing emails, writing up news tips, emailing producers with the stories I've set up, etc. I'm thankful for this time of day.