Thursday, February 19, 2009

I am not a map

I'm listening to Denver police conduct some kind of undercover bust. I've already moved Copter4. I've asked Doug to track down a photographer to go on the ground. I've told the producers what I'm hearing.

We're on alert for a homicide suspect that has been wanted since Wednesday night when he allegedly forced his girlfriend off the road, walked up to her car, and shot her. I can tell the officer on the scanner is tense as he moves other officers into location to move in on a suspect. Could this be the homicide suspect?

I've got the Denver scanner up as loud as it can go so I can hear it over the other 10 scanners. The phones are ringing. I give up and answer.

Me: CBS4 News this is Misty

Female Caller: Uh, yes, I was just wondering if you know how far it is from Denver to California? Uh, like 1200 miles?

Me in my head: Seriously?? I am not a map!

Me out loud: I honestly don't know.

Caller: Oh. (pause) Really? OK. Thank you.

Me: Bye

This is not the first call of this kind, nor will it be the last. To all hear my plea: I am not a map. I am not a phone book. Buy an Atlas. Call AAA. Call 411. Go to the library. There are lots of resources at the library.

Back to the bust: Copter4 is overhead. Suspect is now in custody. Not the homicide suspect. Looks like a drug bust. Photojournalist Dale arrives on scene and is told by an officer it's a bust over a $20 narcotics deal.

This won't even make air.

On to the next possible breaking news story...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lessons & reflections

I can't turn off my mind after a day like today. I'm at home and in comfy pajamas trying to turn it all off. I can't so I write. And now I have this long blog. When I sat down to write, with the cranberry/pomegranate martini I made, I only had two or three things to say. Really...

before 1pm
I knew today would be a busy news day with President Obama in Denver & signing the stimulus bill. I didn't have to come in early though for the coverage so I had hoped it would all be running smoothly. When it all just comes together, the news crews do their stories and the newscasts go on as planned and my role on the desk is more that of a babysitter. It's like mom and dad have already fed the kids, showered and changed them into pajamas. I'm there to make sure the kids are safe and sound and get tucked into bed for sweet dreams. This is what I hoped for when I walked through the door of the station.

I watched all the live coverage I could at home and then listened to the rest of the President's speech on my way into work. During the live coverage there were glitches on the screen and outside my house the wind was howling and shaking the house. I knew the live trucks and wireless cameras were taking hits from the wind causing the signal disturbances. The radio station I tuned in even lost the signal for a few seconds as the wind tried to blow the big blue dodge truck I was driving to work.

about 1:30
The wind whipped around me while I walked a block and a half from the parking garage to work and my eyes watered. Bleary eyed I made my way into the station and upstairs to the newsroom. I knew wind would be a story we'd cover. I stopped at Jennifer's (producer) desk and asked for a kleenex so I could wipe my eyes to see again. That's when I heard my desk mate, Doug, shouting out that the fire was 100 acres with wind gusts of up to 60mph.

Ok. Now I knew we'd cover Obama, wind and fire for the rest of the day. I'd only been in the station for maybe 2 minutes. I got a quick update from Doug and other desk mate, Jason, and headed into the afternoon meeting. In this meeting we discuss where we are with stories for the 5 & the 6 and then assign stories for the 10. I learned the hits taken during reporter Kathy Walsh's live was due to the wind blowing the receiver off of the live truck. Thankfully, it wasn't broken and was reattached to continue with coverage. I was right on all stories to follow through the day, with the addition of being prepared to cover the Alex Midyette trial if the jury came back with a verdict.

Ready. Set. Go!

About 2:15pm
I log in at a computer at the news desk ready. I go over the assignment board with Jason so I know what crews have done all day and what they're expected to do for the rest of the day. We go over live shot plans together. I'm good to go.

I turned to my newest and favorite resource, Twitter, to tweet that I want to know if anyone sees any wind damage, like trees down, more fires, etc. Within seconds, I get a reply. I immediately tell the reporter and photographer of the report and they head out the door to check out a tree down blocking Logan near Yale. This news crew has also been assigned to head to Loveland to relieve the dayside crew covering the 100 acre brush fire, if it spreads or threatens homes.

The newsroom is loud as usual. People talking loud just to be heard over the rest of the talking and the shouting. Yes, shouts of updated information, of people holding on the phone line for someone, etc. As I'm typing updates and filling out live shot information sheets, I'm answering the phone so I'm multitasking pretty good. Then I get the call.

Around 3pm
A woman called and said she was an employee at Walmart in Longmont near Hwy 66 & Main St. She'd been evacuated from the store because a gunman was in the store. She reported SWAT had surrounded the building. She didn't want to leave her name so I thanked her for her call and hung up. As I'm hanging up, I'm shouting, "I have a report of a gunman inside Walmart in Loveland!" A couple of people heard my shout and stopped to see what was up and what to do.

I asked Jason to call Longmont while I called Boulder County Sheriff's dept. Neither of us got information. I was sent to voicemail. Jason was told the PIO was on scene and couldn't be reached. (A PIO that can't be reached is useless - that's a rant for another blog.) There was nothing we could do but send crews to Longmont to check the situation out. We can't report something like a gunman in a store without confirmation. We don't want to start mass panic.

This is where it starts to get really confusing. ALL of our crews are assigned to either President Obama or a handful of other local stories. I pull a photographer covering an event in Golden. Jason pulls a reporter covering a press conference at Mullen HS. I send a photographer from the station in the last available live truck.

(Sports wanted that last truck to help with their coverage of the AVs game. I see the exec. sports producer as I'm shouting at the photographer to take the live truck to Longmont. The sports producer looks at me and just turns to walk out of the newsroom. I shouted out an apology and he waved a hand in the air on his way out.)

Now it is a wait and see game. Wait for either the police to call us back or to have one of the crew members call from the scene. I'd tried to call Walmart but no one answered at the service desk, so I was pretty sure something was definitely happening.

It should have been time to take a breath, but wait, I forgot to mention in the chaos of trying to find crews to send to Longmont we received a call from the reporter at the Midyette trial. The verdict was in and going to be announced in 20 minutes. This just adds to the flurry and chaos of the newsroom. Producers have to change their rundowns AGAIN and decide which reporters to keep and which to drop from the show. There was just no way it could all fit.

During all of this I'm on the phone a couple of times with the Copter4 pilot to get updates on when the air space would be cleared and the copter could fly again. With so much going on, especially the fire, it was necessary to get the copter in the air. But, of course I understand, POTUS safety comes first and airspace would only be clear when Air Force One was safely on its way to Phoenix. (POTUS code word for President of the United States. I wish they would use codes like Optimus Prime, just to have some fun.)

Finally a reporter with contacts in Boulder was able to learn a little about the Walmart situation and it started to sound like it wasn't as serious as reported and may be cleared up soon. With this information I took a deep breath and watched as I received an email from the reporter at the courthouse to report the Midyette sentence. (Love blackberry's, iphones, whatever in courtrooms to receive up to the minute reports instead of having to wait until court adjourned like the old days when there was no such technology.) I shout the verdict out as I'm passing along new info to Longmont crews. I look up and see Jim going live from the newsroom camera with an update on the Midyette verdict.

It all kinda brought a tear to my eye as I see us all over several big and potentially big news stories. We have gone live with updates, run a crawl at the bottom of the TV screen, updated our website, and several of turned to Twitter to tweet updates. A couple of tweets even went out on a water main break in Denver. (On any other day a crew would have been sent to the water main break.)

Next a staffing issue for the night was brought to my attention again because the investigative reporter needed a photographer at a city council meeting, but I didn't have enough photographers for all the needs. It became time to do some fancy footwork, and yes even downright begging for a photographer to stay after on an already long day.

Don't know exactly where the time went...
By now it's a little before 5pm and someone in the newsroom reports that one of the stations just reported that someone had been shot inside the Longmont Walmart. WHAT?? Jason was just on the phone with the photographer that was sent from Golden and had been told there was no scene at all at Walmart. Jason was in the process of telling the photographer to check out the only other Walmart in Longmont just to be safe when the other station made this report. This really sent the newsroom into a flurry. We don't have a 4pm newscast like 2 of the other stations. If someone had been shot, we needed the information to lead the 5pm.

Within a couple of minutes the Longmont photographer called back because he found an officer at Walmart who told him what had happened. A man walked into the tire service area and asked for a Walmart employee and then made threats against that employee and said he had a gun. The suspect then left Walmart. But, to be safe, Walmart security and Longmont police were notified. The store was evacuated in case the suspect had gone in another entrance. Walmart was cleared, and the suspect was found in another part of town and was arrested. The suspect never had a gun.

Getting this information definitely caused a lot of fancy footwork and movement, but it was what had to be done. We had the facts. The station that reported the shooting probably reported one scanner report that went out reporting the situation. That report was wrong. We'd been ready to cover whatever scene we found, even if that meant no coverage at all. I'm just glad we never reported a shooting that never happened.

Finally it seems to be all settling into place. I finally have time to work on getting crews arranged for the night. I put a plan in place. I eat my microwave dinner and try to catch my breath.

At about 6:30
I felt completely drained. The adrenaline that had been rushing through me had seeped out my fingers. They felt heavy and overdone. I take some yoga breaths to calm my mind which is still going through every detail of the day. I come to when I realize I'm part of a conversation regarding the night. I'm told the city council meeting won't take as long as planned. I rearrange crew plans to let a photographer go home. What I thought was an agreed plan, turned out to be just a suggestion. The producer had valid concerns that the meeting would end early. If it didn't end early, the photographer at the meeting couldn't get back in time to get the lead story live.

I lost the lead live shot because the meeting went long. The reporter ended up being live from the newsroom camera.

Lessons & reflections:
-When I feel that drained I need to clarify even the simplest of conversations to not lose a live shot today.

-The vending machine should really have fresh oranges and other fruit instead of burritos and hot dogs. An orange would have done me wonders tonight.

-My hair wasn't a mess when I got to work even though I was tossed around in the violent wind. Before I left the house I pulled a scarf that belonged to my grandmother from my hope chest. I tied it around my head like she always did. (My husband didn't want to kiss me goodbye when I left because I looked like his grandma!) I've never done this before, but I'd spent 10 minutes on my hair and didn't want to waste that effort. Her scarf, that still smells like her, worked wonderfully. My hair stayed and didn't end up looking like I'd walked thru a wind tunnel.

-Grandma Baker lived through the depression and saved everything. She and Grandpa only spent what they had. In fact, they only ever used cash or check. No credit cards. These are economic plans we should learn and understand, on a day a massive stimulus bill is signed by President Obama in our mile high city of Denver.

I love you Grandma and I miss you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Not so helpful call

We are just human & humans make mistakes. It is unfortunate when misspellings and typos show up in the news. Several eyes look over the scripts and graphics to check for errors and to make corrections. Sometimes, the mistakes just get by us and end up on the air. My recent favorite was in a story listing the symptoms of e-coli where the graphic said STOMACH CRAPS instead of STOMACH CRAMPS. (Seriously. I couldn't make that up.)

I expect people to call to correct us. Some people do it out of wanting to help. Others, and I can tell by their tone, are calling to gloat like this call is proving he/she is smarter than the media. Some like to call and joke with us. I don't think I have ever talked to so many giggling men as I did the day CRAPS instead of CRAMPS aired. They thought it was hilarious. A couple of laughing women called too. One woman did call absolutely enraged that had aired and threatened to call the FCC.

Then there are the calls like I took tonight. All I can say is, don't you have anything better to do with you're time? You're not funny at all.

Me: CBS4 News this is Misty

Caller: Yes, I'm watching your 6:30 news that I recorded and at 6:53 you aired a story on debt and then you went to a story on the Aspen budget. I'm looking at a graphic with the word college and it's spelled c-o-l-e-g-e. I'm just wondering if there's a new spelling for college or if that's just a mistake.

Me: Sir, that's obviously a mistake. I will ch...

Caller: CLICK

If he'd let me finish I would have told him that I would check the graphic and fix it if it was incorrect. This is exactly what I did. However, the graphic I found is this: Colorado Mountain College. Which is not wrong. To be thorough I checked the entire 6pm newscast for every script and graphic with the word college. Not once did I find a mistake.

The time I spent finding a non-existent mistake, could have been used to update twitter with the latest excitement on the desk...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Combat the desk fat

I have a relatively sedentary job. I'm supposed to sit at the desk to monitor EVERYTHING. People get antsy when I or my coworkers walk away, even to just use the restroom. So I sit at an over sized desk, on a chair where my feet dangle a few inches off the ground (I'm only 5') for hours.

My movement of the day consists of:
Walking to the conference room in the middle of the newsroom for a daily meeting
Walking to use the restroom
Walking to fill my water bottle
Walking to the break room to warm my dinner
Walking to the lobby to pick up the delivery order for me and my coworkers
Walking to the edit bays or photographer ready room to talk to crews
Walking at a fast pace to hunt down crews during breaking news
And, yep, that's about it.

So besides all the muscle aches and stiffness from sitting at this not-even-close-to-economically correct desk, I literally fill my arse expanding. Tonight feels like one of those nights because I couldn't resist sesame mushroom from this amazing Asian cafe near the station.

In times like this, fall into "combat the desk fat" mode. I drink some water with lemon and/or green tea with mint or lemon to help digest and fight bloat. i take a walk around the newsroom and around the entire second floor, or if I can escape long enough, walk up and down the 3 flights of stairs. Then I break out the jump rope or exercise bands I keep in my desk drawer.

That's right I get my heart racing for at least a few minutes in my attempt to burn some calories and treat my body right. I admit, my attempts are usually feeble because I have very little time off the desk to really break much of a sweat. But, at least I try.

Thankfully my wardrobe usually consists of jeans or slacks, so I don't have to worry about flashing anyone in a skirt. I also keep a pair of old sneaker and socks in my drawer to change into after kicking off my boots or heels. If at all possible I leave the desk to do the more active exercises cause it's frankly embarrassing, and my coworkers do not want to see me jumping up and down behind the desk!

When I can't leave the desk I can hide behind it and pump out some push ups, sit ups and other floor exercises. Chair exercises with the exercise bands are great too. My favorite was working out to short videos on, but sadly the site now charges for access to videos longer than 5-min.

Logically I know my efforts aren't that much and would be substantially better if I just said no to delivery and the various food that end up on the desk, but just knowing my jump rope and exercise bands are in the drawer give me hope and comfort.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I have your number

A race for high definition. Sony XDCAM vs Panasonic P2. Final Cut Pro vs Avid. You Report vs I Report. TV news is a whole world of advancing technology.

So why is it callers are surprised the station has caller I.D., which has been a staple of households since the 90's? That's right our phones, like most home and cell phones, have caller I.D.

This means when you want to take out your frustrations on the person who answers the phone, usually me, I have your phone number, and even your name.

Tonight during the fourth call from the same man, who kept asking the same question and then interrupting me and getting louder and louder, I finally used my mommy voice and sternly explained, "Sir, I am no longer going to answer your calls if you continue calling. I have your number, 303-***-****, and I will hang up on you without even answering first!"

Finally, there was silence on his end as he realized I was telling him the truth.

In a much calmer voice he asked if he could ask me just one more question. "Only if it isn't the same question that you've been asking over and over because I've already answered it." He started out exactly the same way as every time before. "Sir, I really must work. I am hanging up now." Click.

He didn't call back.

Monday, February 9, 2009

News tip: In the event of my death...

The news desk receives hundreds of emails every day from PR types, organizations like police, schools and hospitals, and viewers. Viewers email what they think are news tips, which is everything from witnessing something that could be considered breaking news, to letting us know of their child's school play, to rants on conspiracy theories.

I sift through it all and within a glance I know if it is:
1. to be shouted out to the newsroom because it's breaking or developing news
2. to be filed under the day's press releases, added to stories we're following, or placed in a future day file for possible coverage
3. to be immediately trashed

The desk received the below email. Sadly, it caught my eye because it's written so well compared to many emails that are sent. I read it just to figure out if there was some type of surprise twist to make it a legit release. But, no. So I'm sharing with you, so you can get a taste of the crazy that I see all too often.

I am not including the viewers name or email address, because, although I may think this is crazy, it's not my place to out a viewer.


In the event of my death, I would like all data and information pertaining to my work to be turned over to Google, US Government, Music Artists And Bands, And All Those Who Create Art. I Will not have this used by Evil me, and the associated groups of propaganda, hate and abuse take over youtube servers. These people are running wild with garbage information. For people to not listen to ones story from the very beginning, claiming to have information and more knowledge about me and what is going on. They are fools. They continue to spam non sense information and only choose to show what information they want to the world. This is what I mean about Technology going over the heads of many.

I have seen my death within a dream, so in light of this, and due to the fact that many events have happend that I have had dreams about before the event. I would like share all data with those who choose to use it for the common good of man. I have talked to my close friends and family which have known about this work, and have been eye witnesses to these matters as well. They should be the ones to speak with in the event of my passing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

State of economy measured by press releases

Today: a chocolate sheet cake celebrating the 50 years of the Colorado Garden & Home Show.

Yesterday: a beautiful heart box filled with Godiva heart chocolates from a local hospital promoting a weekend event.

Tonight: tummy ache

I am not a sweets person. I am not a chocolate woman. I am chips and salsa. But I couldn't stay away from the heart chocolates that melted in my mouth. I couldn't say no to one, plus a small, pieces of cake.

What normally would have taken hours, if not the entire day, to be devoured by the newsroom staff, disappeared in a flash.

Press releases sent along with goodies like cookie flower baskets, candy, burritos from Chipotle, frozen slushies from 7-11, and so much more have been the norm since I started. These press releases sit in front of my face on our over sized desk to accommodate all of the electronics. The desk is also a step higher than the rest of the newsroom to be the flagship, to oversee the newsroom, so it is naturally the place to put all the goodies.

I have worked hard to not over indulge, or even to say no, to such treats because I sit for the most part of my job monitoring scanners, phones, Internet and email. All these goodies and all this sitting over the years have not been kind to my derriere. (Then there's always the question of when did this arrive? How long has it been sitting out? How many hands have touched this? More reasons to say no.)

As I came down from the chocolate high this afternoon and realized how fast the cake had gone, I realized that it's been a while since such a release came to the desk. It's been even longer since there were treats two days in a row. No wonder we all ran towards the sweets. I'm surprised there wasn't a mob scene with injuries.

Wow. I realize now the goodies definitely did not pile in over the holidays as they have in years past. Oh the baskets of fine treats like salami, cheese assortments, fruits, wines, chutney and so much more were nonexistent this past Christmas. The non-perishable goodies, like water bottles and key chains, weren't anywhere to be seen either.

Trust me, releases that come in this way are not overlooked or forgotten like others that come in with the rest of the hundreds of emails that we receive each day. I try my hardest to file each emailed story idea and press release, but lets face it, some are going to be overlooked. This station focuses on smart hard news and enterprise stories. Full coverage of a feature event is rare, but if the event info comes with goodies, you do have a better chance of getting coverage, simply because your release is remembered.

*SIGH* I guess this is just another economic hit to the newsroom. Having the goodies and sharing it all always brought the news departments together. In those moments it's easier to ignore or forget about the other economic impacts that have come with budget cuts: layoffs, no more truck engineers, more to do with less resources.

The upside is no treats = no temptation = no further expansion of my derriere!

Breaking News?

Sometimes breaking news is only covered because of timing and resources. Shootings, bank robberies, fights, chases, searches, stand offs, auto/pedestrian accidents, etc happen regularly on a daily basis. There is simply no way to cover everything that happens. Plus, this may be cold but true, who really cares about all of this? Incidents happen and resolve without injuries or without road closings, school lockdowns, evacuation. Sometimes there are injured victims, sometimes there are road closings, school lockdowns, evacuations. But, we still can't cover everything.

Why would we want to cover everything? Why would we want to give airtime to gang shootings or stabbings? As long as the general public isn't affected or in danger, these incidents can be used in a newscast without video or sound, or not even mentioned at all.

But, then there are times these incidents we wouldn't rush to cover happen when everything can fall into place. Tonight, shortly after 5, I heard of a shooting in Montbello, a northeast part of Denver that has plenty of gang problems, with the suspect on foot. Copter4 was in the air for the 5pm newscast.

I immediately moved the copter to the scene. I then told the producer what I was hearing over the scanner. Then I paged the public information officer (PIO) to get confirmed information. Some stations go on the air reporting unconfirmed reports from scanner traffic. It is a very rare occasion when CBS4 News does this. I monitored the scanners and relayed what I was hearing to the copter crew and the booth.

When there was very little time in the newscast left, the PIO called me and confirmed just enough that we could go on the air with a report. At the same time, the copter crew noticed a couple of officers running. The copter photographer followed the running officers and then saw someone running from the officers.

The producer was able to take the copter live as the photographer followed the chase and the copter reporter reported what I'd confirmed and narrated what we were watching live. With seconds to go in the newscast, the suspect trapped himself in a backyard. He got on the ground as police surrounded him, and was handcuffed.

That was Live coverage of Breaking News. If this shooting had happened during another time of day, or while the helicopter wasn't up, it may have never even gotten a mention during a newscast.

Police Look For Shooting Suspects In Montbello

Here's what the file on this shooting says. The most recent information is always at the top.

PIO is now going to the scene... photographer will get sound

from pio: 1 victim DOA, 1 victim critical at University, 1 person detained for questioning in what his role may or may not have been in this shooting... Homicide detectives have not arrived on scene yet

from pio: there is one fatal now.. no other information available

from copter and DPD radio room: one suspect in custody (copter vo).. radio room says two more suspects black males, one wearing a black sweater...

from pio:confirm: dpd responding to a call of a shooting at 5062 Victor Way... two victims transported to University... unconfirmed possible 3 suspects.. black males

from scanner only: 5062 Victor Way, Denver: multiple units responding to a shooting with suspect on foot... sounds like victim is conscious and talking...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When fire alarms go off at the station

I'd just hung up the phone. I heard laughter coming from the 10 p.m. newscast meeting in the news directors office. The rest of the newsroom was relatively quiet, even the scanners.


Blared from the ceiling. The fire alarm was going off.

No one moved except the assistant news director who came out of the meeting to look around. She looked at me and I said, "I'll call the security guard."

Security guard, "I think it's the main water line."
Me, "So I don't have to evacuate the building?"
Security guard, "Oh thought you were David."

That really didn't tell me if there was a fire somewhere else in the building and that we should evacuate. I just shrugged my shoulders at the AD. "Want me to send a photographer?" She smiled and went back into the meeting.

When the sirens from the firetrucks were heard, a couple of my coworkers wandered to the window to watch them arrive. Still no one left the building.

Thoughts in my head (those that I could hear as the blaring alarms continued well after the fire fighters arrived) included: call the PIO? call our building supervisor? flee the building and fling myself into the arms of a fireman?

The alarms finally stopped, yet still vibrated through my head. I guess there was no fire.

Soon after the scene cleared, I made two decisions:
1. In the event this is ever a real fire I will flee into the arms of a fireman, taking of course my work cell so I can still do my job and make all those calls necessary to cover breaking news.
2. I need to keep a bottle of Jameson Special Reserve Irish Whisky in my drawer. If drinking in the newsroom was still allowed, just one shot would have calmed the headache caused by the alarms much faster than the advil I did take. Then again, a medicinal drink on the desk would go a long way to fixing almost any problem I face...

The chatter throughout the newsroom and edit bays on and off through the night included several comments and jokes about staying to cover the fire as the building burns around you vs. leaving the building. Facebook status updates pondered the same questions and made jokes of the situation.

I made a comment to a couple of editors about calling the guard to find out if I should evacuate the building. The response from one was, "Wait, so you're in charge of the building evacuation and will tell me if I need to leave or not?!?"

"Of course, I'm the queen and in charge of everything in the newsroom!" (How true on so many levels haha ;)

Other than this, the rest of the night was calm. Scanners remained relatively quiet. Photographers were able to edit, shoot and engineer their own live shots. (I did have to send a second live truck to Boulder to replace the one there because the dish on the one already there was loose and basically just hanging there.) No one called to yell or complain. The producers got everything they wanted for the show. And then I went home to finally have that drink.

Oh, the cause of the alarms was a sudden and immense water pressure drop to the station which tricked the alarm system into thinking the water sprinklers had gone off.