Saturday, December 31, 2005

Just New Year.

My last workday of the year and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it involved a tragic event.

Start of my shift yesterday and I'm at the station (on time) and I had just parked my microwave truck. I was about to grab a book. Well, you know that's how my days have been shaping up recently.

The cell phone rings and I get hit with an assignment. Drive down to the LAX courthouse and cover an arraignment. The assignment desk is going to page me with the details.

I'm kind of grumbling because I live less than five minutes from LAX. By the way, I believe we just call it the LAX courthouse, because it's next to the airport. Parts of the Tom Sizemore court case was held there and I think parts of the Robert Blake trial were also held there. It's been open a couple of years, but I've never covered a story there.

Anyway, we don't get much notice on these things. Had they known about it, I'm sure they would have just sent me from home and saved me the long round trip to Hollywood.

So, I get to the courthouse and of course the guy has already been arraigned. I'm lucky though and I get a dub of the arraignment from another photog (who got a dub from the photog who had actually gotten there in time). Somehow it becomes a pool footage situation. Don't ask me how. I'm just happy to have the tape and didn't waste the drive over.

By this time, I've also finally gotten the story. It's the arraignment of the guy from a shooting that took place over in Westwood on Monday. The guy had gotten into an argument at a restaurant, leaves, but then drives past to shoot the guy he was having the argument with. He takes a shot, but misses the guy he was aiming for and hits another guy in the head. The man hit was hanging on, but it doesn't look like he's going to make it.

I'm disgusted at the callous disregard for human life and I'm at a loss (again) to make any sense out of this incident. I'll hope and pray for the victim's recovery, but there was a press conference with his family members and it doesn't sound like they expect him to recover. The reporter who was assigned this story was at the press conference (at the West Los Angeles Police Station) and would need the arraignment tape. So, I'm back on the road again. I have the assignment desk page me with directions, because I don't think I've ever been to this police station. That's an odd thing, but I get the address and drive over. I help with one liveshot as soon as I get there and offer to cut a package for the next liveshot. The photographer working with the reporter would normally handle the editing, but he's feeling under the weather and I know he'd do the same for me.

One more liveshot and that's a wrap. No breaking news for the rest of the evening, so this was the last assignment for me for the year. I put some miles on my newsvan and covered an assignment that felt like a real news story. I pitched in and helped another photographer. My adrenaline was pumping a bit and we put the story on TV.

Was it a good day for me?

No, I don't think I'd ever be able to say a day where my assignment involves lives ruined is ever going to be a good day.

It's true, I don't know and didn't meet the people involved, so there's only so much I'm really going to feel. The thing is, I don't need to be directly affected to feel something.

I'm just at a loss, because I want to understand how this kind of thing can happen, but I'm not the kind of person who would walk away from an argument and come back later with a gun.

Yeah, I'll never understand it. All I can do is just go to work and put these stories on TV and hope someone realizes that there's nothing to gain from this kind of violence. The details change, but the facts always include that lives are ruined all the way around.

So, I can't honestly say it was a "good" day for me. I just did my job (happy to do it) and I have to take stories like this in stride. I don't need to let it get me down, but actually feeling good when this is part of my job isn't in the cards either. I had a great year and I hope you did too.

This? Well, this was just another day at the office.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Remember when I used to cover news?

I'm almost tempted to hang out a sign. Closed until next year. Really, it's been that slow these past couple of days for me. Yeah, I know a lot of you have seen me in slumps before and I know I shouldn't complain, because I'm the first to admit it. I just sound pathetic.

It's just so tense for me when I'm waiting for something big to happen. Part of me is feeling pretty eager and ready for a challenge. On the flip side, the sane and rational part is still hoping nothing bad happens to anyone.

The longer I go without a good assignment, the less I'm hearing that sane rational side.

Yup, lots of time to sit in the back of my van, watching the sunset, waiting for the big breaking news story that hasn't materialized so far this week. I know there's news happening in the world, we keep running newscasts.

I've got just one more working day this year and I'd like to be able to have a good story to write about. It's been a pretty big year for me (okay, my biggest year ever) and I'd just really be happier ending it with a job well done.

Today I couldn't take just sitting on the lot waiting for something to happen. I took a chance and drove down to Orange County. Nothing going on there, but the theory was if something happened to the South of Los Angeles, I'd be on it before anyone else. Want to know what happened? Nothing. Nada. Zip. I hung out and had a slice of pizza. Pepperoni and sausage.

(sigh) How was your day?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Can I come in early? Sure.

Yesterday, a Frontier Airlines jet landed at LAX safely. I don't know where this particular jet was supposed to land. The people on board the plane weren't intending to fly from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to LAX.

It was as much of a surprise to them as it was to me.

We were told there was an indicator lamp that lit up when the plane took off. It told the pilots there was an open luggage bay hatch. Heck, that ain't a good thing.

So, the plane diverted to LAX and they checked it out.

It turned out to be just a faulty lamp. I'm glad that's all it was and the plane landed safely.

We wouldn't know that until later, so we had to treat it as if there might be something seriously wrong.

My station sent a reporter and the required second vehicle. Second vehicle? Yeah, because of 9/11 and increased airport security, we are required to send a second person so there is always at least one person watching the vans. I guess they want to have a person who can jump out and tell the airport security folks,

"Do not tow that news van! It is not a terrorist trick, it is an actual working news van. The reporter and photographer are out gathering interviews and/or using the restroom or paying higher prices for food than they would pay for similar food outside of the airport."

Yeah, well, we're probably lucky they let us park inside the airport at all. Hey, if you're wondering just where I fit into the coverage of this riveting story. . .

I got called in early, drove the five minutes from my house to LAX, parked and hiked up to the top of the Terminal 3 parking structure. Somebody needed to get shots of the plane as it sat at the gate.

Apparently that's one of the better spots at LAX to watch planes take off. In addition to the miniature woman hanging onto the lens of my camera, I met three other people who were just hanging out on top of the parking structure.

There were a couple of guys taking still pictures and another guy who was traveling with dogs, just out letting them stretch their legs.

That's right, forget the Admirals Club, the top of the parking structure is the trendy hang out place at LAX. Just the Terminal 3 parking structure though, because I think they'll let anybody up on top of the other parking structures (woo, is that Madonna?).

The plane took off after about an hour on the ground and I rolled tape on it as it flew off into the sky. Sorry, no stills, just video and because of my short attention span (developed by watching too much 60'sand 70's television) I almost missed that.

Luckily, I got the shot. A couple of live hits later and that was a wrap on this story. No, it didn't change anyone's life, but I got an hour and a half of overtime.

Sure, I'll take it. It's the holidays, I can use the money.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Busy, busy, busy.

My days after Christmas seem to be just as hectic as the days leading up to the holiday. No time to enjoy the books and gadgets I got. . .oops, just got called to head into work early. Airplane possibly making an emergency landing at LAX.

We'll talk later.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Though it's been said many times, many ways. . .

Witnessing death and destruction is just part of my job. Sometimes even when they story involves tragic events, I'm so far removed from the suffering, the gravity of the situation barely registers.

Last week a CHP officer was killed in the Grapevine area of Kern County and I drove one of satellite trucks up to cover the story. I'd been called in early because of the incident and was rushing to meet a crew there for the late afternoon shows.

Traffic was fine for most of the route up. Coming up on the last ten miles to the incident, there was a CalTrans sign that warned of a two hour delay.

Five miles an hour? Yeah, right. I didn't believe it.

Crap! They weren't kidding. traffic crawled along the freeway and the cell phone in the SAT truck kept ringing as we missed slots in the 4pm show and the 5pm show.

I finally made it to the accident scene just after the reporter and other photographer. It was pretty frustrating because as soon as I got there, the CHP asked us all to move. They were opening up the lanes that had been closed while they investigated the crime scene.

Nothing to do, but move it and quick. We'd be cutting it close.

We made it to the bottom of the Grapevine and popped the dish. We cut it very close, but made our slot for the 6pm show. It was very close and we didn't even have time to feed a soundbite back to the station.

After the shot we broke down and moved to the Ft. Tejon CHP headquarters.

We went live from there through the rest of the evening. I bumped into an officer whom I vaguely remembered from my days working at KBAK 29 in Bakersfield, but the rest of the night was uneventful and just involved a lot of sitting around in the trucks.

We were lucky the weather was holding up well. It snows in that area and I doubt any of us were eager to work in that kind of cold.

As I sit here and type this out on Christmas morning, I'm thankful that the family and friends close to me are all doing okay. My wife and kids are still sleeping off the late night spent being social with all the people who came by.

I don't even remember the officer's name who was killed, I wasn't at the scene for more than two minutes. I could go online and look up the story to get more information, but there's no real reason for me to do that. I'll put the keyboard down when I'm done with this post and go on about my day.

I'll laugh and enjoy Christmas, because that's really what we're supposed to do. Anything less to me would feel like I was taking life for granted.

I'll enjoy the holiday and I encourage everyone to do the same if you can.

I won't dwell on this event, but I won't forget that there's still a lot of pain and suffering in the world. A flag is probably still at half staff for the officer from this story and I can't imagine what his family and friends are going through. People who put themselves in harm's way to uphold the law are supporting the basic framework of the world we live in. They deserve to know that their efforts make a difference and the job they do is worth everything.

So, it's not a matter of ignoring what happened, you should always let yourself feel what you need to feel. I'm just saying we should enjoy the day. I think that's the best way to honor the sacrifices made that make it possible.

. . .Merry Christmas to you.

Friday, December 23, 2005

December 22, 2005: Christmas Day

I know it's a couple of days early to be opening Christmas presents, but Thursday was going to be the only day where all my kids were going to be in town at the same time.

It was one of the most perfect family nights we've ever spent together. The gifts we gave each other really couldn't compare to just being together and laughing and really enjoying each other's company.

We had a great meal at Nick & Stef's downtown. We were going to have dinner at Ruth Chris in Beverly Hills, but it sounded like they were going to be crowded. We wanted to be able to relax and enjoy. For the amount of money it was going to cost me, I didn't want to take a chance that anything was going to put a damper on our night out.

Photo by A. Random Guy

I know most people would say that Christmas is all about the kids in the household and that may be true.

I just have to be honest and admit that the parents in my household (Dellis and myself), well, we're the ones who got the biggest gift this year.

The three kids at home? Priceless.

I'm painfully aware that not everyone is going to be this happy during the holiday season.

There's a lot going on in the world that's going to keep families apart. There's a lot of sadness that can't be helped. I don't take what I have for granted and I'm thankful for being so blessed.

I hope everyone has the best Christmas they can. You can see from these pictures there are some smiling faces in the world. There's is some joy.

Merry Christmas from the Frank Family and we wish you much laughter and happiness in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Consider being considerate.

The fire was out and all the victims had been transported. I got sent out without a clue as to what I was going to be covering. It didn't matter. I'm pretty good at what I do and pretty confident I could handle whatever the assignment turned out to be.

Sorry, I get arrogant like that at times.

Anyway, it's the Christmas season and my kids are all going to be home this week. That put me in a really good mood. I walked up and joked with the guys who had been covering the story since early in the day.

I didn't know how badly people had been hurt in this fire. I wasn't thinking. I can't even begin to put myself in their place. Having never suffered this kind of devastating loss, it's impossible for me to feel how much this family has suffered.

It just felt wrong for me to walk up joking.

I don't need to beat myself up over it, but I know I need to be more considerate.

Later in my shift, between the 6pm show and the 8pm show, we broke down and went to a community meeting that was called in response to the help the family was going to need through the holidays and over the coming months.

We were given a flyer and told where the meeting was to be held. We broke down the truck and set it up again at the meeting's location. I started editing the story with the reporter for the 8pm show. We were almost finished with the "a"-roll (reporter's track, soundbites, nats. . .that kind of thing).

A fireman came over and asked us to leave.

People at the meeting were going to be offered counseling. They didn't want the cameras there. It might have stopped someone from participating who really needed help in dealing with it.

As down as I was feeling earlier, it made me very proud that the reporter (yay, Sandra Mitchell)agreed for us to leave.

We could have been obnoxious (considering we'd be cutting it close to get back to the original location, finish editing and be ready to do the liveshot at 8pm. All we could do was try.

We're blamed for our tenacity in following a story, but we are capable of showing compassion.

We made the move and (cutting it very close) we were ready at 8:00pm. Most people aren't going to know that we showed consideration for anyone other than ourselves. Some people working in news might feel like we should have pushed the issue, stood on principle and stayed to cover the "public" meeting (even if it was from the sidewalk).

I'm glad we didn't.

I hope the family recovers from this tragic event. This post may have been about the way I felt while covering this story, but at the end of the day, I know there were more important considerations.

Next time, I'll try to keep that in mind at the start of the day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hitting the roof.

Everything is starting to move slower as Christmas and the New Year gets closer. Okay, maybe it's just me.

Yeah, I might be moving slower, but I made the effort to haul a ladder out of the garage and climb up to the roof to snap a couple of shots of the sunset yesterday. I don't know why, but the colorful sky sort of suited my mood.

While I was up there, I got a chance to stop and take a moment by myself and just be thankful for the good things going for me right now.

I've been busy the past couple of days catching up with my youngest daughter (YAY!). Scooter's back home from college and I get a little misty-eyed every time I think about how much she's matured in the few months she's been away.

Photo by Camia Frank

Hawaii has been quite an adventure for her and I'm happy and relieved and maybe a little anxious. All this because she's home, but I know she's going back eventually.

Photo by Camia Frank

Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe I'm also a little envious because she does get to go back.

Photo by Camia Frank

That's all just small bits of random junk. What I have mostly is this huge feeling of pride. Most people say, going away to school is pretty traumatic. I'm really happy she's made it this far and seems to have benefited from the experience.

I'm glad Dellis and I were able to help her. It seems like we're doing the right things.

Photo by Camia Frank

I like the fact that she's been home since Saturday and she's done a good job of sitting down with me and telling me about some of her adventures.

Look, I know good and well, I'm getting the "edited for parents" version of the stories. It's probably better that way. My kids have all grown up with some idea of what I see from working in news. They know how much I worry about the randomness of the bad stuff that happens in life. They know we don't live in a safe world.

They also know that being careful isn't the same as living in fear.

So, if what I get is only the tip of the iceberg of what she's seen and done while away at school, I'm just happy that she's made it home safely and she'll always have the memories of her time away.

Plus, she'll probably tell her mother more than she'll tell me. See, it'll get back to me eventually. That's how it works and then I'm hitting the roof.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dita Von Teese and Melrose Larry Green.

Sweet Christmas! I took a look at my stats over the weekend and it hit me hard that my numbers were deep deep deep in the gutter.

I was all set to blame it on a seasonal slump. Folks out shopping and getting into the holiday spirit and all. Looking back over the week that was, I came to the conclusion that my boring assignments this week may have also had something to do with the slump.

Let's see, Thursday I was at a Pasadena School Board Meeting where they were discussing the closure of several schools in the district.

(YAWN!) Oh, man, the stories I'm covering now compared to past years? It's like night and day.

I mean, come on. This is burlesque entertainer Dita Von Teese showing me a vital part of her costume. This shot was from December a couple of years ago.

This is the "Lord of the Rings" premiere from another past December.

I posted some of this stuff before. You might remember the Morongo casino opening and how we got to meet a bunch of lingerie models.

Okay, it's not like we got to sit down and have a beer with them, but there's a big difference in a day that features lingerie models. . .

. . .and a day where I'm just covering a press conference.

Like on Friday. Just another day at the office. I covered a news conference about a Los Angeles Unified School Police Officer who punched a kid in the head a couple of times. The kid was fighting in a riot at the time.

Gee, look at the turn out. Yeah, that's my camera. Our station was the only one there. Channel 4 showed up and a Spanish language station after we were done.

I don't think it's just me seeing this trend. I've been getting less interesting stories lately.

I could push to get more of the assignments where I can take shots of Ellen K. hanging out at the beach. . .

. . .or Hugh Hefner showing off his dates at the Playboy mansion. . .

. . .or Melrose Larry Greene at the Mayor's inauguration.

Well, even when my job is in a slump and there's nothing interesting to post from my workday, (as strange as it might sound) what I get from just being at a stable and happy point in my life is enough for me.

I don't have to go out and look for excitement.

I'm going to go do a little Christmas shopping for Dellis today. It's probably not going to involve a car chase or a celebrity sighting, but I'm still going have a ball. Something'll happen soon, it'll be a big story and I hope I get to cover it.

That's the thing, something always happens. You learn that when you work in news.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pie and coffe and liveshots.

I'm no adrenaline junkie, but my current workdays are just feeling like the interludes between big stories and out of town trips. I don't really want to admit it, but to tell you the truth, I'm really starting to jones for an exciting assignment. We're close to the end of the year and it just feels like we have room for maybe one more "something" to close out 2005.

Until that big breaker happens, I'm just working nuts and bolts GA (general assignment).

Wednesday night I was over at Solley's Deli for another talkback with Mayor Villaraigosa. Just like you folks who get a kick out of peeking behind the scenes at what I do, I get the same from chatting with folks I meet out in the field.

While waiting for the Mayor, my fellow photographer (Vic Anastasia, give him a hand) and I got to talk with one of the Mayor's people. We weren't looking for gossip and weren't digging for juicy bits of possible scandal leakage. It was just interesting to hear about someone else's hectic work day.

Sounds like the Mayor and his staff are working 24/7. Most of the time I can relate. The whole idea of long hours and rushing from one end of town to the other in traffic? That's just another day at the office for us.

We generally don't get to relax and have a muffin or slice of apple pie while out on assignment (hee-hee, the coffee was good too).

I've talked about camping out in a news vehicle in the middle of nowhere without even the minimum creature comforts (yeah, I'm talking restrooms). Misery must love company, though. We had a couple of laughs comparing notes about our busy days.

After the segment, the Mayor shook a few hands and posed for a couple of pictures with folks who gathered to watch him and here's something cool. He thanked me for the pictures I sent his office after the last time I crewed the talkback. Yeah, that was really pretty cool of him to remember.

Then he was gone and I got the impression that his day wasn't over yet.

I didn't get a chance to talk about campaign slogans (remember the last Mayor post?). That's okay, I got a couple more weeks left in the year.

Maybe I'll be on the talkback again or even better. Maybe I'll get a breaker.

At least it's Friday. Lord, yes. M-O-O-N spells Friday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Coming up: Dead Horse, BEATEN!

Why am I here? That's the kind of metaphysical question normal people ask themselves all the time. I don't think a day goes by in news without someone asking the same thing, but in a way less spiritual sense.

Driving past the Morongo Indian casino, I was on the 10 Freeway heading East towards Rancho Mirage (near Palm Springs) and that was the question that kept popping up in my mind.

Former U.S. President Gerald Ford was in the hospital and it may sound kind of morbid (okay, way morbid), but at his age and with his current state of health, no one in news is going to take a chance that he's sick enough to die and we're not there to cover the story.

The released statement claimed he only had a cold, but his people didn't want to take any chances and they put him in the hospital for observation.

Yeah, we didn't want to take any chances either.

You might not realize that hospitals have a responsibility to keep patient information private and sometimes that puts us in an almost adversarial situation.

Some hospitals representatives are better than others in dealing with the news media.

I like to think I'm pretty well behaved, but I only control what I do. I'm not responsible for the other crews, so it's frustrating when people lump us all together.

I imagine when all the cameras and microphones are swarming at you for information, it must be frustrating and difficult not to mix us up. When you get mad at a reporter or photographer from one station, just try to remember that's not how everyone approaches the job.

It can certainly be tense, but that wasn't the case at all last night. The folks at Eisenhower Medical Center were professional and even cordial in doing their job. Heck, they even let us inside (without gear) to use the facilities (if you know what I mean).

It was a little disappointing when Ford left the hospital early in the evening. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy he was well enough to go home. I'm just saying, because we had to stay for liveshots through the 11:00 newscast. That meant a hospital 'rep' also had to stay out in the parking lot with us until we were all done.

Most of the other crews took off and we were just about the only ones there. Yep, it got a little chilly out in the desert last night.

Next time Ford has to go to the hospital, I wonder if things will be different. It might be a little petty, but I think I'll understand why, if we have use the restroom at the gas station down the road.