Friday, April 28, 2006

Extra, Extra!

Daily Double alert. I posted something to "In the Field" over on the CBS2/KCAL9 website. Feel free to comment here on what I posted there.

Gee, Friday already?

I just wrapped with my last trainee before sweeps. That's Ric Dupont handling some light camera chores on the USC assault story that broke on Wednesday.

I've been wanting to mention that the trainees like Ric are new on our list of freelancers, but we're not teaching them how to shoot news. The training is just introducing the new guys to how we do things at our station. They already know how to shoot and cut news.

That day, I'd been showing Ric some of my favorite "on the sidewalk" parking spots near the court buildings downtown. We got the call to help crews working the assault story, rushed over to USC and pitched in.

That's been a regular thing for us this week.

We helped with the liveshot and some b-roll. On the way back to the station we drove past a shooting scene.

I'm hesitant to show the photo because I know there are younger people who follow my blog. I hope it doesn't cause anyone undue pain.

Yeah, that's a victim they're covering.

The police at the scene told us it was a shooting between gang members.

We called it in to our assignment desk anyway. It might be followed up on later, but most news stations have long ago stopped covering typical gang shootings. The rationale is that it only encourages them and promotes their activity.

I'm not sure that's good or bad. I just know there's a lot of murders similar to this one that the average person will never hear about. The only thing I can be sure about is that it's a difficult call to make when coverage will likely do more harm than good.

I understand if anyone wanted to criticize us for that, but I hope you don't spend a lot of time beating up the messengers. Sure, it might help you feel better to take out some anger and frustration on us. It just won't do much to stop people from killing each other.

Good luck on that particular problem. Just remember, if you get shot and killed by a street gang, try to let someone know if you're not a gangbanger.

Otherwise there's a pretty good chance it's not going to make the news.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

You can ask.

As much as I joke and laugh and really enjoy the heck out of what I do for a living, it's never very long before I'm reminded of just how heartbreaking my assignments can be.

You've heard me complain about how slow it's been at work. With all the training days I've covered, it just hasn't felt like I've been a part of anything major lately.

That changed on Tuesday. My most recent trainee and I were sent to back up the crew covering developments in the Taja Jones story.

Taja Jones was a woman who had been missing for several days. Her body was found on Tuesday in her car near Culver City.

At one point between liveshots, friends of Taja Jones arrived at the scene. They were pointed out to me and I grabbed my camera and rolled a couple of shots from about half a block away.

Again, it was a training day, so I passed the camera over to the trainee and followed followed him along with the reporter over to the edge of the crime scene.

Other crews were right behind us and we all kept back a bit.

I can't remember the specific story when I last saw grieving family members. The memory fades because I move on and leave it behind me. It's not my intention to diminish anyone's tragedy, but sometimes there's no point in trying to hold on to memories of events I witness.

I remind myself, I'm not directly involved. It's not my tragedy.

Even though I say that, plenty stays with me whether I try to remember or not.

There's just no getting past this part of what I do. As tough as it is, I absolutely have to put my feelings aside at times at work.

When I'm behind the lens, I point the camera and frame the shot to record the events that happen. I do that to the best of my ability. It has to be about the truth of what happens and not what I personally feel should or shouldn't be seen on the news.

We set limits on what's appropriate, but for whatever reason this falls within those limits.

I felt a tight knot in my own stomach watching the two women and the man. In her grief, one of the women started shaking and needed to be held up to keep from falling completely to the ground. She continued sobbing uncontrollably and gasped for air.

We couldn't even air some of the things the man yelled out. I think I'd be yelling out the same things (maybe worse). They took turns holding each other and said a few things to us on camera. I'm thankful for that. They didn't have to.

I don't ask the question anymore asked most often by people in their grief. Even if they catch whoever committed the crime; even if the whole story comes out. There's never going to be a motive or an explanation that justifies the loss suffered.

I don't mean to offend. It's a matter of faith and you can ask Him, but I've never once heard God answer the question.


I should figure out where I'm going to walk.

I've got a week of vacation coming up and I'm planning to do everything that I don't get to do when I'm working. That mostly consists of a lot of goofing off and avoiding complicated scheduled activities. You know, like breakfast.

(Whew! I'm stressing out just thinking about it.)

Over the weekend, I took care of one thing to prepare for my week off. I worked an overtime day on Sunday. That should cover my "walking around money" for the week.

Not a bad day. I covered operating the satellite truck in Palm Springs for the President's visit. When I took the assignment, I thought it was going to be an easy day. It never really sunk in that it was a 7:30am start on a Sunday morning.

Helloooo! Easy?

Shucks, not after my adventures in the art world on Saturday and not after hanging out with "asantana" and her husband Ali after that.

Gee, dragging myself into work after a "social" Saturday night? It just makes me all nostalgic for when I used to work weekends on a regular basis.

Yeah, good times.

It's kind of funny. While in Palm Springs, I never saw the President. Not even a glimpse of the Presidential motorcade. By the way, lunch was chips and sodas and I barely left the truck for most of the morning and afternoon. Nothing unusual happened and that made for a long day.

We did three satellite liveshots and I recorded some video that was sent out from the Presidential pool feeds. I'm not complaining. Nothing really happened and we packed up after the last liveshot and drove home. I clocked almost 16 hours. It's not a fortune, just a little "walking around money".

Honest, how many of you couldn't resist making the cash register sound?


Monday, April 24, 2006

You break it, you bought it.

Nobody's going to think this is true, but I know it's not always about me. Seriously.

Dellis' Art Show was this past weekend and I was quite happy to sip a glass of wine, snap a few photos and be the supportive husband that I've always imagined myself to be.

She's had pieces shown before, but this was the biggest showing of her work that she's ever exhibited.

There was a good turnout.

Quite a few people came out, including a few relatives and a handful of her former students (now all grown up) made the showing.

Dellis got lots of interest in her work and some good feedback from both friends and strangers (yeah, they were just friends she hadn't met yet).

This was a wonderful day for Dellis and I'm just happy I was able to be there (as opposed to chasing a breaking news story).

It might seem odd, but I try to say very little about her art. Sorry, but everybody knows I'm biased. Dellis could glue two pieces of wood together and I'd be all for seeing if the Ghetty might be interested.

I also know she sometimes listens too closely to the comments I make.

It's never my intent to impose my sensibilities on her work. I admire what she does without feeling like I need to be involved in the creative process. No stress. I just get to enjoy work created by someone I care deeply about.

Somehow that helps me be better able to handle the things I have to deal with at work and in life.

The next time I'm dealing with intolerance, violence and hatred, I'm going to remember how I felt this weekend.

It's a big world. I love my wife and it makes me feel good to know there's still room in it to enjoy art, beauty, and the (mostly) quiet peaceful life we share.

Happy Monday everyone.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Second Test

Yay! I think it’s actually working now. I can post from my Blackberry. That’s going to make posting quick updates on my activities a lot easier.

The funny thing is, I’ve tried this before and it wouldn’t work. I was trying to send photos from my Motorolla Phone through Verizon. Any ideas why it wouldn’t work?


Sent from my BlackBerry

Friday, April 21, 2006

You can talk to me though.

We were doing liveshots yesterday at the Inglewood Police Department. The mother of the baby found dead on the steps of a local church had turned herself in.

I had another trainee with me and we were there to follow the story.

The mother was being held on unrelated warrants. We spent a lot of time just hanging around the station parking lot. Just in case if she were released or if the father of the child might show up.

While we were hanging around, I thought about the people who read my blog. I wondered if they know anything about Inglewood at all. I can see where they might have this preconceived idea that it's an urban (okay, minority) environment. That might be true, but it's really just like any other city.

I think the image of Inglewood might have been tarnished over the years by movies, television, and even music that depict negative aspects of the city.

So when I saw the half dozen cop cars speeding out of the station with lights and sirens going, I didn't think much of it.

Every city has crime. It doesn't mean that it's not a relatively safe place to live.

It was a slow afternoon. I found out they were all headed to another officer involved shooting. We called our assignment desk and they told us to go look into it.

Sure. No problem.

It only freaked me out a little when I got the address.

Crap! Hey, that's my neighborhood!

Well, it actually turned out to be the Inglewood neighborhood West of Crenshaw. I'm in the City of Hawthorne to the East.

Still, maybe only a quarter mile from my house.

To be honest, I like it a lot better when I have to drive to where the news is. It's not nearly as much fun when it comes to visit in my own neighborhood.

This was a rare opportunity. I could have interviewed my wife to get her reaction. The thing is, I know she won't talk to the media (we've had this discussion).

Maybe I can get her to say something off the record.

I'm going to go wake her up.

Hmm, on second thought, I'm going to go find some gang members to interview. That's probably the safer thing.

Yes, with whipped cream!

Friday's here (yay!), but I'm still jonesing for a meaty assignment. I saw a few interesting things this week, but nothing worth a package.

It seems like officer involved shootings (OIS) are on the rise.

Down in Bellflower at the corners of Lakewood and Artesia Boulevard, this scene is kind of difficult to explain. A police officer shot and wounded a suspected car thief. Somehow the car the thief (oops, I mean suspect) was driving smashed into the officer's car (and actually also hit the officer).

Well, maybe not so difficult to explain. I'm still a little fuzzy on the shooting. Did the officer shoot because he was in danger of being hit or because he was hit?

BTW - This all happened across the street from a Starbucks. Yes, a Starbucks.


Well, not really.

One thing didn't have anything to do with the other, but the Starbucks parking lot was where we settled in for our liveshots. It wasn't all that interesting of an assignment, but I kind of wish they were all this convenient.

Last I heard, the officer and the suspect both survived. I got a slight brain freeze from drinking my venti sized Caramel Frapp too fast, but I'm not complaining. I know how tough it can be working news.

Sometimes we can't make it to Starbucks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Come on, send me somewhere.

Suddenly I'm not having as much fun as I should be having. I might as well admit, I've hit another dry spell.

None of the news I've been covering has been very exciting to me. A lot of it has been pretty tame recently and even the half-way decent assignments have kind of been the same old drill.

Tuesday was okay. Not the most exciting of assignments, but it was interesting to be at the Mayor's State of the City Address. I went straight there from home, parked my van and waited the two hours before they opened up the auditorium (yawn).

The toughest part of the job was pulling the cable into the gym from where our vans were parked out on the street. I got to see Mayor Villaraigosa practicing his speech inside the empty gym. I got to watch for almost thirty seconds before they realized I was standing there and they booted me out.

That's okay. I've been booted out of better joints.

During the speech we carried the whole shebang live from a feed provided by the city. Once the program started, I didn't have a lot to do. I had to record in my van a copy of what was going on in case something was said that needed to be repeated and commented upon by the folks who were in the audience.

Why, yes. As a matter of fact, that is one of the owners of "The Original Pantry" restaurant. I'll never forget one of my first assignments as a news photographer in Los Angeles, he came over and introduced himself. I think he knew most of the photographers and didn't recognize me as one of the "regular" guys. I wasn't even a Los Angeles city resident at the time, so I couldn't vote for him.

To make up for that, I've been to "The Original Pantry" a few times over the years.

Mmm, bread and coleslaw.

Okay, speech over.

Time to wrap up the cable and go to lunch. Fine and dandy, but I was told by a doof in a uniform that I couldn't enter through the press entrance. I had my videocamera with me just in case the reporter wanted to grab an interview and I also had my media credentials.

Somebody tell me, what was the point?

I may never know. I checked to see if there was another entrance I should have been using. Most of the other doors didn't even looked unlocked. I took three steps over and entered through a second door that didn't have a doof guarding it.

I got the feeling that he was about to come after me, but once I was inside I used my natural news photographer chameleon powers to blend into my surroundings.

There was also a protest outside. It took me a while to find out what exactly they were protesting. Nothing to do with the Mayor or anything he was there to talk about. They were upset about some issues involving the administration of the school hosting the Mayor's speech.

I think they expected more people to show up. Someone needs to let them know how these protests actually work.

That was my Tuesday. I'm doing more training this week, so I don't think any good news is coming my way.

(sigh) I'd kill for a good assignment. . .hey, if you think about it, that would solve the problem.

Rewind and zero the counter

Monday was pretty much a washout. No news for me, so I spent my time reading a friend's screenplay in my van on the lot.

It's hard to imagine in this news market, but I didn't get a story all day.

I came close.

At one point I was sent up to Mammoth in "Big Blue" for the avalanche. It was a full on out-of-town assignment. I'd loaded up the big SNG unit with all my gear. I'd called the boss (Dellis) and let her know that I was going to be heading out of town.

It would have been a great story to cover.

I got as far as the 5 Freeway, but got a call from the desk to turn it around and return to base.

Without fatalities, it became less of a story worth the resources. Better to save it all up for when we'll really need it.

It was a good practice drill. I realized how much was missing from my out of town run bag (socks). I'm glad nobody was killed and I'm not sorry I didn't have cover the story.

Well, maybe a little.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What does Angelyne have to do with SNG training?

That's a fair question. Let me explain.

Our satellite trucks have been going through a constant state of upgrades over the past year or so and one of them has been reconfigured to the point where it's just better for us to take a day and go over all the changes rather than try to pick it up while out in field.

Photo by Joel Fallon

I was on board on Friday for the re-training. I don't want to sound snarky about it, but I pretty much had it nailed in the first fifteen minutes.

I'd gone in earlier and on previous days when they were working on it and picked up the major points I needed to know.

Plus, since I handle part of the SNG training for the rest of the staff, I'm kind of expected to pick up this stuff quickly.

I guess I mention this because people might wonder where I was the rest of the afternoon.

Photo by Joel Fallon

It's a long story, but mostly I was with The Granite Chief, Joel Fallon. We were going over my notes and stuff from my adventures in management from the previous week.

Just so we're clear, the hot sauce and beer experiment happened later that evening.

Friday was also the day that Dellis left to go visit our son up in San Francisco. They had a great weekend and I survived without any major problems.

Photo by Jannon Frank

I didn't get scurvy and I only locked myself out of the house once. It was traumatic and I'd rather just block it out at this point.

I also want to block out the pictures the Chief and I took with Angelyne. I'd post them, but I try to go with "better safe than sorry" in posting pictures of other people.

Maybe I also should have waited to tell my lovely wife about the photos. So far, they've cost me the price of a nice new purse. I suspect the purse may have already been purchased and the Angelyne incident was just used to cover up random shopping.

Well, those were some of the high points of my weekend. As you can tell, you didn't miss anything.

Come back later. I may sneak the Angelyne pictures in.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Here you go, a little Friday wrap.

Darn, I overslept this morning. I had intended to wake up early and try to get to the station to get an early jump on my retraining on one of our satellite trucks.

I might still make it in early, but I'll have to run through the blog stuff quickly.

I had a full week and most days Dave Regan from Boston was with me for training.

Dave is a new freelance Photographer with CBS2/KCAL9 and I shadowed him this week to show him how we operate.

I hope he got all the info he needed without picking up any of my bad habits.

This was fun.

It wasn't all heavy assignments this week. Dave shot a VO on "Sprinkles", a small bakery in Beverly Hills where you can pick up a great little cupcake.

A nice change from the usual mayhem, but from that we went to back to "low" gear.

June Pointer passed away and we picked up a few shots of flowers for her being placed on the Pointer Sisters' star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I recently bought a Pointer Sisters Greatest Hits CD. June, I hope you know your music made people (me) happy.

You will be missed.

Yesterday, we drove all the way to Ventura County to cover a press conference about the first Bald Eagle chick naturally hatched on Catalina Island in over 50 years.

It was a good drive and I got a kick out of seeing the footage they provided.

I want a little baby Bald Eagle. He was cute. When he grows up, I could have him and an American flag in my front yard. Yeah, and then I bet everybody would know how much of a nutcase I really am.

My lovely wife Dellis has an art show coming up. This is one of her pieces (probably my favorite).

She's heading up North to visit our son this weekend.

Not to be selfish, but I had concerns about me starving to death and maybe getting scurvy while she was gone (hey, these things happen). She cooked me a meatloaf and bought me an orange.

Yup, that should get me through the weekend.

My birthday still looms on the horizon and I'm still working on the plans for the coming year.

Good Luck to Mr. Regan on his first solo day with the station and everybody keep a good thought in mind for Mrs. Frank to have a safe trip.

Don't worry about me. I've got writing to work on (we'll talk about that soon) and because it's often the simple things in life that appeal to me, you gotta know I'm going to enjoy my meatloaf.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Maybe I should say. . .

I just posted on my other blog "In the Field" over on the CBS2/KCAL9 website. Feel free to comment here on what I posted there about the Boyle Heights homicide I covered on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who wants a better world?

It's an amazing wreck. Our chopper was overhead, but I was sent out to Boyle Heights yesterday to shoot ground footage, get soundbites from witnesses and officials, and meet up with a crew for liveshots on this story.

We do the best we can, but chances are I'm never going to know anything more about this story.

A vehicle was shot at by people in another vehicle. Gang related? Maybe. Okay, probably, but we don't know.

You do know that every one of the little numbered cards in the street are shell casings from the shooting. That's a lot of shots.

Our world doesn't start getting better until we all start placing a higher value on human life.

This happened right across the street from a park where innocent people were playing. If anybody saw anything, they weren't willing to talk to us about it.

If they knew the people involved, I hope they at least talked to the police about it.

By the way, the body of the victim is still in the car.

I couldn't see it from where I was working behind the crime scene tape. Knowing that it was there, but not in view added a surreal quality to the whole incident. Another life taken.

The victim might have been a good person or (not entirely unresonable to believe) the victim might have done similar or worse to others.

The victim might have friends or family who are going to go out and try to balance the scales. I hope they don't. I hope this is the last shooting ever and people realize how terrible it is to take a life.

Yeah, I know.

Still, I can hope can't I?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm hungry. When's the next rally?

I've reached a point where I've kind of gotten used to the concept of dealing with facts.

No, really. See, I'm a quiet man. If you ask me for an opinion, I can usually throw one together.

On the other hand, I'm also never hesitant to admit when my lack of knowledge makes me a less than perfect candidate to speak out on an issue.

I don't get the feeling other people feel the same as I do about "facts" and stuff.

When I'm in the middle of a huge crowd of people cheering and applauding and getting worked up (as large crowds are often known to do), I find myself wanting to play devil's advocate and try to figure out if maybe we're missing something with all the cheering going on.

I helped cover the immigration rally in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. This was my first assignment on this story, but I've heard a lot of the arguments "four" and against both sides.

It's a complicated issue even if the folks involved on either side aren't willing to admit it.

I guess in a perfect world, it would be simple to have "smart people" who maybe get paid to think about this stuff and tell everyone else how it should be handled.

The problem with that pops up pretty quickly when none of the people directly affected are willing to accept anything less than 100% exactly what they want.

If there is a viable compromise or solution, I don't think it's going to be heard over all the "valid points" that keep getting yelled out from all the thoughtful and reasonable people who only want what's best.

When someone figures it all out, I think someone is going still end up pissed.

While I'm waiting for the perfect solution to this issue, I'm going to do what I've always done. I'll try to cover the story fairly and I'll try to stay away from the street vendors selling hot dogs wrapped in bacon.

I'm doing well on covering the story, but boy, those grilled onions and peppers get me every time. Don't ask me how I can eat them. All I can say is, it's like playing Russian roulette. If you don't die, then you've won.