Monday, October 30, 2006

Go, number fiddy!

I get picked on a lot when nothing gets posted over the weekend. It's not that I don't live a life of action and adventure 24/7. . .no, wait a minute, I don't.

Nothing major happened (to me or for me) over the weekend and the high point of my day on Saturday was snapping a few shots of my nephew at his football game.

Kyle Frank (he's wearing green) is the youngest son of my one-year-older-than-me brother.

I got there during the fourth quarter and it was all I could do to resist some chili-fries from the snack bar.


The game was pretty one-sided. Kyle's team won (don't ask me the score) and he seemed happy that his busy uncle showed up to see him play.

It was a really nice day. No reporters or liveshots or sudden trips out of town.

Sometimes people ask me why we don't cover the "nice" stuff like this. I always try to be polite in answering, because this is what life and families and communities are supposed to be about.

It's just not news.

The way I see it, news is about the things that happen that aren't part of the normal course of the life. It's about the things out of the ordinary that suddenly happen that might affect people.

Sometimes people accept this. Sometimes they still want to know why they never see the news van anywhere but at crime scenes. Look, I'm just working for a living. If things ever change and I do get to pick the stories I cover, well, you may still not see me at your kid's event.

Shucks, if things change like that, I'm gonna be honest; I'm covering my nephew Kyle's game first.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hard reminder.

Wahoo! I'm out running the SNG truck for our coverage of the Esperanza fire. Somehow I've missed most of the big fires this year (the Day Fire was appropriately named) and it feels good to be part of the front line coverage.

So far, I've only been upwind of the smoke and ash that's filling up a good chunk of the Riverside and San Bernardino skyline.

These days our coverage of fires reflect a legitimate concern for the safety of the news crews out in the field.

More than ever, the concern is that we all "be" safe while we're working. That's difficult sometimes to keep in mind. The job we do isn't completely without risks.

We might push the safety envelope to get video footage that helps us tell the story in a compelling way and I remember part of a quote by someone, "If you can't see the truth, you're not close enough."

I probably mangled that, but maybe you get the idea.

I've worked in this job long enough to have juuuuusssst enough experience to take a calculated risk every now and then for the sake of good video.

The flip side of that? I've also worked this job long enough to know that no amount of experience will always keep you safe.

As I write this post, four fire fighters are dead and a fifth is in critical condition.

I don't think they were taking any sort of extraordinary risks. As far as I know, they were just doing their job.

The fact that trained and experienced fire fighters were hurt and killed today scares me. It makes me stop to consider; how much do I really know? How safe am I really when I feel safe doing my job?

We tend to laugh and joke as we cover the news. We face tragic events and work under pressure, the laughter (even from inappropriate humor) that probably helps to keep us sane.

I don't think I'm going to joke much about this fire.

I'm just going to move back a little further and try not to think about just how dangerous it is out here, because I still have to go about doing my job.

I was going to complain, but that's okay. I'm good.

I've barely blogged this week. Sorry. It's not that I haven't had anything to write about, it's just been kind of a tough week. I've barely pulled the still camera out of the van.

On the one hand, I feel like I've been on a roll with the traveling and I've worked a few good shifts since I've been back. Shoot, cut and throw up a liveshot; all the things that I enjoy doing.

On the other hand, I haven't been bringing my "A" game. I'm still mostly on the shift that depends on big breaking news for me to get an opportunity to get my hands dirty.

One thing that doesn't change? No matter how tough things are for me, all it takes is the right story to put it all in perspective.

We did liveshots near the 4th Street off-ramp of the 10 Freeway yesterday. That's because near there, 24 year old Christine Berbick was hit by another vehicle.

Photo by Stacey Butler

The other driver did not stop. Christine's SUV hit a guard rail, a semi truck, flipped over three times, and smashed into a wall.

It's worth mentioning that Christine is seven months pregnant.

We talked to her in the hospital yesterday. She's under constant observation. Everyone pretty much agrees that it was a miracle she survived the crash and even more of a miracle that she didn't lose the baby.

About the only reason she agreed to do the interview is because the driver who hit her never stopped. She wants the driver or anyone who may have seen the accident to come forward.

You really have to admire her strength. I hope all goes well for her and her baby.

My week has been rough, but I can't complain. Well, I could, but this kind of puts it perspective.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How was the what?

It's really good to be back. There's nothing like a road trip to make you appreciate the comforts of home.

I suffered a couple of days of "How was the luau?" when I got back last Thursday. Ha-ha, I understand the sentiment. If I hadn't lived through it, I'd probably assume a couple of days at a tropical resort might be a fun thing.

Sometimes when we travel, there's enough down time that we get a chance to enjoy a bit of the local culture. Sometimes. We didn't get much of that on this trip and I keep trying to explain that to people.

"But you got to go to Hawaii!"

That's pretty much the response to anything I have to say.

Let's see.

I got to wake up at 4:00am.
Cab over to LAX at 5:00am.
Flight to Maui at 6:40am (no meal, snacks available $$$).

Couldn't check gear to final destination. I have to gather up everything at baggage claim and check in for the flight to Kona (with only a one hour layover).
It's raining (of course it is).

Three cases of gear didn't make the flight, but it should be on the next flight in about an hour and a half from now. Ok.

I go pick up the rental car.

I scout the local area (mainly for food, I'm starving). My foraging turns up a Subway sandwich and chips.

Quick u-turn and I drive back to the airport. It works out well, I pick up the gear and the reporter. We work out a game plan, then drive to locations affected by the earthquake.

Hop out of the car, shoot b-roll and interviews, hop back into the car and drive to another location (and repeat).

It's late in the afternoon Hawaii time and about 8:00pm on the West Coast. If you're wondering.

We find the CBS Newspath crew and their liveshot location. We make an attempt to find damaged structures in the area. We run out of time and return to the liveshot location to cut our package.

It starts to rain. I don't tell anyone, but I'm pretty sure that's my fault.

We get our two liveshots done and wrap for the day. Now we have almost an hour drive to get to the hotel. It's pouring down rain, road visibility is low and I'm driving slow. The last thing I want is to get into an accident before I have time to get a beer after the long day I've had.

We're also looking for food, but we don't see anything on the road to the hotel.

I can't believe I'm starving in paradise.

It's about midnight and I've been up since 4:00am. We check into the hotel. I think it's really cool that the hotel has a tram that pulls right up into the lobby. You know what would have been cooler? If it had been working. That would've been really super! The hotel had a bar right next to the lobby and my room was in the ocean tower.

One beer later, I was hiking the seven and a half miles to my room. I'm not sure if the beer helped, but I made it to the room and managed to order up some room service.

I stayed awake long enough for it to be delivered. Room service is always awkward for me, I never know how much to tip. So, I sign for the meal and then empty my wallet and all my change on the cart. Room service-guy scoops it up and runs out of the room. Even without the tip, it was the most expensive burger I'd ever eaten. It did come with fries.

I find the remote and turn on the TV, then I zonk out on top of the covers. The last thing I remember, was looking at the clock and thinking I should set the alarm. Somehow (and I really believed this) I thought I had the ability to set it using the power of my mind.

Anyway, this was the first day. We survived and got the story on TV.

Ask me again, how was the luau. Go ahead, ask me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Daddy's Girl.

Maybe I didn't mention it, but since I was in the same time zone as our youngest daughter, I was going to try and work out a short visit to her over at Hawaii Pacific University.

Surprisingly, things worked out.

I'm over on her island right now. Get this, not only is it not raining yet, but I'm defying the weather spirits by wheeling a convertible Chrysler Sebring.

Don't hate.

The young one is just perfect. She's in class right now, but we had lunch together and I took her on a little shopping spree. I think this short visit will make the time until her Christmas vacation a bit more tolerable.

It's great to have the chance to see her. I was seriously freaked out by the thought of her being over here during a large scale natural disaster. I'm glad the earthquake didn't do more damage than it did and I'm really glad my daughter is okay.

It helps to calm my parental protective instincts to see she's okay with my own two eyes.

Now, hit those books!

This is really a cool thing that I'm doing.

Let me also mention that it wouldn't have been possible if the people on my job weren't in my corner. I'll tell you what, Macadamia nuts all around when I get back to work.

I better go. I think I see some dark clouds on the horizon. Aloha.

Al Franken would be jealous.

I'm packing for the return trip and just wanted to let everyone know that everything went pretty well. I'll tell you more about it when I get back to the mainland (sometime on Thursday morning).

In the picture: That's the boat that travels from one end of the hotel to the other. It takes about seven hours to make the trip. Ha-ha, just kidding. Really though, you don't come here to move fast.

This is a relaxing kind of resort.

We were going live with portable satellite gear. The SNG "fly-away pack" worked like a charm. The "good-for-nothing-cursed editpack" crapped out while I was filling the b-roll for our 5:00pm package.

We did a thumbsucker liveshot for 5:00pm. After that, we fed what we had completed and an editor back at the station finished filling in the holes.

The package ran during the 6:00pm liveshot and also during the later liveshots.

Yes, that was less work for me. Darn (heh-heh).

Adding to the bumps in the road, a hotel rep asked us not to show any of their property during the early liveshots. That's why the reporter was standing in front of a very generic ocean backdrop during the dayside shots.

Luckily, the hotel reps liked what the reporter said during the early liveshot and loosened up for the later hits. We had a nice tiki-torch lit scene for the nightside shots.

Okay, I have more, but that's all I got time for now. Gotta pack up the laptop and all the gear and get out of here.

Aloha and Mahalo.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hawaii. I can't believe I'm still in Hawaii.

Think Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now" for the voice. That's how I feel this morning.

Let's jump to 10:00pm last night.

It all comes down to this moment. The reporter (Mary Beth McDade in this case) stands in front of the camera and tells the story.

Sounds simple.

Behind the scenes, it rarely is. Getting to this point was difficult and at times seemed really unlikely.

It's almost eight in the morning LA time, that makes it five in the morning here in Hawaii. Gotta say, I'm still stuffed from my late night room service hamburger and beer (the slice of chocolate cake is really what put me over the top).

As nice as that sounds, the cool meal was a hard earned reward for the long day. Mmmm, Kona Brewing Company Golden Ale (If anyone was wondering).

My first attempt to fly out of Los Angeles was on Sunday and that didn't work out so well. The flight was cancelled five minutes before boarding.

Here we go, collect the beer at gaggage claim. . .oops, Freudian slip. . .collect the gear at baggage claim, cab home, go to sleep, wake up at 4:00am and try again on a flight that leaves at seven in the morning.

It worked, I flew to Maui with a connecting flight to Kona.

Guess what the weather was like waiting for me on Maui. Go ahead, guess.

Coming down in buckets. If I had to guess, I'd say the monsoon season lasts about nine months out of the year. I'm lucky I didn't have to stay long. I had almost a whole hour to collect the gear and check in for my short hop over to the Big Island.

Big Island weather was much better. It was windy, but amazingly somehow actually sunny when I got there.

I've had pretty good luck with my luggage when traveling. Gee, this time almost half the gear actually made the connection. So, instead of checking into the hotel, I had to hang close to the airport to wait for the next flight for the rest of the gear (and my personal luggage).

The weather held out for a good part of the day. It didn't start raining again until after sunset.

The luggage situation cut into our production time. Lots of driving, but we got as much of the earthquake damage on tape as we could in the time we had available.

Our satellite link was set up by CBS Newspath. We cut a package in our rental car on a laptop edit pack and they handled everything for our first liveshot at 10:00pm Pacific Time.

Hate to end here, but an aftershock has already knocked out my internet connection once this morning, so I'm gonna wrap it up. I've got another long day ahead of me.

If I'm lucky, I'll get a chance to snap a couple more pictures to post something latter.

It's still raining.

I don't know what local custom(s?) I may have violated on one of my previous trips to Hawaii. I just know I'm beginning to feel a little paranoid at this point. Man, I swear I don't have any Tiki idols.

I'm still going to keep an eye out for Vincent Price.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Shaken, but not stirred.

The youngest daughter is okay. She was still without electricity the last time I talked to her, but doing well.

It's about 5:00am and I'm waiting for a cab to take me to the airport. I'm heading to Hawaii to cover the earthquake. Pictures? You know I'll do what I can. By the way, this is my second attempt to fly over.

I'll tell you about the first attempt later. Just keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

That doesn't look right.

Anybody else having trouble with photos? It seems like blogger is choking on my pics.

A bit of adventure.

Here's a blogging world cool thing. Chris Weaver of TVPhotogBlog flew into Los Angeles yesterday.

He gave me a call and let me know that he was in town for a hush-hush top secret news assignment (heh-heh, I know what it is, but I can keep a secret).

Chris was only going to be in town for the day and his schedule was going to be tight. He had less than hour to kill before he'd have to kick his workday into high gear.

That's okay, I'm only a few minutes from the airport and I'm used to navigating my way around the arrival area of LAX.

Chris hopped in my jeep and we took a quick spin around the area. Not a lot of tourist attractions near airport, but we do have a nice ocean that's worth seeing.

If I have my facts straight, this was Chris' first trip to Los Angeles.

Dodging cars to cross Pacific Coast Highway on foot probably isn't on on everyone's itinerary. When you're taking that risk to snap a couple of pictures of the California coastline, it does sound kind of cool.

Chris and I both work a profession that deals with much of the worst in the world. We both write about our experiences and we share that with anyone who cares to read what we've written. I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet Chris in person, shake his hand, and talk shop (news and blogging).

I trust that he's safe at home now and I hope his assignment went well. I'm glad he called. It was a quick cool bit of adventure and makes for a nice experience to blog about.

Anybody else coming to Los Angeles?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hey, it's that guy from Roseanne.

It's been a long week, so here's a three minute post to start the weekend. Any George Clooney fans out there?

I remember him from "E/R" with Elliot Gould.

He was also on "The Facts of Life" once upon a time.

He's done pretty well for himself since those days. American Cinematheque honored George Clooney tonight at an event sponsored in part by Budweiser.

Mmmm, Budweiser.

Did anybody consider how cruel it would be to not offer us a beer?

I hope all the George Clooney fans have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Preaching to the choir.

Newt Gingrich was giving a speech at the Reagan Library last Friday. This was like my third recent trip out to there. It's getting to the point where the security guys are starting to recognize me.

Let's hope that's a good thing.

Nice day for a drive out and I was flying solo for this one. Our political reporter had other fish to fry, but we still wanted to see what Newt had to say about recent events.

We also needed to get fresh video footage of Nancy Reagan. You never know (ya' know).

Nancy was going to be in attendance, but the whole shindig was actually about the Newt.

Yeah and he was in rare form. The Foley scandal was still front page news and he had to take a few questions about that situation. Ouch.

He answered the questions and fired back an accusation. Newt took a few jabs at the media for (in his words) our failure to cover scandals with equal amounts of gusto when it's a democrat caught with his hand in the intern jar.

excuse me?

Oh, wait. Must be an election year.

No hard feelings, Newt. I know you have a political agenda to push and trying to diminish the fallout from the reprehensible behavior of one of your party members by trying to shame the media; gosh that makes perfect strategy sense.

Hi, Nancy!

You know, it's not that I'm cynical or anything (well, maybe a little), but I go to events all the time where everyone in the room is already in full support of the person doing all the talking. I don't think all democrats are evil. I don't think all republicans are evil. To hear either side speak, you'd think their side was responsible for all the good in the world and the other side was just a bunch of greedy hedonistic morons who cared for nobody but themselves.

It's not that I believe either side is openly being dishonest (or that they're wrong), but I always walk away from these things feeling like there's a greater truth that wasn't said.

I'll be honest.

When I vote, sometimes I vote to benefit me. Sometimes I can see the bigger picture and will vote to benefit others (even if it's going to cost me).

Somewhere in the middle is the credit for the good and the responsibility for the bad. It only makes sense that it goes unsaid.

You can't rally people with balance.

The politicians have to insure victory by stirring up emotions. Get the hearts of their supporters pumping by condemning the opposition. Make people believe that the quality of their lives hinge on nothing less than a decisive and total victory over those who would seek to undermine everything that is good in the world.

It makes sense if people are gullible enough to fall for it.

I'm glad most of us are smart enough to research the issues and come to a decision based on all of the facts and not just the facts as told by the people who would benefit the most from a decision in their favor.

Come on, we're all too smart for that.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good morning? No, not really.

Somebody tell me what day it is. I've had more sleep than I normally get, but the days since Friday have just blended together and I can't tell if it's SunMonday or MonTuesday.

I slept all yesterday afternoon after getting home from my 3:00am shift. Boy, I must have really been loopy around noon yesterday. I can actually remember people telling me how tired I looked tired and I should go home and get some sleep.

They might have been right about that.

But I'm telling you, I was hyper wide awake early Monday morning. If it's not your regular thing, there's not much to love about pulling an early morning shift (again, why did I volunteer for this?). I will admit, seeing the city at its' quietest time is peaceful, relaxing and really worth seeing.

Once my shift started, it was slow and at first we didn't have a very compelling story (Brangelina?), but that changed. We got sent to Temple City for a homicide.

We got there quickly. Gee, hardly any cars on the road.

A lot of what we do is very "nuts and bolts" in getting the story on TV.

A stringer had footage of the crime scene and we used that for our first liveshot. Later we got a statement from the handling agency's PIO. In this case, it was the Sheriff's Department.

From that we cut a soundbite and added trailing video that I shot at the scene. This was all between 4:30am and 6:00am.

About every station with an early morning newscast was on the story.

A woman was murdered. The suspect had killed her with a knife, then drove to a park about a mile away and called the police. He turned himself in.

The suspect lived with the woman and was the father of the woman's seven month old twin sons. The woman's five year old daughter and the twins were in the apartment at the time of the murder.

That was chilling.

Around 6:00am, family members began to show up at the scene. They were in shock and repeatedly said, they couldn't believe it.

As delicately as we could, we asked them what they could tell us about the situation. The man with the glasses broke down in tears, but still was willing to provide us with a picture of the murdered woman later that morning.

It's not an easy thing to talk to people under these circumstances.

I'm not looking for sympathy for what we do, but I'm not in the mood to right now to debate the issue.

More family members for the victim and even for the suspect arrived at different times over the course of the morning. Everyone was saddened by the situation. Everyone seemed frustrated. The people we approached were willing to speak to us, but not one of them had any answers.

In the middle of this I remember thinking over and over, how sad it must be. I don't think I can begin to imagine what it's like to lose someone to such a violent act. What was the suspect's reason for such a vicious murder? Only the suspect might be able to provide us with answers to the big question.


Then again, right now he might be sitting in a jail cell and asking himself the very same thing.

Monday, October 09, 2006

APTRA Academy Pics.

Okay boys and girls, the pictures I snapped in my sleep deprived haze can be found over on Flickr. You can search for "APTRA" and you might stumble across them or you can follow the link here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Giving back? Priceless.

I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend. I'm spending Saturday and Sunday as a mentor at the APTRA Academy News Anchor and Reporter training camp.

It's a cool thing that I volunteer to help with each year (well, two so far).

Folks from anywhere can pay to spend the weekend with professional journalists and get experience, advice, and just a chance to really network with the people like me who put the news on TV every day.

You might think I'm doing it just for the beer, but that's not true.

I'm doing it because I know what's it's like to need career advice. I know what it's like to want to get into news when my competition for work is fresh out of school and a decade younger than me. I do it because I know what it's like to just need a little bit more experience to get my foot in the door.

A couple of beers at the end of the day with my fellow journalists?

Shoot, that was a bonus.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What did I just say about touching the kids?

I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky guy, so it almost hurts to say this, but I'm beginning to feel like you can't trust anyone these days.

I spent most of my day out in Thousand Oaks covering another story of child molestation. We spent most of that time camped at the Sheriff's Station.

It was a sunny day and great to be away from the office. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if not for the type of story we were on.

I'm sorry.

I'm sitting here typing and getting pissed off just thinking about it.

A minister at this church is accused of sexually molesting a seven year old girl. The molestation continued until he was seen exhibiting inappropriate behavior with her when she was fourteen.

He skipped town and was never charged, but he was found recently leading another congregation in Idaho. The girl he molested came forward and the minister was arrested. The minister was brought back to California yesterday.

We talked to the girl (she's grown up now). The first time I saw her, she was walking with investigators on the church's property where the molestation happened.

I was just shooting b-roll of the location and didn't know who she was at the time. The investigators asked me to not shoot video of the woman (they didn't identify her at the time). I'm sure I wasn't breaking any laws and it's wise to sometimes question a request to not shoot.

Not this time.

The woman looked pretty well composed, but I think anyone with an ounce of compassion would have been able to tell that there was something going on with her as she walked around on the church property.

It wasn't until after she was escorted away that one of the investigators confirmed what we suspected. She was the victim.

I don't know what it would take to recover from sexual abuse. I think life can be difficult under the best of circumstances, I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be if you're carrying that baggage.

In the last couple of days, I learned that crimes against children are the least funded areas of law enforcement. The police don't have the resources to go after all the sick individuals who would abuse the members of our society most in need of protection.

It's frustrating and it's difficult to be involved with this story and then just move on to the next assignment. Let's hope we all get what's important in our coverage of these stories.

We need to be vigilant and protect our kids.

We also need to try to keep our priorities straight. If found guilty, I hope the William Malgrens and Mark Foleys of the world are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

I don't know what it takes to move past abuse and I don't think I can come up with anything to write or say that will likely make much (if any) difference.

The sun is out and I'm about to go to work. I'm thankful for that. I'm going to enjoy what I can of the day and try not to let what's bad in the world keep me from accepting the good.

That's all I can do right now. Maybe that'll be enough.