Monday, February 28, 2005

TEENAGERS - Listen Up!!!

If you are a Teenager of driving age, whether you have just gotten your learner's permit or even if you have been released to roam the roads by yourself, please indulge me for a moment.

I am tired of having to go see your parents on the worst day of their lives. I am tired of the long drive down strange driveways to knock on the door of the home you've left void. I am tired of making your mom cry while she tells us that she knows you are in Heaven.

I am tired of visiting makeshift memorials by your sobbing friends at the scene of your accident. I am tired of seeing your cars totaled and slathered with blood stains. I am tired of hearing people speculate about what happened to cause this mess.

I am tired of you thinking you are invincible. I am tired of you thinking that it could never happen to you. I am tired of you not repecting the lives of your passengers.

I have covered 10 or more teenager deaths from car accidents in the past 2 years and I'm tired!

I am tired of worrying that my own children could meet this fate in about 6 years.

I am more than happy to use my TV Camera to put you on the news if you do something spectacular at your school. I am more than happy to come to your sporting event. I am more than happy to cover your greatest achievment in life.

BUT, you can bet that if I have to show up on the side of the road where you took your last breath, where your survivors shed a million tears and where your blood will permanently mark my conscious, I will be tired of saying to myself, "Why? Why another needless loss?"



Friday, February 25, 2005

Robin Sage - The adventure continues.

The next two pictures are very similar to what an elementary school teacher saw Thursday as she peered out her classroom window.

Three guys dressed in camoflage, carrying assault rifles, were sneaking through the wooded area adjacent to two school.

So after this story hit the local paper, we headed out to figure out exactly what had happened the day before that caused the elementary school and a middle school to go into full lockdown mode for 15 minutes as the local police department figured out what these guys were up to.

The three guys dressed in fatigues are army special forces trainees. They are participating in Robin Sage, a special forces exercise that uses a group of several surrounding counties here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina as a fictional foreign country called Pineland.

This we know. Those screenshots are from a series piece I did last February when we followed the participants in Robin Sage for 2 days as 'Special Forces Units' conducted mock attacks on cell phone towers, and twice found themselves in an ememy ambush, all while we rolled tape.

The objective of our daily news story today was to get the answer to why Robin Sage was so close to the school, and how the school didn't get the word the armed men were going to be there. The simple answer is that the local law enforcement DID know that the operation was going down in the area of the schools.

The trainees were supposed to be closing in on a nearby Concrete Plant that can clearly be seen from the school. Their route through the woods to get to the 'target' took them nearer to the schools than anyone involved thought it would.

As we were interviewing the principal of one of the schools about what they saw and how they locked their schools down, we saw for ourselves another strange site to see at a school. Ttwo guys were walking across the parking lot dressed in army fatigues. My reporter quickly ran them down to see who they were, and I noticed quickly the Robin Sage Sticker on their vehicle. One of the men was even a contact on my story with them last year.

They are instructors of the program and they were at the schools to apologize for scaring the schools and to shoulder the blame for the mis-communication.

They weren't allowed to go on camera, but they did tell us that the three trainees weren't supposed to be moving around in the daylight.

I can just imagine some General somewhere is giving his vocal cords a workout as he screams, "YOU GUYS EXPECT TO TAKE DOWN BAGHDAD AND YOU CAN'T EVEN GET PAST AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER!!!"

It turned out to be a very interesting story. The video from my adventures with this group last year gave the story a bit of a visual kick not to mention a little perspective.

Camera Phone Delight

I got a new toy today and I got to do a story about racing. What a day, even if I still can't shake the FLU!!!

This new camera phone isn't too fancy and it takes a decent picture...for a camera phone.

Our assignment for the day was taking reporter Caron Myers and me two counties south to Rowan County for a story about an old mill property that a developer wants to turn into a racetrack.

Now, my first thought was,"Isn't this weekend the California NASCAR race that would've been the Rockingham NASCAR race here in North Carolina? What the Hell do we need another racetrack for in North Carolina?!"

But Caron worked the phones and figured out the skinny on what this new raceway was for.

Yes, the owners want to play off of the huge NASCAR presense in the area. They are building a road course to attract various road racing series' and motorcycle racers.

But the NASCAR boys could all come here and test as well. Hell, the RCR race team could get to this track in 15 minutes from their racing headquarters. That beats the almost hour and a half to the other road course test track in Virginia.

We worked our way around the community gathering interviews from the locals in favor, and even one who is against it all.

The developer gave us the 4-wheel drive tour of the yet to be developed landscape and I got out of the truck and gave the muddy, hilly land a not too quick series of wide, medium, tight, steady and well framed shots. And then I kept rolling as we slipped and slided up and down the muddy hills that are destined to be graded and plowed for racing action.

The powers to be at the station wanted this story live so a site survey was in order. As close as this site is to the Yadkin River I didn't think we'd be able to get a live hit from the low elevation. But the hilly terrain helped us as we found our way to the top of a large overlook and easily made the microwave connection with the 1800 foot tower two counties over.

Time to edit for the 6.

A nearly 2 minute story cranked out in about 25 minutes explained to the viewers the pros and cons of this endeavor.

Last minute preparations by a polished Caron Myers, especially when it comes to racin'.

Live from our hilly overlook.

Waiting as the story plays for the viewers.

The juice that kept us pumping all day long.

I'm digging this camera phone, but some of the darker pictures lack the resolution that I so desperately crave. It's a good thing that I'm getting myself a new digital camera in the next week or so.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

GIS - A Great Resourse

The World Wide Web has allowed the world to shrink to a managable size for most people with a computer and the mind to use it wisely. Everyday there are new ideas popping up on the web for everyone to search and discover. Some things on the web are totally useless, others are great tools for people, especially journalists or researchers.

My latest discovery isn't something I have just discovered, but something that I have used in my county for a while now, but lately it's popping up in more and more jurisdictions. It's call GIS which is short for Geographic Information Systems.

In the past you would have to drive down to the county courthouse to view maps and aerial images of a county, but now thanks to the internet it's available in your home and because its Public Record, it's free.

With a couple of mouse clicks here and there you can navigate and zoom your way down to some fairy good details of all the property you want to look at from photos taken from about 2500 feet. And all the parcel information from the individual properties is there too. The property lines are drawn in, and with a simple click you can pull up information from the tax office about who owns it, how much it's worth, even how much they paid for it when they bought it.

Example is what you will find at this link. I will give a hint. It belongs to a TV station in the Triad of North Carolina.(NOT WHERE I WORK!!)

I personally like being able to see where the state right of ways are. It was just Tuesday that I was haggling with a property owner that I wasn't really on their property while photographing it, but I was in the state right of way.

They didn't agree with me, but they didn't bring back a map to prove it either. I couldn't check online until after the fact, but I was right by a great distance than I thought.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

NASCAR Media Tour 3 - Childress Winery

Since the Daytona 500 is just hours away I wanted my experience from the recent NASCAR media day to cross the finishline.

The day that started in Charlotte and made stops at Joe Gibbs Racing and Evernham Motorsports was now in full swing at Richard Childress' Place in Lexington.

NO, not the RCR Race Shop, which is a site to behold itself, but today's stop for the mass of media previewing the 2005 racing season was the Childress Winery.

Surprisingly, I had never been to the winery yet, and I was shocked at it's beauty. It is modeled after something you would find in Italy and it is exquisite!

The wine was there for the partaking and they had food, lots of food. Sports Anchor Rich Brenner and I were early enought that we basically worked our way through the RCR people meeting and greeting. We did an interview with driver Dave Blaney, who will be driving the 07 Jack Daniels Car, before the rest of the media folks arrived. When the rest of the media arrived I jumped quickly into the food line. The food included lots of fruit, shrimp, crackers and cheese, and an awesome Roast Beef that was to die for.

Of course while eating, our second sports anchor arrived on the scene and wanted to knock out some interviews, because he had to get back to for the late news which by this time was just 2 hours away.

My eating was interupted twice to interview Richard Childress, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. But I did get to finish my food so I was happy, just like Harvick.( even after that debacle in the second Gatorade Duel on Thursday)

Another great interview we did was with a female racing prodigy named Sarah Fisher.

She's the hottest female race driver out there and has been driving IRL cars but that series and it's high and mighty sponsors left her high and dry so she ventured into NASCAR.

Her story about getting into NASCAR is a good one. She was at a car dealership doing some PR and Richard Childress was also there. He told her that if she ever wanted to drive a stock car to give him a call. SHE DID.

She will drive in the Grand National Divisions's West Coast Series full time this year. She will also make 2 Busch Grand National Appearances for RCR racing later in the year.

I think this is the best driver hire that Childress has ever made. Except for Dale Earnhardt.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Watch out for the BUG

The Flu has found it's way into North Carolina and according to my doctor, into my household, into my body!

I am down and out with fever of 101 or so, coughing and aching and feeling downright miserable.

I went to work on Tuesday after much debate and finally dragging myself out of bed. By the end of the day I was done. I went to the doctor and she said that I needed to take the rest of the week off.

OK, like that will happen if I feel even halfway like getting out of bed.

We'll see come Thursday morning. Right now I'm so, so, still weak, but at least I can sit up comfortably.

Watch out for the BUG. Coming to a town near you.

Careful Blogging- Don't get Dooced

There's a difference between the right to free speech and right to speak freely.

If you don't think that's true then consider the the stories of those who have been 'dooced'. Urban Dictionary-dot-com, defines the word dooce as: "to lose one’s job because of one’s website."

There is even a website by a woman who was dooced for writing about work online. I love her 'about page' that explains who she is and how she got dooced.

And her advice to bloggers about work is priceless...

"My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID. Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions the fact that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET. If you are the boss, however, please don’t be a bitch and talk with your hands. And when you order Prada online, please don’t talk about it out loud, you rotten whore."

Another example is the employee of theDurham Herald Sun who was the subject of the Washington Post article on February 10th. One of her posts read, "I really hate my place of employment..." And it went on according to the verbatim in the post article.

I would argue that, when blogging, you can't burn the bridge that you have to cross going to work everyday. If you hate your job so bad that all you can do is sit on the computer at work and bad mouth the boss then it's probably time to find a new job, maybe even a new profession.

BUT, we all have our bad days and like to vent and spout off about the things that happen at work. Too many details, however, could cross that thin line that separates us from the one down at the unemployment office.

I can say for one that even before I started writing on the TV industy website B-roll-dot-net and before I joined the rank and file of the blogosphere that I was put in my place by the bosses for letting too much information about a disagreement with a co-worker become known to an employee of another TV Station. I was just venting to a buddy, but the word got back to my boss and I was toast for a few days.

Rusty Surrette of a TV station in Beaumont, Texas wrote these suggestions on his blogsite today. They were adapted from an article he saw about this subject.

"Here's some advice the article suggested for any blogger posting information about his/her career:

*Make it clear that the views expressed are the individual's. (I plan to do this after I complete this post)

*Respect the company's confidentiality and proprietary information. ( I think I've done a good job with that)

*Consult a manager if there's a question about what's appropriate. (Here's a better solution -- don't post anything that would not be appropriate)

*Be respectful of others. (Of course)

*Ensure that blogging doesn't interfere with work commitments. (I blog on my lunch break and at home)

There ya go ." -from

So as we blog we should remember that, unless we are independently wealthy, self employed or are funded by federal grants or political action committees, we still have a number 1 responsibility to our employers.

We need to keep in mind to stay on the right(or left depending on your political orientation) side of the line when talking about work, especially in right to work states like North Carolina where an employer can fire you for no reason what-so-ever.

That would give you something us something to write about, now wouldn't it?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Miles to Go before I Sleep- If I can after today.

News is a crazy business. Sometimes you can drive and drive and drive and get little or nothing accomplished.
Today I drove from the middle of this 40 mile wide map, down to the bottom left corner, then almost all the way to the bottom right corner and that followed by a trip all the way to the top right edge.

The first of our daily dispatches today took us from High Point for a 20 mile ride to the Southwest to Lexington for a VOSOT(15 seconds of video with a 15 second sound byte) about the possible mandate of AIDS testing for the public.

Done with that simple task we headed West toward Asheboro to follow up on a body that was found the day before. This sounded interesting at first. The cops got a call about a Break-In in progress and arrived to find a dead man in the driveway. The problem is, the cops aren't talking, the homeowners of the house aren't home, and there are no neighbors within view of the house since you can't see the house from the road. This PACKAGE that was also supposed to be LIVE is now DEAD. Not even a VO.

On the phone and now driving North we are given a new assignment. We need to drive to Greensboro for a story about a tuition DECREASE at NC A&T University.

That changed about 10 minutes later. Our new directive was to check out a house in an affluent neighborhood in Greensboro that Animal Control had spent the previous day at and today the house was condemned.

We stopped for lunch on the way extending the trip a bit, but let's just say an hour and a half after we left our Dead, Dead Man story we arrived in Greensboro. Phone calls enroute to the house yielded few clues about what was up with this story but upon arrival I whipped out the XDCam and started shooting from the street as a 'Disaster Cleanup Crew' carried huge black bags from the house that was marked condemned by the Guildford county health department.

A few neighbors drove by asking about the events. I had few answers of my own and more question back to them. But the answer I got from one lady was, "What if this was your mom?", to which I quickly responded, "If this was my mom this wouldn't have happened." This lady went on to tell me how some situations are none of the New's business. That only made me more interested.

As my reporter knocked on doors looking for a willing neigbor with any information I quickly established that this would be a tough story to turn. My reporter returned soon and told me that the consensus of the neigbors was that we should leave. One neigbor even asked for oure bosses' phone number so that she could put a stop to our intrusiveness.

It worked, Our bosses called us off soon afterwards and sent us on over to the university.

It seems as if the woman who lived at the house had a mental illness and didn't take very good care of her animals and the house was a big mess. This woman also had a peculiar collection in the house that made the health conditions in this house extremely dangerous.

It was her facination with roadkill that was the problem. She apparently went out and collected animals that had fatal run ins with vehicles and kept them in her house. The animal control report indicates that there were dead animal carcasses in every room of the house, in cabinets and even in the refridgerator.

We headed over to A&T at 2:30 in the afternoon with just 2 and a half hours until this story had to be on LIVE.

We knocked out quick interviews and a bunch of wallpaper video to cover the story and started the editing process. It was tight but at 5:07 we did a live tease and at 5:09 we spent 2 minutes telling our viewers about how President Bush had a hand in lowering the tuition at NC A&T University.

I spent a few minutes after the Liveshot sending in some follow up video for later shows and then a 25 minute drive back to the station and the day was done.

It was a whole lot of miles for a very little produced. Some days are just like that.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A great quote

It has been said and taught that one secret to great TV writing is to use a quote book to get ideas to further your story. I have done this some and have heard some great quotes in stories.

One quote I heard recently was in a story that was written by TV Reporter extrodinare Boyd Huppert. The man can write, there's no question about it. He may currently be the best storyteller in Television. The quote was at the end of a story about an interesting donation at a Goodwill Store.

The last line of the story - "The people at Goodwill have no problem selling valuable donations. But there's a difference between Valuable and Priceless."

I love that quote. It's great.

Another great quote I saw today was on the blogsite of Rusty Surrette. He said he saw this quote last year...

"Picking a newscast is like picking a fine restaurant. One bad experience and they won't be back for awhile. Two bad experiences and they'll wait for new management."

That is a timely quote considering sweeps just started last Thursday.

Think about it though the next time you are having trouble writing a TV story or, for that matter, a written article for a Newpaper or even a blog entry.

A good quote can really spark ideas.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

NASCAR Media Tour - Part 2

Sports Anchor, Rich Brenner and I left from the TV station headed to Charlotte at 7:30 AM. Our destination was the hotel in Charlotte that was hosting the tour so that we could follow the 3 tour buses that were filled with media from around the nation, Canada and who knows where else. Being just one market removed and an hour or so up the road from Charlotte we are super familiar with the race shop locations so we opted to just drive the tour ourselves.

The first stop on Tuesday's tour was Joe Gibbs Racing withNextel Cup Drivers Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Jason Leffler.

We followed the buses to the Huntersville location and parked on the curb and joined the rest of the crowd pouring ourselves into the luxurious confines of the race teams that build these 3500 pound racing machines. Even though this complex is constructed in monsterous proportions, I felt like a sardine as we jammed into an auditorium with at least 50 other TV crews and who knows how many hundreds of Print Media and Still Photographers.

It was so tight there was no room left for me to set up and gather any video of this formal intro to the tour.

So after the Press Conference type opening ceremony to the stop, we did group interviews with Joe Gibbs, and his drivers. Gibbs talked football and racing but Stewart, Labonte, and Leffler were all about the racing and the upcoming season, which will be the Second season with NEXTEL as series sponsor.

We only had an hour to access the three drivers and the owner and a splattering of other up and coming drivers from several training divisions. The hour was almost not enough time considering the number of media representatvies clamering for an opportunity for the ideal quote and some of them taking to much time to get it.

Rich and I got out the door at Gibbs and headed to our next stop before the tour buses with the crowd could even get loaded.

35 miles north on Interstate 77 to Statesville was our destination. Evernham Motorsports occupies the building at the Statesville Airport that Bill Elliott built when he was a car owner.

On the way to the second stop we figurd we had enough of a jump on the rest of the group that we could stop for gas when we got to Statesville and we even took time to rinse the latest salty residue off the truck in the Super Duper BP Full Contact Car Wash. It did a great job! I never saw the buses pass us from our vantage point at the side of the highway Carwash, but to our surprise, the buses were parked and unloaded when we arrived at the Statesville Airport based race car factory. It seems that my shorcut through the south end of Statesville defied some time space continuum that I still haven't realized.

So again we had to squeeze in, getting in a line that mazed through the Evernham gift shop on the way to a long set of tables that contained our lunch.

The catered Lunch was a huge ass Burrito that was that best thing I have had in a long time. It was full of chicken and rice and black beans and it probably weighed a pound or more. I have got to get that recipe.

After lunch it was time for more group interviews.

The slate of Evernham drivers were of course on hand to answer all our silly questions.

Bill Elliott,Jeremy Mayfield, Kasey Kahne, and the boss of the place, Ray Evernham all stood or sat patienltly as we through out all sorts of queries about their new Dodge Charger.

An African American Driver named Tommy Lane also shared the limelight with the elite group, answering questions about his background and sharing with the media his big plans for the future. Tommy will be driving a late model at Hickory Motor Speedway for the Evernham Diversity Program.

And a young lady named Erin Crocker female that had a heck of a year in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series is also joining the NASCAR Diversity Program. She is the only female to ever win a race in the high speed winged sprint cars and now she will race in the Silver Crown Series in a Kasey Kahne Motorsports car, along with three Busch races and three ARCA races in an Evernham Dodge.

Just an hour after downing the super burrito and working our way from driver to driver time was up and it was time for us to leave and head back to the Charlotte Hotel.

There was a mid afternoon Q and A at the hotel with Humpy Wheeler of Lowes Motor Speedway and after that our next stop wasn't until 8 o'clock an hour up the road in Lexington. The buses were leaving at 6 but Rich and I left at 4:30 and got to the Childress Winery at 6 and joked to each other that the buses were just leaving the hotel.

We weren't going to stand in line for this one right here in our backyard!