Wednesday, November 30, 2005

So I graduate college. Not by much but I make it. My claims to fame being that I finished in four years without going to summer school and I never cheated.

Before my senior year I landed a job at WCHL-AM in Chapel Hill. So I was a real live professional before I finished school. But at $4.50 an hour I wasn't going to make my living there.

I got my TV break four months after I graduated working for WMDT-TV in Salisbury, Maryland. The first year I worked there the station produced a separate newscast for its bureau in Dover, Delaware. I anchored the sports there and reported for the mother ship.

Click here to see an early story I did for the station in 1989. I still hadn't learned how to use ambient sound, having always used music in stories, but for a first professional effort, it's not bad. BTW, the music came from my own keyboard.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

At the end of the fall semester in 1987 I resigned as the producer of Campus Profile and became the show's sports director. I anchored, produced, reported and shot a weekly segment called "Sports Review."


For the last show of each semester, I edited a music montage of that season's highlights. Here are my efforts for the spring semesters from 1987 and 1988.



Wednesday, November 23, 2005

It's been a while since I produced any new video and I don't have anything on the burner right now. In the interest of filling time until I shoot something new, I'm going to invade the archives to create a video travelogue through my development as a writer, reporter, shooter and editor of video productions.

That would go back almost (gasp!) 20 years to my days at the University of North Carolina. The school had a student run TV station called -- ready for this? -- STV. I started working there my freshman year and never left.

I started as a videographer for STV's news program Campus Profile. By the middle of my sophomore year, I had become the show's producer. That meant that I did whatever needed getting done to finish the show. I shot, wrote, reported and edited.

The memories are little hazy so I don't have exact dates for all of these clips. I think it was in the fall semester of 1986, my junior year, when I reported a story about a student protest against the university's investment in companies that did business in South Africa, which at the time, lived under strict and often oppressive segregation called Aparteid.

Although I had some of that fake "news voice" working, much of the deepness of my voice in narration was because I recorded it after an all-nighter and my voice always sounds deeper right after I wake up for some reason. It's probably phlegm or something equally gross but it gives the voice a wonderful timbre. Or something.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Southern Comfort

In the more-than-occasional periods when I feel like I don't live enough life, I go blog-hopping hoping to read about people whose lives are more exciting.

The ones where they talk about sex are particularly fun.

This one, despite its title (Get the Milk for Free) doesn't talk dirty, though a boy can still hope. Thirty-something former cheerleader, former TV writer -- perhaps future cheerleader and TV writer too -- in Los Angeles writes about her ups and downs. Lately it's been mostly downs.

Things are looking up, she says, thanks to regular visits to a fortune teller.

She acknowledges that people will think she's crazy. As I commented on her blog, she probably is. So what? The longer I live the more I see why people drink, do drugs, see shrinks, go to church or visit witch doctors -- sometimes in combination. And the more I realize there are very few of us who are not nuts.

For good reason.

It's a painful world out there and getting harsher every day. It's becoming harder and harder for me to blame people for finding comfort wherever they can. She's probably found one of the less destructive places.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Home Stuff

I spent a fun-filled (not!) at a lawyer's office where my parents had their living wills, designation of health care surrogate and durable power of attorney documents drawn up. I had to be there to sign some of them. How lovely to begin the day with the reminder that our lives are going to end.

After that I had the pre-construction meeting with my home builder. "Pre-construction" is not completely accurate since they have put down the two-by-fours into which they will pour the concrete foundation.

The model units' exterior is finished and I went inside the one that is the same size as mine. It's similar to the townhouse apartment I had when I lived in Tampa the first time between 1997 and 1999. It's possible they'll be ready to close as early as January but that's only if there are no delays. Apparently one of the factors in completing a home is the competition for materials. The project manager said they were delayed last year because China was buying up all the available concrete to build a massive dam somewhere in the country.

That could have been baloney but they have an incentive to finish the work because they don't get paid until I can move in.

Work Stuff

I need to keep lists. When you freelance, or try to, for a living, there are little bits of things that collect themselves and it's easy to let some slip through your fingers if you're not keeping closer track of things.

A considerable part of freelancing is networking, calling people, keeping in touch, staying in people's minds so that your name will come up if they hear about something for which you might be a good fit.

I'm also working to market a DVD I produced. "A Reporter's Guide to the Art of Television Storytelling" is now a required course material for a broadcast journalism class at the University of Florida and is also being used in a class at the University of South Florida. Feedback I've gotten tells me that I have a winning product on my hands. Now it's a matter of making contacts at more schools, getting the DVD into their hands and working with them to see how they can integrate it into their teaching material, preferably in a way that compels students to buy it!

Good news, the first paycheck from the work I did in Louisiana came today. I was happily surprised to see it so soon.
I have produced short documentaries with my own equipment but most of the work I've done on video have been stories for television. Here are a few QuickTime movie files as examples. The station for which I did them is in parentheses.

News Montage (WTTA-TV, Tampa)
Epiphany Day (WTTA-TV, Tampa)
News Montage (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati)
Bee House (WCPO-TV, Cincinnati)
Colleague Tribute (WTVQ-TV, Lexington, KY)
Daytona Week (WFLA-TV, Tampa)
Sports Montage (WFLA-TV, Tampa)
Conway Fire (WBTW-TV, Florence, SC)

Newest clips are at the top. They get older as you go down. "Colleague Tribute" was for a news anchor in Lexington named John Lindgren. He died of cancer in January 2001 and the day of his funeral the station devoted its early evening newscast hour to remembering him.

I'll add more as I go through my old tapes but these clips will give you some idea of what my work on TV looked like.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Citizenship Test

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Nice to know that if I weren't already a real life nephew of my Uncle Sam, he'd adopt me. I ran across this on, of all things, a blog from Norway. Its author scored only three of ten, which I bet is as good or better than most Americans could score.

They should thank their lucky stars that being born American means we have to keep you. If not for an accident of birth, most of the sitcom watching morons who populate this land would never earn their way in.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Unquiet Slumber

Is it a nightmare if what you dream is real? Ever since I came home from the Gulf Coast, the haunting scenes of the Gulf Coast have unsettled my sleep.

I don't remember them exactly. They're not specific images, just fleeting glances of the absolute destruction of some parts of Louisiana when I was there. They seem to be causing a feeling that everything can be washed away in a moment, especially disturbing since the permits have just come back on the new home I'm having built. The feeling that has invaded my dreams has not changed in the four nights since I've been home.

Could I be investing most of what I have into something that could be taken away?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I thought this trip would last longer. I also thought I'd more diligently detail my experiences. Strangled by bureaucracy, we weren't able to do the work we intended. Exhausted by the effort, I wasn't able to do the writing I wanted here.

My blogging will continue at The Queue.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Few Thousand Words Worth

Forget balls or bells! This holiday season, deck out your tree with a delivery truck! This is from Plaquemines Parish southeast of New Orleans.

The next one also comes from Plaquemines Parish. These don't do justice to the extent of the devastation. The place looked like an angry child had smashed his Lincoln Logs. Trucks, boats, homes -- all tossed about like socks in the dryer.

In New Orleans, buildings in large sections of the city have brown stripes on them. They're not decorations. They're the lines marking how high the water rose when the city flooded. I'm going to spare you the shots from inside. Let's just say this: Mold 1, New Orleans 0.

The day was not without beauty. The last shot is of the "skyscape" as we drove out of New Orleans. Let's not tell my insurance company that I took it while driving 60 mph on I-10!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


The exit off I-49 said "DERRY GOREM." I don't know if that's the name of one town, two towns or a Jewish holiday.

We passed it as we drove three hours to visit a trailer park in Natchitoches. We learned a few things about the town. This is where they filmed the movie Steel Magnolias. We passed the Natchitoches walk of fame. In stead of stars, of course, there are Les Fleurs. John Wayne and Julia Roberts have theirs names enshrined here. So do former professional athletes Joe Dumars and Bobby Hebert.

One thing we did not learn about Natchitoches is why locals pronounce its name "NACK-a-dish" so don't ask me.

We went because a family there has offered use of its property for a mobile home park that will house hurricane evacuees. Anita Dubois (said "Doo-BOYS" not "Doo-BWAH") watched heartbroken as images of desperation in the days following Hurricane Katrina filled her television. One day she noticed a crawl at the bottom of the screen asking people who had resources to contribute to visit FEMA's web site.

Anita is on the left. The other two people are her parents. FEMA is paying Anita to lease her land but she's not sure she'll make a profit because of the the cost of installing the utilities and sewage facilities it needed. The deal does help her eventually because she wanted to turn the space into a mobile home park anyway.

Neighbors aren't thrilled. One who lives across the street has complained to Anita about letting the looting thugs from New Orleans settle near them. Town officials, not informed at the outset, also have reached out helping hands with very short arms. FEMA gets roundly, and often rightly, criticized for its slow action but one of the biggest roadblocks to temporary housing are local officials who don't want "those people" polluting their neighborhoods.

And who are waiting for their kickback. This is Louisiana.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


For a place that's not supposed to have any people New Orleans sure has a lot of cars. I-10 and its offshoot I-610 were jammed as we left the city tonight. They wanted things to get back to normal. At least rush hour traffic has.

(And that was before the accident outside the city that stopped us dead for at least an hour.)

We actually got something done today. Hooray! We shot one story and then shot another interview that might stretch into two more. They won't be great but, as I was reminded today, "these aren't news; they're information." Meaning that they're not really stories. But it's the first time since Saturday that I don't feel guilty for not doing enough to earn the money I'm making here.

We spent some significant time in New Orleans for the first time. Parts, including the French Quarter look undamaged. Others are totally dead. Block after block of abandoned homes with lines marking how high the water reached. Streets empty of people but full of trash.

Driving is difficult because so many of the traffic lights are still out. Stop signs regulate major intersections and I don't know how many of them I simply blew through because you don't expect to see stop signs on such big streets.

We went drove through the heavily damaged Ninth Ward on the way to our first story. There are still road blocks to keep people out of certain parts of town. I don't know if looting is still a concern but our ID badges got us through.

Stevedores at St. Bernard Port don't have to worry about passing checkpoints. They live on board a merchant marine ship and walk to work. The port shut down after the storm and could not reopen when it was ready because all the workers had been flooded out of their homes. They had found temporary housing but it was nowhere close to New Orleans.

That's where the MV Cape Vincent comes in. Based in Beaumont, Texas, it usually serves as a transport vessel carting military vehicles around the world. Now it's docked at St. Bernard Port and its cargo is not tanks or humvees. It's 18 travel trailers hosting about 75 dock workers. The ship was modified to add extra plumbing and ameneties such as washers and dryers. The workers live aboard the ship when they're not working.

"Where is your home?" I asked one we saw as he went to do a load of laundry.

"You mean where WAS my home?" he said. He had lived in the Ninth Ward. Home destroyed. Same with his roommate (trailermate?) from Chalmette. Nothing left. They didn't seem thrilled with their situation. They didn't sound ungrateful as much as they seemed shellshocked. Neither knows what he's going to do. "I take it day by day," the guy from Chalmette said. How can you figure out what's to do next when you haven't processed what happened last?

We also shot an interview with a guy from the EPA about how it's sending crews around the city to collect whatever hazardous home waste (more than a million pounds so far) they find. We might stretch that into two stories. Remember, it's not supposed to be interesting; it's supposed to be informational. And in large quantities.

Kind of like what you're reading right now.

Racing against the setting sun, we went back to the Ninth Ward to shoot more video there. A woman came across the street and introduced herself. "I'm Mrs. Kador," she said. "And I just wanted to come over and say hello." She had come from a bright blue building with murals painted on it. Her late husband wrote a song called "Mother-In-Law," she said. My father often sings the chorus and I mimicked my father's rendition and asked her if that was it. "Yes it is," she said, flashing a good toothed smile.

Dad laughed when I called to tell him about it. I should have taken her picture.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Lucky Lafourche

Heading south on route 1 almost due south of New Orleans that runs alongside the Lafourche Bayou the scene stunned us. Lafourche Parish (instead of rivers and counties Louisiana has bayous and parishes) seemed out of place. I heard someone describe nearby Plaquemines Parish this simply: "All that was missing was the mushroom cloud."

We already had preliminary plans to go there Friday so with nothing on the plate today, we figured we'd document the damage in another parish. When we turned onto route 1 we stopped for food and gas, figurning it could be a while before we found the next place that sold any of either.

As we waited for the wasteland to begin, we began having the oddest mixed feelings. While happy for the people whose region appeared to have miraculously survived the destruction all around it, we were supposed to be shooting hurricane damage and as mile after mile ticked by, we had yet to see any.

We'd see some debris piles on the side of the road and some "blue roofs," those that were using blue tarps to cover holes or leaks but nothing like we had seen Saturday in Slidell.

This radio tower torn down in the storm was one of the few exceptions. Its lying down made it stand out. Most of the buildings survived the storm intact, even wooden homes built along the Gulf. Water had risen and done some damage but you would never think that just 30 miles east entire towns had been flattened.

Next time we have a free day we'll go to either St. Bernard or Jefferson Parishes. We know there's wreckage there.

And our mixed feelings will be far different.