Friday, April 20, 2007

More Traffic

You know your job starts early when the toll booth attendant tells you on the way to work, "Have a good night." Honey, this isn't night for me; it's morning.

Not that 3:40 a.m. is a normal morning drive time for me. I had traffic duty at WTSP today. And since I didn't screw it up too badly today, I go back Monday and Tuesday. It actually went quite well after a rough start. It was my first time live on the air since filling in for one day in December. That makes it hard to get into a rhythm.

I have written about my very occasional work filling in for the traffic anchor on "10 News This Morning." I know I have. I even went back to find the entry from last August detailing one of my days on the air there.

The morning show's format has changed since then and it's hectic between 5 and 7 a.m. I appear 24 times in those two hours. Sometimes it's for as few as ten seconds so it's not like I have to prepare a lengthy monologue. But as soon as I finish one "hit" I can barely breathe before my next one comes. In some I begin on camera in the "traffic center," which is just a small area off to the side of the main news desk. Some I do standing front of the same green screen that the weather anchor uses. Instead of weather fronts, I point to traffic back-ups. On the rest, you don't see me at all, just a live shot of a major road or a map.

Clip courtesy WTSP-TV

Then during the CBS Early Show between 7-9 a.m., we have four local news "cut-ins" for which I do reports. But for those I have more than 20 minutes to prepare, which makes them easier. The fact that there are a lot more problems on the roads to talk about makes it harder. There are a lot of bad drivers out there. You ever notice that?

I can't mention all the wrecks. I have to judge which ones impact the most people and talk about those while also showing people the conditions of the major Interstates, which can clog even without a crash to block things. Decisions! Decisions! And so early in the morning!

If the morning show's format changed, my singular goal did not: Stay off of YouTube. It used to be that even the biggest gaffe only landed you on the station's blooper reel. Few people outside the building ever saw it. Not now. Now what used to become a joke among your co-workers can make you a laughing stock across the planet.

Maybe I should have more ambition than that but I don't. I did more than 15 years of full-time television. If a good opportunity arose, I'd consider it but if not I'm satisfied that I've made more of a career from it than most people.

I still do sports stories for that statewide high school show I might have mentioned (and used to post videos from until the show's producer requested me not to) and I recently, through a former WFLA-TV colleague's recommendation, landed another potentially fulfilling freelance gig producing stories for a show called A Gulf Coast Journal. It's a magazine show produced by the local PBS affiliate WEDU.

Goodness, look at the clock! It's after 6 p.m. Friday. That means it's only a few hours before I have to be back at WTSP early Monday morning.

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