Saturday, December 27, 2008

John McQuiston Sighting

This gem brought to you by Google Alerts:

In 1961 actor Jess Kirkpatrick appeared in the TV series "Michael Shayne" playing a police sergeant named John McQuiston.

Source: http://amazon.imdb.com/name/nm0456724/filmotype

"Michael Shayne" was an hour-long crime drama starring Richard Denning in the title role as a Miami private detective.

The series was based on a series of novels by Brett Halliday, whose 1941 Michael Shayne novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them" provided the basis for one of my favorite movies, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" from 2005.

The series was before my time and is too obscure to exist on DVD but I'd be curious to see episodes with such titles as "No Shroud for Shayne", "Dolls are Deadly", "Die Like a Dog", "Framed in Blood", "Marriage Can be Fatal", "The Body Beautiful", "Murder and the Wanton Bride," "Blood on Biscayne Bay" and "The Badge," which features Mr. Kirkpatrick as Sgt. McQuiston.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Swimming Shoot

As mentioned recently, I shot a story Monday about a high school swimmer for the state-wide high school sports show to which I contribute.


Jason Taylor is a lanky 17-year-old from Lithia Newsome High School who looks like he hasn't grown into his body yet. His current physique was enough to power him to a state record in the 500-yard freestyle.

His club team coach thinks the Olympics aren't out of Jason's reach. Peter Banks would know. He coached Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett. Banks doesn't dissuade his swimmers from dreaming big. Next to the clubs record board is a large map of the world.

It will come in handy for Jason. Next month he swims for the U.S. junior team at a meet in Guam. Go find that on a map. Take your time. I'll wait for you.*

After shooting video from every angle I could think of, I pulled out my still camera and squeezed off a few shots. If I captured anything good, I'd figure out a way to use them to give the story some visual variety.

I didn't fare so well. None came out really great. Many, like the one below, might have been decent if I had framed it better by maybe including his elbow and all of his fingers in the shot.


Thanks to my new tripod (SWEET!) the video should have turned out better. Whether I have enough good shots to cover the 3:30 this story needs to last, I don't know. I did ask Jason to e-mail pictures of him on the medal stand at the state meet to his coach, who said he would forward them on to me.

*Don't feel bad. Guam is a small speck on a large globe. It took me a while to find it and I thought I knew geography.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pro Football Talk

I don't make my full-time living watching sports any more. Now it's mostly a hobby with the benefit of not having to interview the participants afterward, though I did just shoot another story for the Dodge Sports Report, the high school sports show on the statewide Sun Sports Network to which I occasionally contribute.

Thanks to the Internet, I don't have to subject myself to the screaming heads on ESPN to get my sports news.

And thanks to a lawyer in West Virginia with too much time on his hands, I don't even have to subject myself to espn.com for football news.

Mike Florio has made a small business from his website ProFootballTalk.com and its sister site CollegeFootballTalk.com. PFT's sponsors include Sprint, LG and NFLShop.com so there's enough money in it to make the effort worthwhile.

Its Rumor Mill page is a frequent stop on my daily Internet surfing.

So imagine my happy surprise one day when Florio announces that one of his primary contributing writers is leaving for a sports columnist's job at AOL and issues a call for applicants to replace him. One of the requirements is that candidates have previously been paid to cover sports.

That would be me. So I e-mailed expressing my interest. So I've never scribbled for a newspaper. I've written text stories, I blog -- that's essentially what Rumor Mill is -- and I have the same kind of snarkiness that infuses Rumor Mill with its edge.

Still I was surprised when I got an e-mail this morning that read in its entirety, "send a sample of something you'd post if asked to fill in, based on current news that's out there."

So I did:

SHALLOW POCKETS MAY COST BUCS IN LONG RUN

The Buccaneers slide from a strong 9-3 to a desperate 9-6 has brought out the chicken Littles. The sky-is-falling cries bring the expected calls for the axe to fall on coach Jon Gruden. But St. Pete Times columnist John Romano warns that the team's collapse may be a symptom of a longer term problem.

Romano suggests that the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has been distracted from running the team since they paid 1.5-billion dollars for Manchester United in 2005. The Bucs fell into the bottom half of the league in payroll the year after the purchase and have remained there since.

Although the Bucs have produced two division titles since 2005, the Bucs have not seriously threatened to win a championship since they won Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season.

Even millions of dollars under the salary cap in recent years, the Bucs have not thrown big money at big name free agents, preferring instead to sign mid-level players such as Jeff Garcia, Antonio Bryant and Greg White.

Romano notes that more season ticket holders have begun to show up at Raymond James Stadium dressed as empty seats and hints that if the Glazers don't see the Bucs as anything more than an ATM, the cash might not flow as freely as it once did.

Maybe Buccaneer fans can take solace knowing that Man U just won the Club World Cup title.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Traffic Quote

St. Petersburg firefighters rescued a pot-bellied pig that had climbed upstairs of his owner's home and was too afraid to come back down. The owner tried to lure him with food to no avail. She said the pig was too large for her to carry and that's when she called for help.

In real life, the fire department says it was glad to help. In my world, as uttered on air before my next traffic report, it would have gone differently.

I'm still getting over the story in the last half hour about the St. Petersburg fire department rescuing a pig in someone's house. I'd have been like, 'No. We can't save your pig but it's good to know that if your house ever catches on fire we need to bring hotdog buns.'

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sticks of Fire

Greetings to people who found my scribblings on Sticks of Fire.

That's a blog with news and views about Tampa. Sticks of Fire is not to be confused with the Tampa Bay FireStix, a one-time women's professional fast-pitch softball team that played in Tampa in the late 1990s.

The team made no impact on the Tampa Bay sports scene but it did have its usefulness to me. It gave me the excuse to do this story:


Video clip courtesy of WFLA

I Was Amused

...by the following Facebook comment exchange:

Su Asati at 5:26pm December 18
Doesn't pro-bono mean you don't get paid?

John McQuiston at 5:29pm December 18
No, it means he didn't like Cher.


I didn't say you'd be amused too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cross Words

Not quite rising to worthiness of Maxim magazine's "Found Porn" feature, here is an actual solution of an actual crossword puzzle published recently by the Tampa Tribune*:


Next time you're watching an adult film** and three people appear in a scene typical of such motion pictures, you can excitedly exclaim, "Look! Two girls and a guy! They're having a trilateral!"

Trilateral was the clue for 9-Down.

*This presumes that I completed the puzzle correctly.
**Won't be a next time? Of course not. How many times have you made that vow before?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Me and My 140 Million Friends

I joined Facebook. Not all of its 140 million members are my friends yet but I'm sure it's a question of time. It apparently matters not that I don't know them.

I learned this when one of my high school classmates, with whom I never had a conversation, made a friend request. Another person I did know but didn't particularly like also requested to be a friend.

I accepted both. I'd hate to go to a reunion and face enemies because they thought I big-timed them on Facebook. Some people apparently collect as many people on their friends lists as possible. If that's the case, I was glad I could help.

But I'm not linking to anyone whose name I don't recognize and I saw a lot of them as I scanned members from my high school graduating class. Granted, some of the women have different last names than they did in high school but either my memory of the early 80s is even poorer than I thought or there are a lot of people claiming to be members of the Methacton Class of 1984 who weren't.

Trust me, I do remember enough to know that membership in our graduating class is not such a distinction that you need to pretend you were a part of it if you weren't. It ain't like we went to the Harvard of high schools.

I did trade e-mails with a couple of friends from high school whom I hadn't seen since then. That was cool. But the ones I didn't know well I have no strong desire to meet now. I am curious to see how some of them turned out, where they went and what they're doing but my interest doesn't go much deeper than that.

I am sure the feeling is mutual. I am easily found on Google. Those who wanted to reconnect could have done so without Facebook.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Live Stream

WTSP now streams all of its newscasts online. If you're ever bored between 5-7 a.m. you can, for now, catch me doing the traffic reports.*

We use AOL's Instant Messenger to communicate with the traffic.com's operations center so I'm online between 5-9 a.m. My AIM screen name is TVMcQ.

I usually appear around 5:15, 5:32, 5:45, 6:05, 6:15, 6:32 and 6:45. If the show is running long, some of them will get cut but those are the approximately scheduled times for traffic.

You can go to WTSP's web site www.10connects.com. It also appears in the window below. When there's no newscast, the station streams its weather channel.

Still no word on when the next permanent candidate comes in. My short term temporary job here has now lasted more than four months.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Five-for-Five

I joined a new gym last week and have managed to go there every day since. The streak will probably end tomorrow when I go play golf with my dad but if I continue to work out regularly, that will be better than I've been doing.

Which is not much.

My old gym closed at the end of October. I have some dumbbells in the house that I can use but it was too easy not to and I can't afford that any more.

I'm old.

If I thought that I looked much younger than my age, which is high enough that I don't freely reveal it any more, my misperception was corrected my second day at the gym when one of the trainers asked me if I had a son who worked out there. Another member looked a lot like me, he thought.

Later the alleged offspring shows up to work out and the trainer points him out to me. He's at least 25 years old! And I look old enough to be his father?

Yikes.

Equally disturbing was how quickly I lost my fitness during my month of inactivity. I am a tub of goo. Oh, there are still muscles and veins in my arms still make an appearance when doing curls. But much of the rest of my physique appears -- how shall I put it? -- well insulated.

The look is not flattering, judging by my appearing to be old enough to have sired a 25-year-old.

The upside of my outsized outside* is that I don't have to shave my legs. No kidding. An alarming number of guys at the gym don't have any body hair. They don't appear to be doing chemo, unless steroids count.

Does that make your hair fall out?

But all the shavers sport lean and muscles under their smooth skin. Even the sales guy who signed me up for membership lacked arm hair. He looks like he works out a lot too.

That's key. There's apparently a level of fitness required before you join the Hairless Club for Men. A level I am in no danger of immediately reaching.

* I'm not that fat. Probably 185 lbs, which is probably 20 pounds away from six-pack abs and the requisite body shaving territory.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Time's Up?

The next contestant on "Who Wants to be a TV Traffic Reporter" has on camera TV experience. Neither of the two previous hopefuls did.

The last one didn't offer much of an effort. She had done traffic reporting before -- on the radio. And it looked like it during her audition. The stringy permed hair and little makeup did not flatter her face.

Contrary to popular myth, you don't have to be beautiful to work on television, even if you're female. It certainly helps, of course, and I'm surprised that the station hasn't gotten at least a few hot hopefuls who can make up with appearance what they lack in experience.

This job does not require a seasoned journalist.

Whatever your natural physical gifts, you do have to know how to dress and style your hair for the camera. Clearly this woman did not. She also did not grasp that when you're on camera, you have to talk to the camera. She read directly off her sheet of paper, which works perfectly well on the radio where you can connect with listeners without looking at them.

Not so much on TV.

The upcoming candidate should know that. She's a former TV news anchor now living in Tampa. I don't know what she does now but she must prefer doing TV. She had applied for the open morning show anchor position (the station's looking for one of those, too) but the morning show has a female anchor already -- and quite a good one, if you ask me.

(Reading this blog indicates that unless you're forced to read it, for which you have my condolences -- what was your crime? -- you have implicitly requested to know my opinion about things.)

It's not a law that a show can't have two female anchors but it is the industry convention. Viewers now expect to turn on a local TV newscast and see the pearly whites of one male and one female smiling at them as they announce their names and say "thank you for joining us," like a video threesome is about to begin.

So the new anchor will almost certainly be male. Just as the new traffic reporter will likely be female. I will feel offended otherwise. Then the show will have male and female news anchors, a male weather guy and a female traffic anchor. Nice balanced cast for the show.

If you do aspire to the traffic job, it might help if you're blonde. All but two of the station's female news, weather and sports anchors are. The other two are African-American.

Is my time up soon? Probably. I know this because I'm starting to get used to the schedule. The alarm clock going off still feels like a bucket of ice water being poured on my face but once I get to the station -- still parking in a guest space out front and needing the security guard to escort me in -- it doesn't stink.

The people are great. The traffic computer is in the control room where the director, producer, technical director and audio board operater all sit during the newscast so I spend the most of my time with the studio crew.

"You're one of us now," one of the studio crew members told me the other day.

They like that I don't complain and that I don't care how much air time I get. "I get paid the same," I say again whenever a producer apologizes for cutting a traffic report. "Use me as much or as little as you want."

They also seem to think I've added something to the morning show. I've gotten a lot smoother, my on-air rapport with the news and weather anchors is good and they like my sense of humor, on air and just BSing in the control room.

I'll miss it when it ends.

Not as much as my father will, though. He watches at least one of my traffic reports every morning and enjoys telling people, as he always has whenever I've had an on air job, that I'm on television.

Golfing yesterday, I met a guy dad knew and dad had to tell him what I did, what times I was on and even what cable channel he'd find WTSP. The station might be able attribute its rumored uptick in the morning ratings to its one man promotion department in Pasco County.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Poor Ron Burgundy

Interesting article from the New York Times about the demise of the anchor-kings in local television news.

Declining broadcast revenue, market share for TV news and heavier emphasis on putting news online, where viewers can select stories a la carte, have conspired to render the big-time anchor obsolete.

Grinders like me who can write and report about a lot of things in a lot of ways should be able to tell stories for profit regardless of platform.

Quotes of the Day

Uttered during WTSP's morning news as I report the traffic when there's not a lot of traffic to report.

Today, on the weather pattern causing the rain and soon-to-arrive cold snap: "If I followed the weather right, we had a front and a front back-to-back. I've never heard of anything good coming from back-to-back fronts."

Yesterday, after discussion about the astronaut on the space station who let a bag of tools worth $100,000 float away from her during a spacewalk: "I'm still trying to get over that $100,000 tool bag that floated away from the space station. Here's an idea: Spend another dollar and buy a piece of rope. And tie the tool bag to the space suit so it can't float away."

My parents' next-door neighbor caught that one and reported to my dad that he thought it was funny.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

For Sale


GYM EQUIPMENT TO BE AUCTIONED NEXT WEEK

Due to the struggling economy and declining membership, Impact Fitness Gym in Riverview is closing. All fitness equipment, including elliptical machines, treadmills and free weights, will be auctioned at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 at the gym, 9812 U.S. 301 S. To view the items visit www.kincaid.com. For additional information, call 784-3926.

That's my now former gym. Stinks, too, because it was the only one convenient to me. I did check my credit card statement to see that I was not charged for November. All clear.

If I had more room in my home, I'd bid on some of the stuff and turn a room into a home gym. But I don't.

And the working out at home plan isn't working out too well. I have some dumbbells but no space to work out properly, especially for leg exercises.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No End in Sight

At least not with my fatigue-impaired vision.

Every time I think I'm nearing the finish line doing the traffic at Ch. 10, they move it away from me. The next candidate was supposed to come in Monday (Nov. 17) for her audition/interview. Now she's not coming until the following Monday (Nov. 24).

I shouldn't be so eager to leave. It's not a bad job; it's certainly not difficult and the people are great. But I go home every day feeling like I've accomplished nothing except making myself more tired. Meantime I'm wasting time napping that I should be spending developing freelance business.

As I told the morning show's executive producer this morning, "if it's not going to be permanent, I'd rather just get it over with."

Yesterday morning, one of the morning show's reporters did multiple lengthy live shots listing ways you can date cheaply. Going to the park to feed the ducks and playing the card game UNO were two of the suggestions.

I couldn't resist.

"I'm looking forward to Janie's next report," I said on camera before showing the traffic maps at one point. "Because chicks dig guys who know how to date on the cheap... almost as much as they dig being called chicks."

Roo's New Wheels



My latest story for ZooToo TV has gone online. You can play the video above. Here's the link to the page on the site that includes the story's text version, as well as where you can scroll down and click "Thumbs Up" to give it a positive review. I do both a video story and write a text version of each story I do.

I learned yesterday that zootoo measures the percentage of people who visit a story's page that click to play the video. They use that data to judge what kinds of stories it wants to do. I don't know how much a story's headline determines a reader's curiosity to view a video but it has to be a factor.

This is the third story I've done for zootoo.com. They have already paid me for the first two, true to its word that payment will happen within 15 days of the story going online. This is important because I've had to chase other people for payments they've owed me. Ah, the glamorous life of freelancing.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Seabirds

I should have driven home after my morning shift at WTSP-TV. Tapes for a WEDU story due soon sit at home unwatched and unlogged.

Instead I drove across the Pinellas County peninsula from the station on the bay side to Gulf Blvd. on the west coast to visit the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. It rehabs sick and injured birds and releases ones able to live in the wild.

I learned of its existence while researching possible story ideas for my freelance work at ZooToo TV.

It's hard to see some of the birds in their enclosures and the fencing makes photography difficult. But the sanctuary is right on the beach. Walk a few yards and you see wild seabirds gathered on the beach, waiting for handouts.

I didn't include photos of the guy who walked out with a large bucket at one point and dumped the contents into the water. But a couple of the photos show the absolute frenzy that ensued. I took 393 photographs and at least half came out blurry. Most in the slide show below were heavily cropped. Following moving objects is not a strong suit.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hall-Uh-O-Ween

My gym is closed. Not for the day. Forever. I went yesterday and saw the place dark. A sheet of paper taped to the window read that "an impasse with the landlord" forced the closure.

I'm guessing the impasse centered on the landlord insisting that the gym owner continue to pay rent. I don't envy the property owner. Back in July, the restaurant next door to the gym went belly up. That space still sits empty. Except for the homeless bums who sit on the bench outside.

I'm not out any money even if the gym owner doesn't honor his promise to give a pro-rated refund to members. I was on a month-to-month plan. My problem is that now I don't have a place to work out.

I have some dumbbells here at home that I pulled out and used today but that's not a long-term solution. I can't do enough different exercises here, especially for legs. I probably have enough weights; I don't have enough room. In other places I've lived I got by with home workouts because I had more uncarpeted space.

As profusely as I sweat, if I work out in a room with carpeting, it will stink forever. If I have to steam clean or even replace the carpets before I try to sell this place someday, I want a better story than that to account for the need for it.

In most places I've lived, the bathroom could double as my workout room. Not here. Too small.

I don't want to join one of those chain gyms whose main business is not fitness but signing people to membership contracts. I'll figure something out eventually but I don't like the upset to my routine.

Especially when I have a bag-and-a-half of leftover Halloween candy that I will eventually consume myself. I got only a handful of visitors Friday night in my debut as a home owning junk food distributor on October 31.

One little girl showed up in a white dress with fake (I presume) blood smeared on her face. I asked what her costume was. "Bloody Mary," she said.

Two girls went from my house to one across the street while their mothers waited on the sidewalk on my side of the street. When the girls didn't return in a few minutes, one of their mothers called, "come on back. There's no candy in that house."

"I heard someone inside!" One of the girls called back.

I started laughing. "I know you're in there!" I said. "And I want my Snickers!" The mothers laughed with me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

400 Comments and Counting

My ZooToo TV story about Puffy Paws Kitty Haven continues to generate a lot of feedback. People aren't confused about whether the cats are spayed/neutered or whether they're available for adoption any more so it looks like the copy edits to the text version have helped clarify the story.

I should get to shoot another ZooToo story soon. My editor had already approved a pitch I made about Florida Cracker horses but I had played phone tag with my contact for the story for two weeks. I finally caught up to him yesterday. I'm to call him again Saturday and we're supposed to set a time for one day next week.

Relief on the Way?

A candidate for the WTSP traffic job may be coming in next week. The morning show executive producer told me when I inquired again this morning about the search for my replacement.

It's not my replacement, really. It's my predecessor's replacement since I was told I was just a fill-in until they found the person they really wanted for the job.

That was almost three months ago now.

The job is not bad. I'm finished by 9 a.m. and have the rest of the day to do other work. But I never sleep enough and I'm always exhausted. So if it's only temporary, I'd rather get it over with sooner than later.

This morning the show devoted a lot of time to the Rays' loss to the Phillies in the deciding game of the World Series. Our anchor interviewed a station reporter in Philadelphia about the game and the guy sounded like he was going to need psychiatric help recovering from the disappointment.

My last traffic update came shortly afterward and I closed by saying, "If you're disappointed by the Rays' loss, I understand. But if the worst thing that happens to you today is a baseball team losing a game, you're having a pretty good day."

Hello to You Too

Got an e-mail from a girl I used to date the other day. We didn't date the other day. I got the e-mail the other day.

Our breakup wasn't acrimonious. I still e-mail her birthday greetings but otherwise we have no contact. She doesn't usually even acknowledge the birthday e-mails. That might rightly make you wonder why I bother sending them and I'd be happy to tell you except that I don't know.

Anyway, this woman is a TV newscast producer who lives in another city and out of the blue she writes, actually from the contact page on my web site. (JohnMcQuiston.com, if you don't know)
Hey man, I need you to email me ASAP! Going to be teaching a college course this January, and want to get some of your best feature stories on DVD to use as examples!

I am, of course, flattered. And also a little miffed. Nice of her to wait until she wants something to muster the effort to write.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Instant Feedback

In a little more than 24 hours my ZooToo TV story about Puffy Paws Kitty Haven has generated more than 300 comments.

It also drew a phone call to me from a distraught Rick Kingston, co-founder of the shelter, who vented for more than 10 minutes about the reader comments. Many have come from people who believe that Rick and his wife Chrissy's intentions may be noble but that they're hoarding cats.

"We're getting slaughtered," he said.

Rick said that he felt fairly represented in the story, which is obviously my greatest concern. But I still got the ZooToo editors (after a phone call and two e-mails of my own) to update the text version of the story to make it more clear that all the cats are spayed or neutered and that the majority of them are available for adoption.

That's a great thing about the interactivity of new media. You get nearly instant feedback that can warn you if you omitted anything important from a story.

When I read several comments questioning whether the cats were being altered and why they weren't being adopted out, I knew I should try to edit the copy so it didn't leave readers with those questions.

Even a Blind Nut...

...sometimes finds a squirrel.

Yesterday I moved $3,000 from a money market account into mutual funds. Today the Dow went up 900 points.

If He Did Screw It Up How Would We Know?

Former pro basketball star Charles Barkley did an interview with CNN anchor Campbell Brown last night. I don't know if Brown disclosed that Barkley works for CNN's parent company in his job as an NBA analyst for TNT.

Most of their conversation centered on Barack Obama but at the end it turned to Barkley's own political ambition. Though he lives in Arizona, he has mentioned running for governor of his home state of Alabama.

Campbell Brown: So are you going to run for governor?

Charles Barkley: I plan on it in 2014.

Brown: You are serious.

Barkley: I am, I can't screw up Alabama.

Brown: There is no place to go but up in your view?

Barkley: We are number 48 in everything and Arkansas and Mississippi aren't going anywhere.

I'm not sure Charles Barkley would make a good chief executive. But if Minnesota can survive a Jesse Ventura administration, Alabama can make it through four years of Charles Barkley running Montgomery. And, man, would he be entertaining.

I wonder if his first official act would be to push for repeal of the state's proposed fat tax.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Home of 100 Cats

My second story for ZooToo TV is up on zootoo.com. Click here to see it on the site with its expanded text version and to read people's comments. The video is embedded below. I'm not sure this one turned out as well as my first effort. I just watched it again and it seemed to drag. That could be because I'm dragging more than a little myself this Monday.



After doing the traffic this morning, which included attributing an I-275 slowdown in St. Petersburg to the Tampa Bay Rays bandwagon slowing down to let people jump off, I drove to the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo to take some pictures.

None were award-winners. The clear sky and crisp air made for a harsh mid-morning sun. That's my excuse anyway and I'm going to stay with it. If you don't like the pictures I'll refund whatever you paid to see them.





I finished in less than an hour and went next door to the Pinellas County animal shelter to visit the cats. The cat room is not large -- it has only 12 cages plus the kitten room where there were 6-8 more. All the cats were two years old and younger. Older ones must get euthanized.

The kittens didn't seem to like people, except one sickly little boy with rheumy eyes who was wheezing and coughing and who knows what else. He made Annie and her snot rockets look like the paragon of feline health. He also thought he spotted a sucker when I walked in and I had to take care not to step on him.

The older cats all craved attention. They knew that people were the keys to escaping their cages. For $20 I could have given Annie a roommate she would have hated. We're staying a one-cat home for now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Take My Job -- Again!

OK, it's still not my job. I'm still just the placeholder until WTSP finds the morning traffic reporter it really wants.

Apparently getting no viable candidates from its earlier craigslist ad, the station has posted a job notice on its own web site.

Does this description fit you?
Are you bored to tears when you see a traffic reporter in front of a map telling you there's nothing going on? We sure are and that's why 10 Connects at WTSP in St. Petersburg, Florida is looking for a dynamic and energetic multi-media traffic reporter for our newscasts. We need someone who can connect with our viewers on levels beyond just traffic. At 10 Connects, our reporters are team players who make contacts and become a part of the community. Everyone on our team produces material for all our platforms - on air, online and mobile, including multi-media extras such as blogs, extra online interviews, exclusive online streaming, databases, etc. Qualified candidates will prepare traffic reports, assist with traffic information gathering, develop and understanding of local highways and traffic patterns. If you're interested, rush your DVD or VHS tape and resume to On-Air Talent Traffic.com 851 Duportail Road Suite 220 Wayne, PA 19087
WTSP has re-branded itself as "10 Connects." Demo tapes and DVDs go to the address in Pennsylvania because its traffic reporter is technically in the employ of Traffic.com, subject to the approval of WTSP.

I'm sure the ad writer (probably the station's news director) isn't intentionally insulting the person currently doing the job (definitely me) when he writes that he is bored to tears watching a traffic reporter in front of a map telling you there's nothing going on.

That means that if you get the job that for most of the station's morning news from 5-7 a.m. when there is nothing going on, you're going to have to do a witty song-and-dance routine to disguise the fact that you have nothing to say.

Strangely enough, I have been quick to insert whatever wit I can muster at that hour when appropriate, thinking that it might not be appreciated. Apparently I should be doing more of it.

At least until the next lucky contestant comes along to claim the job.

Can I Just Say

That I don't care how much Sarah Palin's wardrobe costs any more than I care about whether Joe Biden had botox, which is next to nothing.

I do wonder how much money on clothes and plastic surgery many of the people bloviating on network news programs about it have spent.

However, I do think that more forthright responses from campaigns would pour water on stories like this before they ever really caught fire.

Network news blowhard: "Did the RNC spend $150,000 on Gov. Palin's chothes?"

McCain/Palin Spokesmodel: "Yes we did. And it was worth every penny. She looks marvelous. Next?"

Then we could get on with the discussion of whether Alaska really does afford a view of Russia and whether that constitutes foreign policy experience. And whether Sen. Biden has learned to plagiarize speeches from people who can win elections.

(Google "joe biden neil kinnock" if you don't know to what I refer.)

If the media want to know why people are tuning them out, it's because their treatment of the presidential election as a sporting event and their fixation on things that don't really matter leaves them out of touch with what people care about.

Even the term "presidential race," with polls giving us the current standings, is inaccurate. It's not a football game. The "score" the polls tell us on a given day doesn't matter. It's cheap and easy television to produce that fills time but it doesn't shed light on either candidate or his fitness for office.

How much discussion -- other than one candidate criticizing another and the news reporting of such -- do you hear about health care, the war and the economy and what either one of these guys, if elected, could do about it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Headline of the Day

The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure

It's an article about how hydrogen sulfide (H2S), the gas that produces the ill wind we pass from our colons, helps keep blood pressure of mice low.

If the treatment developed from this knowledge involves inhalation, I think I'd rather diet and exercise more.

The article is from a web site called LiveScience.com, whose other offerings include other must reads such as Why is Poop Brown?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Apparently It's True

I was dreaming that the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series. Now there are fantasies and there are fantasies. This one seemed as remote as the one featuring me and Giselle Bundschen. (It actually featured a couple other supermodels and at least one Hollywood actress too but I'll spare you the details.)

For most of their existence, the Rays had been a collection of misfits and has-beens who had been given official uniforms and games against real Major League teams. They had lost at least 90 games every season since they came into the league in 1998.

Now, all of a sudden, I wake up and hear on the radio that the Rays have beaten the Boston Red Sox in game 7 of the best-of-seven American League Championship Series. How they got that far in the first place, I still don't know, but you know how cloudy dreams can be.

The radio announcer explained that a rookie pitcher named David Price, who pitched his first major league game less than a month ago, struck out Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew with the bases loaded to get out of the 8th inning then came back in the 9th to finish the save.

I take a shower, dress, get in the car and start driving to work. On the radio they're still talking about the Rays meeting the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. When I get to the TV station where I'm working, almost the entire morning show is devoted to the Rays victory and the ensuing celebration.

In a soundbite the Rays' manager, Joe Maddon, called starting pitcher Matt Garza "a stallion," apparently for the way he screwed Boston hitters. After allowing a home run in the first inning, Garza gave up only one more hit in his seven innings of work.

Driving back home, I turn on ESPN Radio and they're talking about Sunday's NFL games. Whew. They wouldn't be talking about football if the Tampa Bay Rays had advanced to the World Series, would they? Then the SportsCenter update comes on and the announcer says that the Phillies were flying to Florida to prepare for game one of the World Series happening Wednesday night in St. Petersburg.

I can't believe this. It might actually be happening. Figures the dream about baseball would come true instead of the ones with the supermodels.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alcohol Linked to Shrinkage

Brain shrinkage, that is.

As if never having to suffer "beer goggle regret" -- that condition under which you never go to bed with an ugly woman but occasionally wake up next to one -- weren't enough reason for me not to drink, now there's a Health Magazine story about a study showing a link between alcohol consumption and shrinkage of the brain.

Brains normally shrink as we grow older. (though our skulls do not -- does that mean that we literally become airheads as we age?) And the increased shrinkage, if that's not an oxymoron, in a heavy drinker's brain compared to a teetotaler's is not vast -- less than 1.5%.

But it does exist. And with so few functioning brain cells to begin with, I need to do all I can to avoid damaging the ones I have.

The Difference in Our Commutes

I hear commercials for Trojan condoms on the drive to work and you probably don't. I guess that's better than ads for bogus male enhancement pills. I'm just surprised that advertisers think that people -- mostly guys -- listening to sports talk radio at 3:30 a.m. are having sex at all.

My temporary job reporting traffic on our CBS affiliate has become like the movie Groundhog Day, only Bill Murray's TV weatherman character got to sleep in until 6 a.m.

Every morning I wake up at 3, shower, dress, pack "lunch" in the cooler and get in the car by 3:30. I finish the 30 mile drive on empty Interstates to the station shortly after 4. Once inside, I go to the make-up room and put on make-up (what else?). I walk through the studio, exchange greetings with the crew members, walk into the control room and fire up the computers. I plug in my earpiece and clip the mic onto my jacket lapel and wait my turn. I go out to the studio and recite the goings-on on the roads showing one of the same five available live camera shots and the computer generated maps. I fill the copious down-time between appearances on the air by doing crossword puzzles.

I should get to change the routine soon. No, I'm not being relieved of traffic duties yet. But I should get to shoot a story for ZooToo TV this week.

A couple in Englewood, Florida (that's south of Sarasota) has turned their home into a no-kill cat shelter. It began with taking in strays and grew until two years ago Rick and Chrissy Kingston formed a non-profit corporation so they could accept donations.

Puffy Paws Kitty Haven is now home to more than 100 cats which roam free around the house. A separate building serves as the intake center. The outbuilding also has a space that will be devoted to a TV studio where Rick, who has a media background, intends to produce a public access show about the shelter and its inhabitants. The main house also has a separate room for the cats that have feline leukemia.

The kicker? Rick and Chrissy still live in the house! Rick says his neighbors don't mind and the Kingstons will have a special fence so they'll be able to let the cats go outside without worry that they'll escape. Part of the story will also be the couple's struggle to keep the shelter going financially. It costs $100/day to care for the cats. They (or the cats) go through 250 lbs. of cat litter a day.

Rick had a heart attack last month that derailed fundraising efforts and Puffy Paws fell behind on its power bill to the tune of $1,500. He wanted to get that cleared up before we arranged a time to shoot a story.

He e-mailed this morning saying he was ready to go and that I should call him. I want to shoot this week and can go down there later today if they're ready.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Air Again

If you found my humble home on the blogosphere from a Google search for Meredyth Censullo, I am happy to tell you that she has hooked on with another station in Tampa Bay. She begins reporting traffic for WFTS (Ch. 28) Monday.

The reason Meredyth has merited mention here is that I was her fill-in when she worked at WTSP and replaced her on an interim basis when she left in August.

I sent her a note congratulating her on the new job. It included my observation that often what has seems like bad luck is really just good luck that doesn't make sense yet. I've noticed it a few times in my life. Now she has first-hand experience with the idea, too.

Ch. 10's search for Meredyth's replacement is going nowhere fast. I'm told that the station has looked at tapes but hasn't seen anyone it likes enough to bring in for an interview. The out-of-work radio DJ that auditioned took another job.

I'll try to enjoy the gig while it lasts and continue trying to develop freelance business.

On that subject, I may get to do a story about author Stuart Kaminsky for WEDU. Kaminsky lives in Sarasota and his Lew Fonesca series of books is set in the city.

I also have several stories in the works for ZooToo TV, which I'll detail when they become more definite.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

First HOA Meeting

I just got home from my first HOA meeting. I almost blew it off because it started at 7:15 and with a 3 a.m. wake-up looming I really wanted to wind down and try to go to bed.

But I thought it was important to attend. Only ten of the other 232 unit owners of our community agreed. The meeting was for the board of directors, still controlled by the builder, to approve next year's budget.

It was also the first chance owners had a real chance to question items in the budget. Previous years' budget meetings had happened at the builder's Tampa office at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. This one happened at a church a mile away from home.

Representatives from our property management company attended and they faced questions as well as some venting about issues we face in our community.

I was glad to see that other owners had as much concern about our community as I did. We'll need more than eleven of them with such a commitment to maintain a high quality of life in the community but this could be a good start.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Watch That Traffic

Here are some clips of the traffic reporting I have done for WTSP. I do not claim to own the copyright on this video. It is posted here only for the purpose of critique and commentary, much of which I suspect will be devoted to making fun of my performance.



The reference to Boston in the first clip came after the news and weather anchors had been talking about the Tampa Bay Rays beating the Boston Red Sox for the second time in three games. It was the second time in two weeks The Rays had taken two out of three games from the Red Sox and it basically squashed the Red Sox' chances to overtake the Rays in the American League East.

For most of the morning show from 5-7 a.m., traffic is pretty light so there's time to make light-hearted comments. I started slipping in one-line observations when they came to me even before my supervisor at traffic.com told me that the station is looking for more humor in its morning show.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Love My Tar Heels



Especially the one on the right. What a smile!

I was reading Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column on Sports Illustrated's web site when the above photo in a sidebar distracted me. I clicked on it and it led me to this page, the SI Cheerleader of the Week. There the member of Carolina's dance team says she listens to the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind -- I've heard of these bands! -- and confesses that her most annoying habit is picking her wedgies in public. Ain't that cute?

No? Well, I thought it was. But if you didn't, SI was kind enough to add a a photo gallery that you might like better.

What a wonderful time of year to be in Chapel Hill. If my father were rich, I'd still be in college. If I get rich myself, I'm going back.

I'm Not Dead

Nor is the blog. But when my brother told me that he was tired of reading how tired I was all the time, I lost most of my available material.

I'm still doing the morning traffic at WTSP. I called my supervisor at traffic.com, the company that provides the traffic data to the station as well as the person who delivers it on the air, and he said that very little had happened in the search for the previous traffic reporter's permanent replacement.

I have been told I am merely filling the gap until that happens. That's fine with me; I'd just like to get an idea of how long the gap might be. I intimated that I might make the decision for them when other work precluded me from continuing at the station.

I was not bluffing to try to force their hand. Other freelance work has begun to pick up enough that the temp traffic gig might soon get in the way.

Just today, I mailed off a story to the high school sports show on Sun Sports about a volleyball player in Tampa who happens to aspire to be a journalist. (That led to the story's hook: "Some stories seem to write themselves. This one could have written itself.") I talked to a story subject for WEDU's A Gulf Coast Journal, got the go-ahead for two more ZooToo TV stories and had to look into the possibility of a follow-up to my first story about Southeastern Guide Dogs school.

I got an e-mail from one of the school's graduates -- the human, not the dog -- to let me know that her local Wal-Mart and a restaurant near her home refused entry to her guide dog. This is not a problem except that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that businesses open to the public allow service dogs.

Oh, wait. Maybe there is a problem.

Since the incidents happened in the sticks of eastern Alabama -- whose nearest city, if you can call it that, is Columbus, Georgia -- I thought that maybe notice of this pesky little federal law passed in 1990 was slow to filter down to that part of the country, what with having to be transported by mule and all.

But the folks at Southeastern tell me that this is not an isolated incident. It's not even the first time they've had to put a call into Wal-Mart to remind them that the ADA is not just a good idea; it's the law.

"There sure is a story," the person at Southeastern e-mailed me.

"Great!" I thought before remembering that this is not great for people already dealing with needing a guide dog in the first place. It's always been a part of reporting that I didn't like that someone else's misfortune could be good for me.

I had the presence to reply, "Part of me is glad to hear there's a story here; part of me is sorry." But if a story needs to be told, I might as well be the one who tells it.

BTW, the story about Southeastern Guide Dogs has generated more than 200 comments. Thirty-eight of 40 people have voted it a "thumbs up." What were the other two morons thinking?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Webcasting

I don't know how many people watch stories on ZooToo.com but its audience is active. In a little more than 12 hours since my first story went up on the site, more than 60 people have left comments.

Another 15 or so have clicked on the "thumbs up" link at the bottom of the text version of the story to give it a positive rating. Not that I'm suggesting that you do the same for my sake. But I will hardly object.

Only one other story I've done has ever drawn anything close to that number of comments. Interestingly enough it was a story about animals -- a crash involving a trailer-load of horses -- that I did for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

Obviously many thousands more people saw that story than this one one ZooToo. But the online "channel" reaches people with an interest in the stories it features and the web aspect encourages interactivity. I wondered how a web site could afford to pay for video content but I underestimated its reach -- and its potential value to sponsors.

I'm a Sucker

So the government is going to hand out $700 BILLION dollars of tax money to bail out Wall Street companies who overextended themselves on sub-prime mortgages. But that won't fly politically unless the deal includes hand-outs to people who took out the mortgages they can't pay back.

Seven-hundred billion dollars amounts to more than $2,000 for every single person in the United States. But is every single person going to pay? Of course not. Who is? Idiots like me. I'm the moron who doesn't carry credit card debt and who was stupid enough to buy a house I could afford and don't have a mortgage. I'm going to have to pay for the people who can't.

You're welcome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ZooToo Debut

ZooToo.com has posted the story I did about Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. for its Pet Pulse news segment. Click here if you want to see it on ZooToo's site. I did both text and video versions of the story. The text version marks my debut as a print journalist.

If you just want to watch the piece, you don't have to go anywhere. It's right here:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Pen Pal

I got what I presumed to be a spam e-mail this morning whose subject was "RE: Reply to your non-reply." I deleted it unopened so I don't know one replies to a non-reply. I wonder how the sender will respond to my non-reply to his reply to my non-reply?

I will say that it certainly makes correspondence much easier if I don't have to do anything to take part.

Nevermind

All that stuff about no caffeine and not napping? Yeah, well. I slept for two hours on the couch yesterday and while I haven't had a coke yet, I also haven't had lunch yet. I suspect that resolution will fall then.

However, this morning WTSP had a guest dubbed "the sleep doctor," who said napping was normal. As far as the caffeine goes, hey, I made it until Thursday.

Late Night Radio

Pete Carroll has lost a total of 14 games in his seven-plus years as USC's football coach. Opponents have outscored the Trojans by a total of 59 points in those games.

Carroll's new cross-town rival at UCLA, Rick Neuheisel, has lost one game -- 59-0 last week to BYU.

These nuggets of knowledge you can only gain listening to the radio while driving I-275 from Tampa to St. Petersburg at 3:45 a.m.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Milestone

I can now name all members of the WTSP morning show studio crew as well as the newscast producers and morning news photographers.

This can only mean that my tenure here will end soon.

Caffeine Free

For three days now. Despite the 3 a.m. wakeups and even though I bring a Coke Zero in a cooler to the station with me, I try to get through the day without it. Not because of the caffeine, which doesn't adversely affect me but because CBS reported that people who drink more than 16 ounces of cola a day have a much higher risk of kidney disease.

I love my diet cola -- Coke, Pepsi, doesn't matter, it's all good -- but I like my kidneys more. Coffee and tea both taste terrible to me and I've read that meth is bad for your teeth so it's cola or nothing.

I've also been skipping the nap I usually take when I get home from the station. Monday I had to log the tapes from the Southeastern Guide Dogs story for ZooToo TV and yesterday I had to write the story. Today I'll start editing so that should keep me awake.

Next challenge is getting to sleep before 9 p.m. I got to the gym a little earlier yesterday but revising the script after the editor at ZooToo wanted me to add more statistical information to the story and watching the Rays/Red Sox baseball game kept me up later than I wanted.

I thought I had given up on baseball but this team might drag me back into it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Traffic Lightens

My temporary job at WTSP got easier. While the station decides what to do with its morning traffic reports, it has decided to do fewer of them. I made two appearances in the 5 a.m. hour and three from 6-7 a.m. Fortunately I get paid by the hour and not by my amount of face time.

I still have to wake up at 3 a.m., though. That was tougher than usual today for a couple of reasons. First, Annie, my little pretty kitty, decided at 2:12 a.m. that she wanted to cuddle under the covers. This is unusual this time of year. It usually doesn't happen until it gets cooler. But after announcing her presence by walking on me. She stood near my head purring until I lifted the covers so she could crawl inside. She was still curled up between my chest and my right arm when jazz from WUSF-FM began blaring from the alarm clock 48 minutes later.

I lay there for a minute before rousting the cat and rising from bed.

Second, I missed my nap yesterday. For good reason, though. I finished shooting my story about Southeastern Guide Dogs School for ZooToo TV. I've only spot checked the tapes to verify that the audio for the interviews is good.

Presuming no problems with the rest of the tapes, the story should turn out well. Of the five people I interviewed, only one was not very good and one of them was an absolute home run. I promise I wasn't trying to make the woman cry when she explained how her new guide dog gave her her life back.

Next will be wrestling with getting the video loaded into the computer.

It took a while but I got one of the two tapes I shot for the Academy of the Holy Names volleyball player story loaded. I still haven't figured out what causes the audio and video going to go out of sync. It seems to do different things each time I try to load the video. One time the audio and video slowly drifted out of sync. Another time the video loaded fine but the audio.

I'll worry about that later. Weather permitting, today I have what has become my weekly golf game with my dad.

We'll Never Forget

Yet I almost did. It wasn't until I heard it mentioned on the radio -- on a sports talk station, of all things -- that I realized that it was September 11. I obviously did not lose touch with the significance of the date but in years past, the 9/11 attacks' anniversary loomed days in advance.

This year it surprised me. Someday it will become like another "date which will live in infamy," noted on calendars, in history books and on memorials. The scars may never leave but they become familiar and the wounds they mark aren't as tender to the touch as they were when fresh.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Take My Job!

OK, it's not my job. I'm just filling it until WTSP decides what it wants to do with its morning traffic reports. Searching for only the finest in broadcast talent, NAVTEQ/traffic.com -- which provides the station's traffic service -- has turned to craigslist.

Stop laughing. Craigslist is how the company found me.

As the ad below mentions, NAVTEQ/traffic.com is an equal opportunity employer. But if you're a thin-haired white guy with 20 years of professional broadcasting experience, don't get your hopes up. The company already has one of those and he's not a candidate.

I don't blame them. For gender balance on the show, it's almost certain they'll hire a woman. And, though I continue to get more comfortable, it's not like I'm setting the world on fire. If you think you can, here you go:
Reply to: job-835511050@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-09-10, 3:12PM EDT

September 10, 2008
Job Opening: On-Air TV Traffic Reporter - Full-Time
Location: Tampa

POSITION DESCRIPTION: On-Air Television Traffic Reporter will serve as a Traffic TV Personality for local News Programming.

Traffic or Weather experience is preferred, but a great personality and on-air experience can go a long way. We are willing to train any individual we view as a good candidate.

DUTIES AND REPSONSIBILITIES:

• On-Camera Reporting
• Preparation of traffic reports
• Assistance with traffic info gathering
• Develop understanding of local highways and traffic patterns
• Other related duties as required

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS: Candidates should be comfortable in front of a camera, have good communication skills, experience with computers, ability to multitask, ability to learn quickly, and work in a deadline driven environment.

Interested candidates should send a demo and resume ASAP to:

On-Air Talent
Traffic.com
851 Duportail Road
Suite 220
Wayne, PA 19087

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY: NAVTEQ/Traffic.com is an Equal Opportunity Employer. M/F/D/V.

* Location: Tampa
* Compensation: Compensation
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

PostingID: 835511050

I Spoke Too Soon

When I mentioned that I had solved the audio/video sync problems with HD video? Nevermind. When I loaded the tape of interviews and practice video from the volleyball player story, the audio not only didn't match, it appeared as if that only the first few minutes of audio recorded and simply played in a loop.

This was the same problem I was getting from Adobe Premiere and it happened using HDV Split too. It recorded correctly on the tape. I know that because I watched the entire thing as it loaded.

It looks like I have to go through the lengthy process of loading about 100 minutes of video a few minutes at a time. This is not good for the camera, which is not designed to serve as a playback deck. I could spend $2,700 for a deck or $1,500 for a hard disk recorder.

But what I'd really like is for my software to work correctly. That would be nice.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

In and Out of Consciousness

Consciousness permitting, I may shoot part of a story today for zootoo.com, a pet-related web site that also includes video news reports. I still haven't settled into a sleep schedule working the morning shift and some days I leave the station with the singular ambition of driving home and falling asleep in that order.

The story is about Southeastern Guide Dogs School which is near Bradenton but as part of teaching the dogs to help their human partners navigate real-world obstacles, they come to downtown Tampa where they encounter revolving doors, escalators, and city streets.

Otherwise, the plan is to shoot the story on the school's campus -- 23 acres! -- tomorrow. There ought to be enough there to fill a 2-and-a-half minute long story.

Yesterday afternoon, I finished shooting a story for the Dodge Sports Report, the Florida High School Athletic Association's television show that airs statewide on Sun Sports. It's about a volleyball player at Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa. She's also an aspiring journalist who edits the schools yearbook, works on the student paper and contributes articles to Volleyball USA magazine.

I had shot the team's match Friday in an experiment of sorts. The Dodge Sports Report stories air in standard definition but I decided to shoot this one in high def. I can downconvert the final package into SD.

I had done only one other shoot in HDV before and things worked great. But that was before I got my new computer. When I loaded the video into the computer, the file didn't work properly. Adobe Premiere, my video editing program, is supposed to save it as an m2t file. But it saved it as an mpeg and the audio and video were out of sync.

I checked to see if the plug-in Premiere needs to work with video from my camera was installed properly and it was. Still no go. So I put the new computer back in its box and pulled the old one out of the closet.

Same result! Ack! It used to work fine. What's up with this?

On an Adobe forum someone recommended a free program called HDV Split. It's amazing how often I use freeware to bail myself out of problems that my expensive allegedly professional software can't solve. Amazing.

I tested it yesterday; the m2t files that HDV Split recorded worked flawlessly in Premiere. I was satisfied that it was safe to shoot the rest of the story in HDV. Just in time to go to the school to shoot the interviews and video of the girl typing on her laptop, shots of her articles and some of the team's practice yesterday.

I haven't loaded all the video into the computer yet. I did spot checks to see that it would load and to make sure the audio came out right. I didn't get home last night until after 8 p.m. and didn't want to stay up too late.

Then, of course, I couldn't fall asleep until 10 p.m. anyway. And the cat decided to join me in bed around 12:40 a.m., which she announces by crawling across me. The alarm came like a hammer blow at 3 a.m.

Action

The roads have been quiet but we've had some excitement here early this morning. The traffic computer, the one that generates the maps that we put on the air, crashed. Luckily for me, restarting the computer got it going again.

Then my necktie gave the chroma key trouble -- a wardrobe malfunction! -- so I had to change into the tie I keep in reserve. The Matt Cassels of neckties gets its first action of the season.

Tennis Traffic

More than a few people have found this blog lately by searching for information about my predecessor WTSP traffic reporter Meredyth Censullo. Little watched as the station's morning show may be, she had her fans. Unless there were politics behind the scenes I don't know about -- and don't want to know about -- she was simply a casualty of a station shakeup.

The first candidate to become her permanent replacement came in Friday. She's a recently laid off radio DJ -- replaced by a syndicated Ryan Seacrest show -- who has no previous TV experience. She seemed nice and I enjoyed having company during what can be an unventful shift.

My temporary workplace drew some fire for choosing Dr. Phil over Roger Federer. Tropical Storm Hanna blew the U.S. Open tennis men's singles final from Sunday to Monday afternoon.

When Federer won his 13th career grand slam title, many Tampa Bay viewers could not watch. According to the St. Petersburg Times angry calls flooded WTSP when it decided to run its regular programming during the 5-8 p.m. time the tennis match would have aired.

The gist of the comments were "how could you blow off tennis 'history' to air a talk show?" Here's the thing: The 5-8 p.m. period is one of the most profitable for a station. Local news and syndicated shows bring a station a lot more money than network programs.

Had the station aired the tennis match, it would have felt the wrath of people who can't live without Dr. Phil's sage guidance. And they probably have more time to spend making complaint calls. When forced to choose between two evils, pick the one that will make you more money.

Friday, September 05, 2008

How Cruel

I was dreaming about not having to go to work when my alarm awoke me so that I could get up and go to work.

That's probably not ironic -- just incredibly cruel.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Good Intentions Gone...

I slept through the speech. I had never heard of Sarah Palin a week ago so I wanted the chance to hear from her. But not as much as I wanted to sleep. So when I felt almost tired, I got in bed, read a few pages of a Randy Wayne White "Doc Ford" novel then turned off the light.

Amazingly, I feel asleep right around 10 o'clock. Five hours of sleep would have set a personal best since I started my temporary shift on WTSP's morning show. But at 2 a.m. the cat decided -- for the first time in a month -- that she wanted to join me in bed.

How could I refuse? The little pretty kitty hasn't felt well lately, sneezing and wheezing and not eating much. So for most of the last hour before my 3 a.m. alarm I listened to the cat purr herself to sleep while I lay awake. Her breathing sounded good and she seemed happy.

Speaking of WTSP, someone found this blog by Google searching "glad Meredyth Censullo is out of wtsp." Meredyth is the woman I have replaced on an interim basis until the station finds a permanent morning traffic reporter.

Anyone bitter much? The same person also searched within my blog for the name "kimberly bermel." I had to resort to Google myself to learn that she once did traffic for WFLA.

My father told me he had seen me appear in a promo for the morning show. I told him not to get too excited. They need to promote the new weather guy who started this week and maybe to reinforce that the traffic anchor had changed too. "The queen is dead... long live the queen" sort of thing.

I got some good news on the freelance front yesterday. I've been assigned a story by the Dodge Sports Report, the high school sports show that airs state-wide here in Florida on Sun Sports. And a web site all about pets and animals called zootoo.com that also features video news stories, has accepted a pitch for a story about Southeastern Guide Dogs School in Bradenton.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tired and Wired

I go to bed, lay awake until after 11 p.m. and what seems like 20 minutes later, jazz music from WUSF-FM jars me awake.

I come into the station, do the traffic reports with varying degrees of competency, drive home, fall exhausted into bed, toss and turn for 2-4 hours then wake up in that fog you get when you sleep during the day.

If I have something to do, such as when I drum up other freelance work or if I golf with my father, I skip the daytime nap but it doesn't seem to make me any more ready to sleep.

That may be good tonight because I want to hear Sarah Palin speak at the Republican national convention. I had never heard of her until this week and if there's a chance she's going to be vice president -- especially for a guy who will be 72 on Inauguration Day -- I'd like to know what we're in for.

Of course, if she bombs tonight -- think Dan Quayle in heels -- it won't matter. The contest will be over. But hearing her speak will give me a better sense of whether John McCain's veep pick was a bold vision or desperate grasp.

I also want to see that it's really not Tina Fey.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Best So Far

Right before our last local cut-in to the CBS Early Show, the news anchor and one of the studio crew members commented that I appeared to be getting more comfortable each day.

"You mean I don't stink as much?" I said.

It was my best day overall, so far. I might never be brilliant but I'm improving at not rushing myself and generally feel more in command of what I'm doing.

I need to make sure I don't get too clever for my own good. Before the 8 a.m. cut-in when there were numerous wrecks on major roads, I began by saying, "It looks like that over the holiday weekend people forgot how to drive."

In our final cut-in of the morning things had calmed down and when the weather anchor tossed to me after updating the various cyclones swirling about, I said, "To use weather parlance, we've been downgraded to a 'traffical depression' on the roads."

Nothing too edgy but danger lurks if I get it into my head that I'm some kind of comedian. I'm just the substitute until the permanent person gets hired.

Mock Me

i'm watching you on tv right now!!! you're famous!!!

So read the mocking text message from a friend of mine. She was one of the few watching. One of the others happened to be the station's general manager because the morning show's new weather guy made his debut.

Here's what's funny: The anchor was a fill-in whom I had never seen. I went to the station's web site to see who she was. She normally works nights. That means that I might have been the most familiar face to viewers of WTSP's morning show.

Yes, I worked Labor Day. Just another part of the glamor of television. There were as few morning commuters as we probably had viewers. Good thing because I-4 going east-bound was shut down at I-75 after a crash involving a motorcycle. That would have been a big mess had it happened on a normal weekday morning.

As it was, only the motorcycle rider suffered any major inconvenience.

I read later in the St. Pete Times that the motorcyle had smashed into the back of the back of a tractor-trailer. That may not have killed its rider. But the two cars that ran over him as he lay in the road would have finished the job.

The cars kept going. Police said that the drivers of the cars might not have realized that they had run over a person.

That's one way doing the traffic reports for WTSP is similar to news reporting. In both realms I rely on people's misfortune or stupidity to provide material.

Friday, August 29, 2008

So Much Work

It's Friday. If I make it through the next few hours, I will have completed my longest continuous stint at a TV station in three years. Four days. When I got in this morning, the news anchor said, "It's Friday! You made it through the week."

"Not yet," I replied. "Ask me again in about five hours. I can celebrate then."

I got to bed by 9 p.m. last night. After yesterday morning's show I went to play golf with my father and I skipped the nap I'd taken Tuesday and Wednesday.

It's probably a good thing that I won't get this job permanently. Someone asked me if I was having any fun. Not exactly, I told her. But the abject terror I had that I would either fail to answer the alarm clock and miss a shift or that I'd do something once I got there that would earn me infamy forever on YouTube has mostly abated.

Mostly.

Maybe when I get more comfortable (read: don't stink so much) it will get more fun. It's pretty boring work, actually. How many different ways can you describe a shot of traffic backed up at junction of I-4 and I-275? It is mindless enough that even the "bubble-headed bleach blonde" from the Don Henley song "Dirty Laundry" could do it and I don't blame Ch. 10 if that's the "new direction" it decides to go.

But it's good on-camera practice and something broadcast-related to do while I try to build up more freelance business. Speaking of which, I have a potential new client and I'll have to complete a list of story pitches this afternoon. I'll fill in details if something comes of it.

Millionaires Story Airs

It doesn't take a lot of money to become a Sarasota Millionaire. But it requires a passion for football that lasts long after most people have played their last game. See the world of difference between semi-pro and pro football. Meet the players whose love of playing won't let them let go of the game. And hear the story of the couple who want to make the Sarasota Millionaires an invaluable part of the Gulf Coast.

That was the blurb I wrote summarizing my most recent -- I was going to say "last" but I hope it isn't -- story for WEDU-TV's A Gulf Coast Journal. You can watch in the window below. It comes about 12-and-a-half minutes in.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

WTSP Interim Traffic Reporter


I promise that the bloodshot eyes result from too little sleep rather than too much drinking. Maybe I'll get to sleep before midnight tonight.


Thanks to the lovely Vanessa in the studio crew for taking my pictures. If I'm going to be there a while, I'm going to have to learn the other crew members' names.*

I did meet the station's GM today. As I walked the hall to the make-up room (they have such a thing) to wash the TV mask off my face, a man walking toward me from the other direction said, "Traffic was terrible today." For some reason, I didn't immediately presume he was assessing my performance but was talking about actual conditions on the road.

As we got closer, he thanked me for filling in on short notice and complimented the job I was doing. I expressed my appreciation and mumbled something about being a little out of practice. I still didn't know to whom I was talking.

"Tell me your name," I said.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I should have introduced myself," he said. "Sam Rosenwasser."

I should probably make a note of his name too.

*That's not quite right. I know some of the others -- John, Scott and Marie -- and I'm now listening closely to anyone addressing anyone else by name so I can add to the list of people at the station whose face I can match with a name.

Florida's Number One!

Turns out that screwing up elections is not the only thing in which Florida ranks first.

The Sunshine State is home to the nation's top party school, the University of Florida. The Gators have won recent national chammpionships in football and basketball but now the school really has something to brag about.

Maybe the news is good for recruiting some kids. It didn't work on me back when I was searching for colleges way back when. UF offered me a partial academic scholarship and I loved the idea of living in warm weather. I considered the school seriously enough that my dad and I drove to Gainesville to look over the university in person.

I remember meeting with an admissions officer in a hopelessly cluttered office. Not an attraction. But my lasting impression came later as we drove around campus.

Going past a fraternity house, I remember seeing a shirtless fat guy on the roof of one of them. With him was a bottle of Jack Daniels so big I could read the label from the street. I didn't have a lot of ideas about my future but I knew that I didn't want to look that in four years.

I ended up doing my post-high school beer drinking education at the University of North Carolina.