Tuesday, September 23, 2008


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.


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


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.


• 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
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.


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.