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. (, 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 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 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, 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, 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 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, 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?