Friday, December 25, 2009

One Man Band

It's a term used in music to describe someone who plays multiple instruments and used in television to describe someone who does a production by himself.

In this case, it's both — though I got help from some recorded drum loops and overdubbed bass for this one.



Note that this was shot on a consumer camera in about 30 minutes and does not reflect the quality of my professional work.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dusted Off The Camera

And went to take some photographs. Tampa Bay Downs, the local horse racing track, has opened for the season. I'm not a betting man but I occasionally gamble a gallon or two of gas on whether I can capture the action at the track.



Then on the way home I stopped and squeezed off a few shots in downtown Tampa.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Noodling

And a little fun on Sony Acid (the music software not the LSD). The sound quality from my digital piano could be better. So could the sound quality from my playing.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Walk Among the Tombstones

A cliche to be sure but what is a cliche but a well-said phrase that we are too lazy to restate? The tombstones in question here are sometimes cracked, broken and even scattered. Tampa's first mayor is among the city's luminaries buried in Oaklawn cemetery.



You can see a slide show of more images on my photo blog, to which I send you not to drive up its traffic but because its format lets me display larger images.

Outsourced Sports

WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach has canned its sports staff and handed its sports coverage to a local radio station, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Axing sports departments was once the province of bottom-feeding stations throwing in the towel on a segment of the audience it was never going to reach. But West Palm's NBC affiliate is a long-time powerhouse in that market, just like WFLA in Tampa was when it decided it could get by with just one on-air sports anchor. Instead of outsourcing to a radio station, WFLA shares sports reporters with the Tampa Tribune — which, like WFLA, is owned by Media General.

WFLA does still have a sports photographer. The Post article does not explain how a radio station is going to put together video highlights and stories or how a guy whose afternoon drive radio show begins at 4 o'clock will do TV segments at 5 and 6.

Not that it matters. One reader comment to the WPTV story sums up a growing attitude toward sports among many stations: "nothing personal... but ch 5’s sports was a minute or two of headlines... my 8 yr old could do it and for $100 a week... welcome to the new economy."

The TV station probably figured that no one was watching that "minute or two of headlines" so why not put someone on who will promote his appearance on the radio all afternoon. Click here to see a clip of the radio host Even Cohen who will now tackle TV duties.

Friday, December 04, 2009

We Got That B-Roll!

This will make more sense — and be funnier — if you have worked in television. But maybe not so give it a try for ten seconds. If you hate it, I'll refund your purchase price.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Murdoch: Media Must Get Online Readers to Pay

More than a decade after the term was coined, tradition media have not learned how to avoid becoming roadkill on the "Information Superhighway." The question facing journalism in a free market is how to make enough money from it to pay the people who produce it.

"Technology makes it cheap and easy to distribute news for anyone with Internet access," says media mogul Rupert Murdoch. "But producing journalism is expensive."

The obvious solution, he says, is to force readers of online news sites to pay for the privilege. That works for entities such as the Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch now owns, but the WSJ generates content for which readers will pay a premium. The stories you read there aren't available anywhere else.

How many other media outlets can say that? Even the WSJ, which once charged for access to all of its content, now gives a lot of it away for free. People can find most stories in too many places for any of them to be able to charge money for them.

Ads don't seem to be enough. People who are willing to let commercials interrupt their TV viewing get offended when ads pop up in front of what they're reading online. But just because ad revenue from websites don't make up for what newspapers and TV stations have lost from tradition ads doesn't mean that an ad-supported model won't work for a strictly web-based outlet.

Eventually, some enterprising reporters — in more than one sense of the word — will come together to form cooperatives that will take advantage of the cheap distribution channels now available without any of the baggage (printing presses, delivery trucks, broadcast TV towers and too many middle managers) that are sinking traditional media.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ba-da Bing but no Boom

Bing made a big splash but left little ripple effect. Microsoft's attempt to edge into Google's hegemony of the search engine market has not made much of a dent, at least not among visitors to my sites.

I wrote back in June about the challenge ahead for Microsoft. To say that Bill Gates & Co. still have an uphill climb understates the Everest that lies ahead.

So far in November, 85% of visitors to this blog who arrived using a search engine got here through Google. Six percent used Yahoo; four percent bing. For JohnMcQuiston.com, it's 90% for google vs. 8% for bing, with Yahoo mopping up the remaining 2%.

Google is only slightly less dominant among searchers who land at Personal-Documentary.com. Seventy-nine percent use Google, six percent Yahoo and 2 percent bing, tying it with Google Puerto Rico.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

TV News is Dead

So says a guy trying to sell it a resuscitator. "Burn down the buildings," says Michael Rosenblum on the Mark Joyella's LocalNewser blog. Rosenblum is a consultant who claims that his VJ newsroom model, in which traditional two-person reporter/cameraman crews become one-person do-it-all video journalists, will cut costs and increase content.



I have nothing to fear if the buildings burn down. Though I've spent most of my career on camera, I own cameras and am happy to do freelance jobs as a one-man-band, especially since it means I don't have to share my fee!

However, I'm struggling to understand Mr. Rosenblum's math when he claims that local stations have two-hundred newsroom employees yet put only eight cameras on the street. First, where are these local newsrooms with 200 people? Second, where are these newsrooms that have only eight cameras?

But if you market yourself as a media messiah, you need the faithful to feel the doom. Before you sell the cure, you have to sell the disease.

Not that TV news doesn't have its ills. But it's interesting that the lynch pin of Michael's solution is to get rid of the photographers — half of the people who are generating video content — when it's not too many people on the street we have but too many special projects producers, executive producers and anchors who only anchor that bloat newsroom staffs.

Michael would be cheered to learn that stations have gotten rid of sound men.

Unfortunately for Michael — and for the increasing number of TV stations that have decided that two-person crews are a luxury — operating a video camera is not equivalent to using a pencil. That is evident in the video on this page, in which Michael is nearly in silhouette thanks to a distractingly bright computer monitor in the frame and no light on the subject.

If no camera light was available, it would have taken approximately ten seconds to find a darker web page to display on the monitor and another ten to put the camera's iris on manual and open it up to brighten the subject's face so it wouldn't look like we were trying to hide his identity.

This matters because video quality affects how viewers judge the product's credibility. If you don't have 20 seconds to get the camera shot right, how can I think that you took the time to get the facts right? If your video looks amateurish, the reporting will too.

Competent camera work doesn't require a PhD but it does take more than two days of training and a week of practice to master. In a business based on video, I'd look for other fat to trim before I started cutting the source of my best pictures.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Forget Hiring "Proofreader's" -- Just Read Some Guy's Blog

Update on CNN's "Obama's (sic) celebrate first Halloween at the White House" story: CNN has corrected the error in the headline. Perhaps not coincidentally, my web counter shows a visitor from the CNN Political Ticker blog admin account this afternoon.

Click image for larger version.

I'm happy to help. But disappointed that they needed it.

Maybe They Need to Hire More "Proofreader's"

It looks like misplace'd apostrophe's have become a national epidemic.

Click on image for larger version.

CNN story:

Obama's (sic) celebrate first Halloween at the White House

Apparently even headline writers at CNN don't realize that plural words don't use apostrophes before the S. Or as they might have written, "plural's don't use apostrophe's before the S."

Update: CNN has corrected the error. Perhaps not coincidentally, my web stats counter shows a visitor from the CNN Political Ticker blog admin account this afternoon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Radio Host Sileo Suspended -- For Being Wrong or for Biting Feeding Hand?

A Tampa radio station suspended its morning host for reporting a story about the owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. WDAE-AM host Dan Sileo claimed that the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, had lost $475-million in Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme and might be forced to sell the team because of it.

Listen to it here: WDAE-620 AM audio clip, posted by the St. Petersburg Times on its website when it reported Sileo's suspension.

The team issued a statement flatly denying all of Sileo's claims, including that the team was for sale and that the Glazers had invested with Madoff. "The report is baseless, irresponsible and slanderous," the statement said. "This type of behavior by Mr. Sileo and his company Clear Channel will be dealt with in the appropriate manner."

Sure enough, later yesterday, the station issued a retraction of Sileo's story still prominently displayed on the homepage of its website today.

WDAE Homepage RetractionClick Image for Larger Version

And what say would the team have over what a radio station reports? WDAE is the flagship station for the Buccaneer Radio Network, a designation that WDAE's owner, Clearchannel, wrested away from WQYK back when the Bucs used to win games and their radio contract was a coveted property.

Was Sileo suspended because of his story's subject or because he apparently got its facts wrong? Believe it or not, screwing up a story is not illegal, provided that you report it in good faith believing it to be true. Dan Sileo is not a reporter, he's a talk radio host -- and not a very good one of those for my money -- but he enjoys the same protections a reporter does.

But I wonder: Could the Glazers have dictated how "Mr. Sileo will be dealt with" if WDAE were not the team's radio broadcast partner. Would Clearchannel have issued such a public retraction and suspended Sileo so quickly?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Titillation for Ratings?

Ah, ratings sweeps periods. Those times when stations pull out all the stops to lure viewers. Or in this case, take off all the tops. WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., offers this special report demonstrating with graphic detail how a woman does a breast self exam, nipples and all.

Remember, you are not to watch the video embedded below for any reasons of prurient interest. You are to watch only out of your concern for saving lives from a horrible disease. Or to judge the journalistic merits of such a story.

Unlike me.



Here is the link to the text version of the story, which I am certain you will want to read to get more details.

The video is informative, without a doubt, probably even to people who have breasts. I am equally sure that public education was not the primary reason for doing that story.

Do noble ends justify less altruistic motives?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

She Shall Return

A couple people have found this blog by Googling Meredyth Censullo. She is the vacation averse traffic reporter on WFTS-TV for whom I very occasionally fill in.

One of those occasions was this month when she went on her honeymoon. She's back, still happily married ('cause a week on a boat with someone can change one's view), and returns to work full-time Monday morning.

She actually returned last week but had training at the station Thursday and Friday. The station is training all of its newsroom employees to work solo as Multi-Media Journalists.

Using small JVC cameras that cost about $3,500 and record on SDHC memory cards, the station will have someone report, shoot and write a story, edit it on a Mac laptop with Final Cut Pro video editing software and upload the video back to the station — all by him or herself.

This is something that more stations, even in larger cities now, are trying as a way to cut costs without losing content. WUSA-TV in Washington, DC switched completely to one person news crews last year. WUSA's owner, Gannett, also owns WTSP here in Tampa Bay. That station has a few MMJs but still uses mostly two-person crews.

It's not new to me. All the stories I've posted here that I did for zootoo.com, I shot, wrote, narrated and edited myself with my own equipment. I also shot and edited all the pieces I reported between 2005 and 2009 for the Dodge Sports Report, a high school sports show that aired on the state-wide Sun Sports network here in Florida.

Before that I produced several short documentary films after I bought my first digital video camera in 2003. Let's not forget the one-man-banding, as we used to call it, I did in my first small market job from 1988-1991.

I was MMJ before MMJ was cool.

But, anyway, if you wondered what happened to Meredyth, nothing did. I mean nothing other than getting married, which I grant is a fair distance from nothing but I think you get what I meant. She shall return to her regularly scheduled program and I shall return to a normal sleep schedule.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Medically Necessary?

I'm having a colonoscopy Monday. When I called my insurance company to find out what the co-pay would be, the customer service rep asked if the procedure was medically necessary.

"No, ma'am. This is for fun. I'm having a recreational colonoscopy."

OK, I didn't actually say that. And if you think about it, insurance companies give it to you up the rectum as a routine practice so the question is not as ridiculous as it sounds.

Yes, I know: You're still thinking, as any normal person would, "Medically necessary? Are you kidding? Why else would anyone undergo that procedure — especially the two days of starvation mixed with the intentional overdose of laxatives necessary beforehand?"**

Because insurance company customer service reps are not normal people — they have sticks where their colons would be — I had to explain that the procedure was ordered by my doctor to help him pay his children's tuition at Duke University.

**Now you know how my weekend is shaping up. Want to join me? I have a refrigerator full of fruit juices, Gatorade and root beer. We'll make it a party! Just stay out of my stash of magnesium citrate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm Lazy

No, I didn't forget to blog. I didn't forget that I even had a blog. I, as the title more than suggests, have simply been too lazy to write.

Good morning from the studios of WFTS-TV, Ch. 28, in Tampa, where as far as I know typing this does not violate the station's computer policy. The station has a Facebook page and numerous Twitter pages, including @tampabaytraffic, which I am charged with updating when I'm here, so I know the station uses social media. I don't know if something as old school as what blogs have become still counts.

I am in the midst of a nine day stretch filling in for the station's morning traffic reporter, Meredyth Censullo, who is honeymooning in the Mediterranean.

(Pause to congratulate myself for correctly spelling Mediteranean.)

My performance has not been flawless but I have not committed any gaffes worthy of YouTube infamy. This, despite rustiness from little on air work since leaving WTSP in April and the crushing fatigue that waking at 3:20 a.m. causes.

That's when I get to sleep even that late. I awoke at 2:22 a.m. today to the sounds of the cat hacking up a fur ball. That's the second time in a week Annie has made sure that even the paltry four to five hours of sleep I get will not come uninterrupted.

(Pause to congratulate myself for correctly spelling uninterrupted.)

(Pause again to consider that I better double check that because I see that Internet Explorer doesn't spell check like Firefox does.)

(Pause one more time to breathe a sigh of relief that I had not congratulated myself incorrectly, thus rendering myself even more of a doofus that I do already for congratulating myself for spelling.)

I'm not going to worry about whether I have spelled doofus correctly.

Where was I? Right. Talking about cat barf. You probably welcomed the digression. I'm glad that it's only hairballs she's coughing up. The little pretty kitty seemed bonier than I remembered when I returned from my recent trip but she has been eating well and keeping the food down. I'll have to work more hairball control food into her diet.

I have made slow progress on the family documentary story I've been editing. Fifteen of 16 chapters are complete. A couple of them are up on personal-documentary.com, including Chapter One, which is on the home page. The other is the first video you see on the "Watch Our Work" page.

Once I finish the last chapter I have to edit the prologue, which is video I shot of the subjects working their vending tables at Clearwater Pier. I shot that video more than a year ago so despite having a list of the shots, I'm going to have to go back and look through the footage again to see what I have.

The story is coming together well but I need to get some more photographs to better illustrate the story and it might need music in some places.

First, I finish work here and go home for a nap.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Air & Space Museum

My brother Jim and I went to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum at Dulles Airport. Our visit included a 30-minute guided tour that lasted two hours and 20 minutes.

Our guide was very thorough.

He explained that 10% of the Smithsonian's pieces are displayed at its museum in DC, another 10% are on loan to other museums and until the facility at Dulles came along, the rest were stored in a Maryland warehouse.

Now they're not. Here are a few shots, including some of the Enola Gay, one of the Concorde and one of a bald guy somehow related to me who turns 42 next week.



On the drive to and from the museum from my brother's place, we drove on Rt. 50 past one of our childhood neighborhoods in Chantilly, Va.

Pictures from the Road

As my brain slowly regains normal function after an arduous two weeks working on the road, I'll try to extract interesting tidbits from the trip to share.

One of the aims of the Legal Rebels Tour was to incorporate many different kinds of media in the daily updates. Besides the video I shot, the ABA Journal folks wrote text posts, uploaded volumes of photos to their Flickr account and made photo slideshows using a free online service called Animoto.

Simply choose which photos you want in what order, pick your song and Animoto does the rest. Here's an example from the last day of the tour. I took only one of the photos. I did, however, provide the music.



A lot of the services the ABA Journal incorporated into the trip cost little or no money, including the Animoto and YouTube. Their Flickr account costs about $25 a year.



They also incorporated a Google service called Latitude, which uses GPS information from your cell phone to plot your exact location on a map. You can embed the map on your page, as seen on the main Legal Rebels Tour page.

Google Latitude could also come in handy for tracking wandering politicians like Gov. Mark Sanford.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Twitter Gag

Media outlets often decry the lack of transparency in the organizations they cover. This is ironic since they seem not to grasp the concept.

An editor at the Washington Post expressed personal opinions on his Twitter feed and the paper responded by closing the curtain on staffers' personal expressions on social media.

This post on PaidContent.org includes the complete text of the new policy, which the Post did not reveal itself.

In the Post's view, the problem is that Raju Narisetti, one of its two managing editors, tweeted, “We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not but we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.”

And: “Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from ‘standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.”

That's not the problem. The problem is that the Post apparently believes that keeping its employees' biases secret from the public is how to maintain a pretense of objectivity in its reporting.

All journalists worth the the title try to keep their opinions out of their stories. But one's worldview can't help but shape their vision of stories.

Revealing reporters' and editors' personal views better informs readers about stories. Few even reasonably observant people still believe that any but the most basic who/what/where stories are free of bias.

It's not a conspiracy to spin stories a certain way. It's that pure objectivity is impossible because, like beauty, objectivity is in the eye of the beholder.

The problem, and this may be the fear of many news outlets, would be if openness about personal opinion revealed that an overwhelming percentage of the staff shared the same biases. But that, too, is something readers should know.

Lift the veil. Open the curtain. Let in the light. Transparency is good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Greetings From a Tired Traveler

Greetings from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., as my freelance job with the American Bar Association's ABA Journal continues. It's Tuesday, which I know because I checked. Otherwise the days have been tough to track.

Some of the days have been long. Yesterday was one. We had a shoot in Manhattan yesterday afternoon, got in the SUV and drove here to D.C. The editing, rendering and uploading took until nearly 3 a.m. because we decided to post a 30-minute conversation in its near entirety.

That takes time. But it was worth it. It featured Steve Brill, who if you're interested in media at all, is always worth the listen. So here you go.

Part One:



Part Two:



Part Three:



The interviewer was David Lat, creator of the legal tabloid blog AboveTheLaw.com. Roughly 600,000 people generate 8-10 million page views a month to that site, which is at least half a dozen more than this blog gets.

Lat was an interesting guy, which we don't get a great sense of since he was content to let Brill do almost all the talking and Brill was more than content to do all the talking. The Legal Rebels Tour website focuses on Lat and his role in new journalism, legal-related or not.

The editor and publisher of the ABA Journal, Ed Adams, gave me a mention on that same website.

The salient point:

Maybe the smartest decision we made before hitting the road was to hire John McQuiston, a freelance videographer with extensive experience both in front and behind the camera at local TV news operations, as our video guru. He’s made rank amateurs look semi-pro.

Unfortunately, the effort to earn such plaudits has made it difficult for me to put my own thoughts together for you to read here. So my apologies for the scattered thoughts and lack of story. Right now the 140 character limit that Twitter allows is the extent of my coherence.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Going to Letterman

Going down Broadway yesterday as I walk from Central Park to the Museum of Modern Art, I stop to take a picture of the Ed Sullivan Theater, where David Letterman tapes his show. The front door was open. I go in and see that they're signing people up for the ticket lottery to see a taping of the show. It's free so I sign up for tonight's show.

We're starting work early Monday so if it goes as planned, I'll be finished in time to go. I take the clipboard the assistant gives me and put my name and contact info and the date and time of the show I can attend. Dave tapes two shows on Monday and takes Friday off.

After I hand the assistant (probably an intern) the clipboard back, she asks me some questions. How often do I watch the show? Not often, I'm dumb enough to confess. What parts of the show do you like -- any of the bits? Mostly I like the monologue and Dave's interaction with the guests.

If I'm not disqualified yet, I'm sure I will be when she asks if my phone has voice mail. I don't know. I'm using a borrowed BlackBerry Sprint gave us because it is one of the sponsors of the project I'm on. I assure her that if someone calls, I will answer because the phone is always on me, and I point to it hanging on my belt.

She writes "not sure if he has voicemail" on my form and I figure that will doom my chances. She thanks me and says someone will call if I get a ticket. Like it matters. It's a TV show I rarely even watch. I like Dave but if I don't get in, it won't break my heart.

I go on to MoMA and forget about it. I'm in the museum, wondering how long I have to stay to justify the $20 admission ticket, when the phone rings. It's CBS, which I know because the same number shows up on caller ID when CBS News calls me, however infrequently, to do freelance work.

Believe it or not, that's who I thought it was. Never mind that I've had this phone for a week and it's going back in another week, I thought something had happened in Tampa and the CBS Early Show wanted me to go to the scene.

It is not, as I'm sure you realize more quickly than I did. It's the Letterman show. They're calling to tell me that I've won a ticket and to give me instructions on where and when to show up.

It happens that we start work early today so I'm going to finish in time to go.

Absent

So much for my grand plans to document my northeast adventure in photos, videos and, of course, volumes of verbiage here on the blog. I have been shooting video and photos -- though I did not bring my SLR with me for lack of luggage space and I will not make that mistake again if I have to carry the camera in a body cavity -- but time to put all the material together and detail it has been elusive.

I have worked long hours on most days, though it has gotten better here in New York, in part because our subjects have been only a short cab ride away so we're not spending significant parts of the day commuting.

I'll write more here when time and thought permit. Meantime, I am posting regularly on Twitter @ JohnMcQuiston and on my Facebook page @ facebook.com/John.McQuiston.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Legal Rebels Tour - First Video

I'm told that today was, in fact, the first day of the Legal Rebels Tour. Yesterday involved no touring, I guess, and no interviews with any of the people the ABA Journal has identified as Legal Rebels.

So it didn't count. And yet there's a video to show for it. This is from Sunday, the day we landed to begin, but did not launch, the Legal Rebels Tour.



If you were looking for me, sorry to disappoint. I'm working behind the scenes on this one. You did hear me narrate the opening but this is the ABA's show and the folks you saw in that video are the ones you're going to see if you follow the Tour online at LegalRebels.com/tour.

If you are supernaturally bored, at times we are riding in our rented Lincoln Navigator, you can watch a live webcam stream of our travels. That's right — you can watch people ride in a car! Live on your computer!

At least you will know where I am.

The other three people are Ed Adams, Editor and Publisher of the ABA Journal, Molly McDonough, the Managing Editor of the ABAJournal.com and Rachel Zahorsky, a reporter for both the print and online versions of the ABA Journal.

And because I have to go edit now, I don't have time to ensure that I spelled their names properly.

Legal Rebels Tour - Day One

It's actually day two now but yesterday began with a 4:30 am alarm setting, a 7:10 am flight to Boston and ended when I finished editing the first day's tour diary at 8:20 pm. I planned to shoot and post my own video diary but I hope you'll forgive my laziness this one time. As opposed to all the times you haven't forgiven it.

We begin today in Lexington, Mass. Forget Lexington and Concord and all that American Revolution stuff. The youngest of my three travel companions from the ABA summed up 21st Century perspective when we passed the sign announcing our entrance into town. "So this is where Matt Damon's from."

(The young lady who uttered that is very bright -- went to graduate school AND law school.)

Lexington is full of history but not so full of restaurants, and we wondered if people here still grew their own food as we drove our rented Lincoln Navigator in a fruitless (and vegetable-less) search for food until we finally passed a small cluster of downtown shops that included eateries. I'm sure that Molly was not distracted by hunger -- or fatigue -- when she nearly crushed another car while swerving the Navigator across traffic into a parking space.

Sprint is one our sponsors and it has loaned me the very cool Blackberry on which I laboriously type this while I pass time I should be using to sleep but, for reasons unknown, cannot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Takeoff

5:50 a.m. I'm at gate E69 at Tampa International Airport. It's me and a guy in a Red Sox cap currently waiting to board the 7:10 Delta flight to Boston. I don't think I'll be lucky enough for the plane to be that empty when it takes off.

Boston is the first leg of something I've mentioned called the Legal Rebels Tour. This means, of course, that I will miss most of the NFL's opening weekend. But sacrifices for the sake of work must be made.

Security was less of a hassle than I thought. Not that I'm particularly suspect but I have a lot of electronic gear in my carry-ons and I expected a thorough inspection.

So I enjoy the free Wi-Fi here until boarding.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Week From Today

I embark on the Legal Rebels Tour next Sunday. There will be four of us on the two-week-long excursion that begins in Boston (after a 7:10 a.m. flight from Tampa for me!), winds south to New Haven, New York City and, finally, Washington D.C.

The other three are from the American Bar Association's ABA Journal. (That's "bar" as in lawyers rather than taverns.*) The tour has its own website LegalRebels.com, which explains much better than I could exactly what a Legal Rebel is and the purpose of the tour. It also has that cool rendering of my photo. You can't even tell that I took it myself in my living room.**

I'm not sure what three-card monte is but, according to the crew bios page, I'm gambling my meal money on the game so I'll be spending any spare time I have on the tour learning how to play.

Editors. God love 'em! The rest of my bio was the one I provided. They were kind enough to leave in the mention of personal-documentary.com so maybe a curious onlooker will stumble onto my site from there.

*Sorry, Jim.

**Photo enhancement by BeFunky.com.

Dear St. Petersburg Times

I applaud you for offering video coverage of high school football largely abandoned by the local television stations, but your efforts demonstrate why you can't just hand a microphone to anyone and expect professional results.

To get to the first game story in the example below, a viewer must suffer through two bits of on-camera awkwardness, the first of which even a cameo by the classy Tony Dungy can't rescue.



I hope other viewers got through more of that than I did. I know times are tough and you don't have the budget to hire professionals to tell video stories. So I offer some consulting tips to your reporters free of charge.

  1. Microphones may seem too sophisticated for a novice to operate but they are not. Simply point them toward the person speaking. I did not realize that this took practice to master but you have not yet perfected this skill.
  2. If you are not funny, do not try to be funny. Oh, people will laugh. But for the wrong reasons.
  3. If you are not funny, do not ask celebrities willing to do cameos to play along with your bits. Viewers will feel embarrassed for the guest and antipathy toward you.
  4. If you are not funny, do not ask the athletes you are covering to play along with your bits. Viewers will feel embarrassed for the athletes and antipathy toward you.*
  5. If you are not funny — and even if you are, which is not an immediate danger here — keep the bits short. They won't be any less painful to watch but at least the discomfort will end sooner.
  6. Don't mumble your narration over the highlights. I understand that the whole video thing was probably not your idea and you're only doing it because your editor told you that there are a hundred hungry journalists waiting in line for your job if you don't want it and that the effort you put into writing and recording the narration is whatever you have left after writing the version of the game story that will appear in the paper. But it doesn't have to sound like that.
    *Also, there are no circumstances under which you should do a bit in which your legs are spread and your crotch is pointed at the camera.

I'm sure more thoughts would have occurred to me had I been able to watch more but to share them I'd have to charge a consulting fee. You don't want to pay consultants.

That would make you just like TV stations, who have to pay people to tell their reporters how to do their jobs because they are too cheap to hire professionals who already know.

If you get nothing else out of this, please, please remember the crotch at the camera thing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anchors to Skank-ers

I can't take credit for the headline. It came from The Latest Word blog in Denver. See, the two apparently aspiring Playboy Playmates are actually television news anchors posing on the September cover of Denver Magazine.

Did their bosses at KDVR-TV recoil in horror when they saw it? Fire them for violating their contracts' morals clause? Accuse them of bringing "the station into public disrepute, contempt and ridicule"?

No. They put more images from the photo shoot on the station's website.

Any publicity is good publicity, right? At least no one will accuse them of knowing what the Enola Gay is.

Granted KDVR appears to target the Jerry Springer audience and you do have to shout your to be heard over the chorus of crying children in the double-wide. The station's sassy attitude shows up in the poll question on KDVR.com asking what suspended Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall should wear to the season's opening game.

The answer choices are:
      * A Denver Broncos jersey
      * Some other team's jersey
      * A diaper
We're not talking about people who claim to be carrying on Walter Cronkite's legacy here. So it's not a terrible surprise that the collective response, as summarized by Denver Post television critic Joanne Ostrow, is, "so what?"

True enough, as more people share more of themselves on line — through blogs, Facebook and Twitter — and as TV stations use those same tools to try to reach their audiences, stations are going to have to allow employees more freedom to express themselves outside of station controlled outlets.

That's quite a change since 2003 when I had to insist on language inserted into my contract with WCPO-TV that allowed me to have my JohnMcQuiston.com website. The standard contract specifically prohibited employees from having any web presence without the general manager's approval.

I don't know how a station could do that now.

Who knows? If audiences don't mind, stations will grow more tolerant of people's extra-journalism pursuits — especially since they don't seem all that encouraging of their journalism pursuits. Maybe one local TV weather guesser won't need to hide a co-starring role in the movie "Assault of the Killer Bimbos."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Don't Forget Your Tripod

And that's your photo tip of the day. I failed to bring my three-legged helper on a shoot this morning at Tampa's Lettuce Lake Park. I went with other members of the Riverview Digital Photography Meetup Group.



The long path leads to...



Spiders!

I put a slide show of more images on my photo blog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yes, He's Obviously the Problem

KTVE-TV in West Monroe, Louisiana fired a news anchor for a Facebook post. Photo from that party when he should not have tried the mushrooms? Something racist? Sexist? Something embarrassing to his station?

Sort of.

According to the Dead Pelican (how's that for a source!), Griffin Scott wrote August 14 that he "knew what the Enola Gay was and that makes me the only person under 40 who knew that in our newsroom. Not sure whether to be proud or not."

Five days later KTVE fired Scott, making it unanimous that no one in that newsroom under 40 knows what the Enola Gay was. His termination letter explained that his comment, "brought the station into public disrepute, contempt and ridicule and that it is otherwise jeopardizing the success of the station and the company."

Of course. Because the disrepute, contempt and ridicule heaped on the station could not possibly come from having a newsroom full of people who don't know what the Enola Gay was* but, if forced to guess, would say it had something to do with same-sex marriage.

No, the problem is obviously the guy who pointed it out. What have I said about TV stations being like the emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes? For them, it is perfectly OK for the emperor to stand there naked as long as everyone nods in unison about how fine his clothes look.

It's that kid, who points and says, "the emperor's naked!" who ruins everything.

So instead of doing anything to address the issue that really does cause people to view TV newscasts as an unintentional comedy of errors, the station fires the guy who didn't know he was blowing the big secret.

Talk about shooting the messenger. Whistleblower laws should cover this guy.

*If you don't know what the Enola Gay was**, Google is your friend.

**A nitpicker pointed out that the plane still exists. However since the act which made it famous and its active use ended more than 60 years ago, the verb tense in its context is correct.

You Shouldn't Wear This Haircut, Either

Video explaining what not to wear to the gym.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Catching Up & the $80K Personal Documentary

Stuff has been happening. I've been too lazy to document it here.

Let's see... I'm vice president of my homeowner's association. After the election, the new board members were asked to stand up and we received a round of applause. I said, "We should enjoy it now. That will be the last time anyone applauds the board."

Sure enough, it's been a lot of work. I volunteered to create and write a community blog, which is where my online writing has been directed recently. If you want to read about parking issues and Chinese drywall (which, fortunately, my unit does not have) visit the St. Charles Place blog.

I've got a freelance job coming up next month with the American Bar Association. Its magazine, the ABA Journal, wants to integrate video into its website more. Some of the details are still secret but I'll be doing some traveling and producing video pieces from the road for a project called the Legal Rebels Tour.

That, in turn, has made me fear that my laptop with which I'll need to edit the video pieces will explode at some point during the trip so I've been shopping for a new one. I thought about buying a small emergency backup camera too but I might trust my Canon GL2 to continue its reliable service.

I've made significant headway (more than 21 minutes) editing the family documentary I've been working on. There are a couple of clips up on personal-documentary.com if you're curious to see them.

They interweave historical archive footage that puts the subjects' lives in context of their time. I need to do a better job about asking people about events that were current at various points in their lives.

Speaking of personal documentaries, I came across an article in the street.com about a Chicago TV news anchor who has started a similar business. Only he charges $80,000 and up per project!

I'm glad to publicity for the personal documentary. The more people hear about it, the more interest it generates for all businesses who create them. But I'd hate for people to think that if they're not spending $80,000 they're not getting a quality production.

I can produce them for less than a quarter of that. Like company featured in the article, I shoot and edit them with broadcast quality high definition equipment. I even have a background as a television news reporter, though not in as high profile a job as Robert Jordan, who anchors news for WGN-TV, and I would match the quality of my personal documentaries with any I've seen anywhere -- and, believe me, I have looked.

If you find evidence to the contrary, please point it out to me. I'd like to see what I can do better.

And, lastly, I've even played some guitar lately.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pennsylvania & New Jersey Gardens

Here are more images from my recent trip to Pennsylvania. They include some of the gardens I shot, their designer, her cat and a table in her house. This is a downsized version of the slide show and the compression has slightly distorted some of the images. See it normal size on my photo blog.


Friday, August 07, 2009

OK, I'm Back

Not that you were waiting.

I just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania that was part business, part pleasure. While there I designed and built a website for a friend's landscape architecture business. I took all the photographs for the site except for three "before" pictures.


Click Image to View Larger Size

That's the gallery page. I was really pleased how the whole site turned out. My friend wanted something simple and elegant. We agree that she got it. I'm not an expert website builder but I know enough HTML, CSS and Flash to get by. It helped to have some stunning scenery to photograph.


I also attended a reunion gathering for members of my high school's swim team. Everybody and their brothers were there. At least everybody who graduated in my class who was on the team. Even my brother. One of them, anyway.

Some of them I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. It was good to see them again. Even better since no one tried to fit into a Speedo.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Camera Found

I played golf with my father today. When I met him at my parents' house, I saw a small case on a bureau by the front door. Inside was a little Canon SD500 point-and-shoot camera I thought I had lost. I had actually left it inside my dad's SUV probably on some previous golf outing.

It must have sat in there for two or three months. Its battery still held a charge and its memory card still held empty space. So at the risk of leaving it in his SUV again, I brought it with me when we played at Lake Jovita in San Antonio.

That's Dad in the video with his golfing buddy Steve making a couple of cameos.



Yeah, the video's not great and the audio has a background hum. The LCD screen is fried so I have to use the tiny eyepiece to frame shots. The camera zoom function doesn't work any more, either, at least not shooting video. And the camera is difficult to hold still. But since I had given up the camera for lost, it's like I got a new one. And I like being able to shoot video with something that's about the size of a cigarette pack.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Now Here's Some Journalism

If you think television news is a vast refuge for the vacuous, homeland of fluff peddlers and capable of nothing greater than relating the superficial and superfluous, take this from the Fox affiliate in Los Angeles, California, USA:



Now that's journalism!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Ybor City Shooting

Yes, I know. I should find a new venue. I had signed up for an event called the Worldwide Photowalk. Scott Kelby, a photographer who writes digital photography and Photoshop books, hatched the idea as a book promotion. It now includes 24,000 camera toters in events around the world.

(My Firefox spellcheck is telling me that "toters" is not a word. It also believes that "spellcheck" is not a word. Hmph! Don't make me go back to Internet Explorer!)

Anyway. After last week's walk with the Riverview Digital Photography Meetup Group (glad I don't have to put that on a business card!), I didn't want to shoot in the middle of a Florida July afternoon at a place I've already shot numerous times.

But I had signed up. And, if nothing else, I show up when I say I'm going to show up. Give or take ten minutes. I knew there would be more people about at 4 p.m. than at 8 a.m. but I need to take more initiative about asking people if I can photograph them. I missed some good people shots.

Yet my fixation with railroad tracks continues. Here are a few of the vertically oriented shots.



Instead of the copyright notice © I finally thought to use that space to plug my photography website, photoquist.com. I'll learn me this marketing stuff yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Secret Outback Blacklists

I'm going to have to resist using exclamation points after every sentence as I write this. It really is that outrageous.

I stumbled across an entry in a Canadian law blog that may be the next site added to the blacklist in question.

The Australian government -- yes, Australia, not China or Myanmar but Australia! -- plans to ban more than 1,300 websites. More than that, it wants to prohibit even linking to them.

"That’s not just like banning books," writes blog author Ezra Levant. "It’s like banning books, and banning saying the banned book’s title."

Right now it's only a pilot program with cooperation by Internet service providers. But if this voluntary test run works, it could become law, for which violators would risk a fine of $11,000. Per day!

That's not the best part. In a Catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller proud, and maybe Adolph Hitler too, the Aussie authorities won't reveal what sites are on the blacklist. That would, of course, be against the law. So you can't know that you've broken the law until you're arrested for doing it.

I'm guessing most of the sites are NSFW and many may be illegal. But how would you know? The blacklist was compiled in secret. Unless it leaked, which it has. The website Wikileaks.org published the entire list.

And I was right. There are a lot of sites whose very names will turn your stomach with disgust. Then there are sites like cdpoker.com and fulltiltpoker.com, which are online poker sites. Not my thing but worth banning? Oops. Linking to those sites myself might have earned me place on the blacklist as well as an $11,000 fine. Today.

If I lived in some backwoods bush like Australia, that is.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which apparently has more time to scan the list -- and less fear of what its links might lead to -- than I do, found a dentist's website. The article points out the problem when perfectly innocuous sites make the blacklist: Their owners get lumped in with the child pornographers and other criminals because some bureaucrat somewhere, who doesn't have to answer for his actions, added them to the list, perhaps accidentally.

Incredible. If this actually becomes law you wonder:

Can the Sydney Witch Trials be far behind?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too Funny!

Does the headline and verbiage in the screen capture below look familiar? (Click on it to see it normal size.) If not, scroll down a few entries on this blog.


I'm going to let them figure this one out on their own.

See the copy on their website here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Feed Me!" Purr

You know cats purr when they're happy. And I've read where cats will also purr when they're distressed to calm themselves -- it's even been reported in cats who are in labor. "Reverse purring," I call it when I think Annie's doing it.

Now some British researchers say that cats have different purrs for different occasions. And that people can tell them apart. Video from the Associated Press via the St. Petersburg Times website.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On the Map

Along Hill Brady Road in Battle Creek, Michigan, you'll find an industrial park that you enter by turning onto McQuiston Drive. No kidding!


View Larger Map
Unfortunately, the park is home to an auto parts plant that is shutting down.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dear TBO.com -- AGAIN!

An item on your website (http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/jul/12/shot-in-ybor-city-97713/) was copied in whole from an entry on my blog (http://mcqueue.blogspot.com/2009/07/shot-in-ybor-city.html).

Brief excerpts are welcome with a link to the rest of the article or essay on my blog. Please edit the item on your site accordingly.

At least this time you couldn't swipe the photo slide show.

This is the second time this has happened (that I know of) and it needs to stop.

-------------------------

I did send this message, as well as the previous one, to TBO.com staff through the contact page on its website. My website stat counter tells me that someone from Media General (TBO.com's owner, which also owns WFLA-TV and the Tampa Tribune) has seen my original complaint.

Let's see if they act.

Update (7/15/09): TBO.com has removed the posts and promises it is trying to figure out how entire articles were being quoted in its blog roll.

Just Don't Hurt Yourself on Live Television

Bang your toe on the coffee table? The expletive that escapes your lips immediately afterward may help you feel better. I am totally bleeping serious. So are researchers at Keele University in England, who say that you may be able to increase your pain tolerance by swearing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dear TBO.com

An item on your website (http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/jul/08/i-thought-it-was-a-butter-knife-57773/) was copied in whole from an entry on my blog (http://mcqueue.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-thought-it-was-butter-knife.html).

Brief excerpts are welcome with a link to the rest of the article or essay on my blog. Please edit the item on your site accordingly.

Shot in Ybor City

Just photos. I went to the historic Ybor City section of Tampa this morning to take pictures. I didn't have a model this time, though I caught at least one bum still sleeping off the night before. I'm not sure that counts as someone posing.

There's something about shooting places that are often crowded while they're empty. Ybor City is party town Friday and Saturday and probably a lot of other nights, a fact which you can smell the following morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Guess United Didn't Count on the Guy Havning Another Guitar

A Canadian musician who says United Airlines heavily damaged a $3,500 guitar, gave him the runaround and ultimately gave him the finger when he complained is getting the last laugh.

And more. He turned his tale of woe into a tune of wow -- as in an Internet sensation with more than 600,000 hits on YouTube so far.



According to the Associated Press (via MSNBC), Taylor, the maker of the guitar, has offered to try to restore the damaged instrument. And -- guess what? -- now United wants to make it up to him.

Now?!?!?

Would this be the PR equivalent of locking the barn doors after the horses have escaped? When will these morons learn? It's not enough now that any disgruntled customer can vent his frustrations about you on his blog and create a stain on your reputation that you may never rub out of Google searches.

You have to tee off a guy who writes songs for a living? A guy who, enraged and inspired, can create a sensation that makes you look like a colossal jerk in front of the whole world? OK, so it's only 1% of the world so far but this viral party may just be getting started. Oprah wants him on her show.

That's what these idiots have to grasp who don't care about their customers. It used to be that if you screwed one guy, who cared? How many people could he tell?

Now?!?!?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Motivation

I mentioned my struggle writing the family documentary on which I'm working. How's this for a kick in the pants: I got an e-mail from a St. Petersburg Times reporter who stumbled across my personal documentary site (www.Personal-Documentary.com, if you don't know) and thought it might make a good story idea.

Although I'm happy with the site now, if I could get a couple clips from this current project up there, it would make an even better impression on anyone who visited. Should I get a mention in the Times, that should bring a lot of traffic. It would be good to have my best foot forward.

It might not happen. I confessed in reply to the reporter that I had not started marketing the business and I did not yet have any paying customers. I did include several possible angles for her to pursue if she was not deterred by my opening admission.

In fact, there they are:
First, in the YouTube era people are much more conscious about capturing and sharing themselves on video. A personal documentary is a richer ore in the same vein. People can have their life stories professionally told and preserved on video. They're also using more multi-media in the events of their lives.

Wedding receptions now feature "how they met" film clips. Funeral services often include a memorial tribute video. Anniversary celebrations and birthday parties, including bar and bat mitzvahs, are now sometimes incomplete without the "how they got to this point" video.

Those who would not subject their friends or loved ones to sitting through home movies can hire someone like me who can turn a rambling recollection of memories in to a memorable film.

Second, the same advances in technology that have made consumer grade equipment better and easier to use have also brought professional equipment into more people's price range. Camera and editing equipment that would have required a second mortgage on my house just a decade ago cost me less than $10,000. It has already paid for itself in freelance work.

What that means is that someone like me who knows his way around a camera as well as script writing, narration and editing, can work as a one person crew for smaller jobs. That, in turn, brings the cost of production down into an individual's price range. Not that these productions are cheap. You're talking between $5,000 and $9,000 depending on how complex the project is. But it's still a lot less than if you had to hire a producer, camera person, narrator and editor separately.

Last and probably least, I'm a former TV news and sports reporter looking for a new way to put his video storytelling skills to profitable use. I don't have to tell you how the media landscape is changing and how many people displaced from traditional media outlets have to find other places to ply their trades. The term "enterprising reporter" may now entail a different kind of enterprising.

I tell people's stories. This is my enterprise.

I'll let you know if I hear anything back.

My personal documentary site as well as JohnMcQuiston.com are both getting traffic from links embedded in e-mails. While I do now include both sites in my e-mail signature, I don't think that can account for it. The visitors are coming from places, according to my StatCounter, where I have not sent e-mails.

That means that some good soul is spreading word around about my sites for me. I'm curious to know who and why. And I'd like to say thank you.

I Thought It Was a Butter Knife

I gashed my left index finger open while slicing a bagel Monday. Perhaps low on concentration after the 3:30 a.m. wakeup call to report traffic on WFTS that morning. It looked like a closed eye weeping blood.

It felt like I had gashed my finger open with a knife.

I was visiting my parents at the time and luckily my mother has more Band-Aids than Walgreen's. A little Neosporin first and I was good to go. You can golf without your left index finger. At least you can do my approximation of golf without it. Same for playing piano.

Guitar? Not so much.

No such mishaps on the air at WFTS, though. That was the good news. I had a highlight during one of the local cut-ins we do during ABC's Good Morning America. A semi truck had crashed, overturned and caught fire on I-75 near Brooksville, about 50 miles north of Tampa. The wreckage blocked both the southbound lanes all morning.

The station's helicopter pilot had done reports from the scene but had to fly back to Tampa to refuel. The earpiece that lets the producer talk to me was working intermittently so I caught only that "we don't have Captain Al." I knew we had recorded video but didn't know if I was supposed to talk about it or not.

The anchor tosses to me. I show the location of the accident on the map and say casually, "we may have video of the scene." That's a cue to them to roll tape if they have it but I keep going in case they don't. A couple seconds later, the tape pops up and I smoothly explain that the cleanup continues as well as the investigation into the crash that killed the truck driver.

It looked it went according to script. Only there was no script.

I still know how to do this.

Progress on the family documentary project I'm trying to write is slow. I don't know why. I still know how to do this, too, but it's a task making myself sit there and plow through it. I don't have a deadline but I do need to get the project done so I can add excerpts to my Personal-Documentary.com website.

It's time to get going on this.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The $151 Photograph

Business is slow enough that the free in freelance is time. I was glad when I got a chance to do some volunteer work for the WUSF Radio Reading Service. I was less glad when I took a wrong turn on the way there, drove over a sidewalk and got a $151 citation from the USF campus police. $151 I could have spent on something I wanted.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Afterward I went to the USF Botanical Garden. I had brought my camera thinking I'd try to snap some shots in the butterfly garden. Of course, by the time I got finished with the police and did my reading, it was after 4 p.m. I stiffed them on the $5 entrance fee. I have already pledged enough to the university for one day.

So the picture below of the largest insect I have ever seen cost me $151 to take. I don't even know what it is. I just noticed a funny looking yellow color on a flower and went to investigate.


Trust me, that bug may have been three inches long.

It could have been worse. I got rained on and rushed back to my car. As I sat waiting to see if the rain would pass, I noticed two people coming out of the botanical gardens' gift shop and head to the the only two other cars in the lot.

That's when I realized the place was closing. Had the rain not sent me fleeing to my car I'd have been locked inside the gardens until 9 a.m. tomorrow. Just late enough to completely miss my shift doing the traffic at WFTS.

I can't afford to miss any paying work. I have a check to write. At least I won't have trouble finding time in my schedule to go to traffic school.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Was Once Me

And it could be you! Back in 2006, I answered an ad similar to this one on craigslist* and later became the fill-in traffic reporter at WTSP-TV. The station gets its traffic information, as well as the person who delivers it on the air, from NAVTEQ Traffic subject to the approval of the station's news director.
Reply to: job-yrxfu-1239208693@craigslist.org
Date: 2009-06-25, 1:13PM EDT

Job Opening: On-Air TV Traffic Reporter – Part-Time
Location: Tampa

NAVTEQ Traffic is the leading provider of personalized real-time traffic information for drivers across the U.S. Currently we are seeking ambitious, intelligent TV professionals who want to join our winning team. The TV Traffic Reporters serve as an information provider and personality for local News Programming in top markets across the country.

Traffic or Weather experience is preferred, but a great personality and previous on-air experience can go a long way.

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 respond with a traffic demo and resume ASAP.

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

WFLA-TV also gets its traffic from the same company. I don't know for which station the lucky contestant would ply his or her trade. Right now, both WTSP and WFLA use voice-over only talent as fill-ins when their on-camera traffic reporters are absent.

WTVT (Fox 13) does the same thing and that's what WFTS did before it hired me to back-up Meredyth Censullo. I filled in for a second time today, again without calamity, and I have a few days scheduled in July.

It's difficult getting into any rhythm when I'm on so rarely but what I lack in practice I make up with focus. When you're on every day and multiple times each one you can get sloppy. It's not intentional; you just don't pay as close attention to everything as you should. When it could be weeks, months, or — in one case at WTSP — nearly a full year before your next appearance, you tend to value the opportunity more.

Plus, you don't want to go a year replaying a blooper-reel moment in your head.

*I buried the lead. An apparently legitimate ad appearing on craigslist!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Most Editors Are Failed Writers

So are most writers.

- T.S. Eliot

This Makes Four

I survived my first day of fill-in work at WFTS-TV without producing any material for the station's blooper reel. That, as always, is the primary goal. The job was substituting for traffic anchor Meredyth Censullo on the station's morning show. Long-time blog readers will think, "Hey! Didn't you fill in for her when she was on WTSP's morning news show?"

Yes, I did. And when it became official that I was going to follow her from there to WFTS, I asked her not to get a job in another city because I don't want to move.

I awoke at 3:12 this morning — twelve minutes before the time I set on the alarm and three hours after I had finally drifted off to sleep. I wasn't worried about fatigue. Adrenaline and fear, I knew, would power me through the morning.

It's always strange working with a new set of people in a different studio. Adding to the oddity is that WFTS's building resembles the one in which I worked in Cincinnati. Scripps-Howard owns both stations. That eeriness will hang over me for a while, I suspect, especially since this gig will be only a once-in-a-while job.

You always face the wondering by your new, if only occasional, colleagues. "Where did this guy come from and what are we in for?" The station had tried a weather person already on staff as a traffic fill-in. That lasted exactly one apparently disastrous day.

While I wasn't brilliant, it had to become clear to people at the station that they wouldn't have to hold their breath hoping that any traffic mishaps would happen only on the roads and not in the studio. The computer mostly behaved and I mostly knew how to operate it properly.

If you're keeping count, WFTS is the fourth station in Tampa Bay on which I've appeared (WFLA 1997-99, WTTA 2004-05, WTSP 2006-09 and now WFTS) reporting or anchoring either news, sports or traffic. It's my fourth station even if you're not keeping count. I've also done field producing and writing for WEDU-TV, Tampa's PBS affiliate and some fill-in sports talk radio hosting at WDAE-AM.

This list obviously stands as testament to my versatile skill set, immense talent and apparent inability to hold a job.

I'm scheduled to work again Thursday and then several days in July. I probably won't detail a lot of my experiences so that they don't cause me trouble like discussions of my work at WTSP did. I'm trying to work on the "inability to hold a job" bit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

More Times Video

Another decent video effort by the St. Petersburg Times in conjunction with its special report on Scientology. The narration is weak, especially considering it was not read by either of the reporters who collaborated to write the print version or by the woman who produced the video. (Need professional narration? I know a guy.) But it held my attention for its nearly seven minute duration.



You'll notice that it uses music in ways you don't typically hear it in broadcast journalism. You could debate that using music to create moods in a news story introduces an editorial slant.

Another difference between this piece and television stories is the credits at the end that list the contributors as well as the sources of video and photographs. On TV news magazine programs such as "60 Minutes" or NBC's "Dateline," the story's producer, who does most of its research and writing, is sometimes credited with a graphic superimposed over the story for a few seconds but there aren't end credits for each piece.

An end credit is something you can do for an individual web story when you don't have to worry about the pace and flow of a show that needs to keep an audience around for the next segment or, more importantly, the commercial messages that follow.

Backyard Bear in Cleveland

How do you do a TV story about a woman spotting a black bear in her backyard where there is no bear there to be spotted when you are? If you're WJW Fox8 in Cleveland, you do this:

(If the video is disabled, you can see the story on the Fox8 website.)



Call it the Colbertization of news.

Or, as Stephen would say it, the Col-bear-ization.

If you're a station desperately behind in the ratings, I can see taking this attitude toward the news. The danger is that you wind up being the joke rather than telling it. This is hard to do well; you're far more likely to wind up with viewers laughing at you than with you. Another challenge is getting people to agree to do interviews with you once word of what you're going to do to them gets around. Even Colbert is amazed that people will still sit for interviews with him.

Reporters risk their careers if they go in this direction. If they don't make it to the Daily Show, it would be awfully hard to land a job at a traditional station with this stuff on a resume tape. It's less dangerous for photographers who could write in their cover letters, "Please watch the video but ignore the 'journalism.' Wanting to work at a station like yours where they do the news the right way is why I sent you this tape."

You could argue that a bear in the wood behind someone's house is not news at all.

And I could not argue against you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Future of TV News

The future of TV news might not be on TV. Well, duh. Here's the new part: It might not be on TV station websites, either. Go to any TV station website and it's obvious that they haven't figured out what they want their sites to be so they've made it a little bit of everything.

Are they promoting their network programming? Trying to promote their newscasts? Trying to present news on their sites? Trying to monetize them with ads?

They're trying to do all of them. And the results are a mess.

I've long thought that if a TV station was serious about becoming a must-see destination for news and information, it would cut all the clutter and focus on the one thing that's already their specialty: video.

I've done that with my personal and business sites. My niche is telling stories with video. So it makes sense that on JohnMcQuiston.com most of the pages feature a large video window. You don't have to search to find it, you don't have to scroll to reach it. Go to the site and, right on the homepage, there's a video.



Same with Personal-Documentary.com. Half the main content space of every page on the site is a video player.



If showing's what your selling, show them, don't tell them.

One media outlet has beaten TV stations to the punch. And it's a newspaper! The publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, Greenspun Media, has built a video news site called 720.tv.



Notice that the first thing you notice is the video window. It's not buried somewhere down the page. Where are the ads? Why they're embedded in the videos.

A half-hour version of the webcast will air on a local TV station co-owned by the publisher. "The television version of 702.TV is reverse engineered from our Web site," Greenspun Media President and Executive Editor Rob Curley told TV Newsday.

The show may run so-called advertorials or commercial tie-ins but the station expects most of its revenue to come from traditional 30-second commercials, according to the article.

While this is not a hard-news site, it's clearly a model that someone either already in the business of producing video news reports or even one that some enterprising reporters (in more than one sense) with the right equipment and know-how could use to launch a real news site to rival those of local TV stations.

Hmm. As someone once said, stay tuned.

Credit to Mark Joyella's blog, where I first learned of 720.tv.