Blog posts June 2006
I finally got out of bed around 11:30 AM, in time to watch the noon news. Didn't want to miss THAT again!
Just before 12:30, my phone rang. It was work, asking me to come in early. Seems the woman who produces our 5 & 5:30 newscasts could not make it in due to flooding in her neck of the woods. So, the 6PM producer was left all alone.
I got to the station around 1:30 and immediately got thrown into the fray. I coordinated a brief special report around 2 p.m., then set to work writing the 5pm newscast. One of the nitebeat reporters was pressed into service to do the 5:30. The 6pm producer did most of the blocking for those newscasts, then handled her own with help from one of the anchors.
Once I finished writing for the 5, I took over script approval duties from the EP while he coordinated the entire 90 minutes from the control room. Normally, we make every effort to air every paid commercial that's scheduled, even if it means dropping news stories. On Wednesday, we dropped several commercial breaks to accomodate all the news. Sales and Traffic will sort it out later.
For the second night in a row, we expanded our 7pm newscast from 30 minutes to an hour. Our rookie producer jumped in to get that started while the regular producer was busy evacuating from the evacuation zone. That woman eventually made it in and got to work on the 7.
7pm was about the time I left work to head home. My house is also in the evacuation zone. So, I came home, picked up a few clothes, and rounded up my dog (KT) and my parents' dog (the evil Chrissy), and went back to the station. I made arrangements to spend the night at a co-worker's house, and her husband was nice enough to come to the station and get the dogs so we could go back to work on the 11pm newscast.
All I'm going to say about that is "Thank goodness for Powerball!" Because of the Powerball drawing, the 11pm newscast actually starts at 11:01 on Wednesdays. Last night, that extra minute made ALL the difference, as it gave my crew in the field just enough time to send back their story and set up for the live shot at the top of the newscast.
(BTW, the reporter was on the Market Street Bridge, not far from where the crew from ABC's Nightline was set up. When he got back to the station I asked if he had seen their reporter, Vicky Mabry. He said no, but her saw her co-workers.)
Just by reading this, it may be difficult to get a sense of what it's actually like to be in a television newsroom when a major news event is in progress. For the past two days, the phone has practically not stopped ringing. Especially on Tuesday, the number of phone calls was overwhelming. Many of the calls were from people who wanted to let us know about flood damage where they live. Some called to say, basically, "Why don't you send a crew here? Don't you care about us?" Or, "Why aren't you giving the river level for this part of the Susquehanna?" Some callers wanted to know if a specific road was closed. Department heads, the GM, people from Sales, Traffic, and Promotions have all spent hours in the newsroom helping to answer those phone calls and answer questions the best they could. Their help made it possible for the news department to get newscasts on their air.
The answers to a lot of questions viewers had could be found on our WEBSITE. Our web team worked around the clock, in shifts - to continuously update information regarding road closings, school cancellations, and the locations of emergency shelters. We also crawled much of that same information at the bottom of the TV screen. The website also provided useful links, such as river levels, and we posted a good deal of video. Viewers sent in hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures of flooding and damage, and we used many of those pictures on our newscasts.
I must also point out the effort that people who don't usually "do news" have made. On Tuesday, our main sports anchor did a very good story about flooding in West Pittston. On Wednesday, he scored again, this time at a flooded-out Shawnee-on-Delaware. Not to be outdone, another member of the sports department shot video in Schuylkill County on Tuesday night, then came back Wednesday night with a fantastic story from Susquehanna County. The guys from Pennsylvania Outdoor Life were dispatched to Pike County on Wednesday. And, our former sports director, who now works in another department, put together a story from the northern tier. That's all in addition to the regular news reporters and photographers, who have been turning two or three stories a day plus live shots.
And, of course, at the center of it all has been our team of meteorologists. They have been called on to do many special reports and take up extra time in the newscasts, all while trying to keep up with the latest information on river levels and the general forecast.
The past two days of flooding coverage have been a total team effort. In fact, a total station effort. And, it's not over yet. Coverage of this flood and its effects will continue in the weeks - and perhaps months - to come.
One other note. No flood damage at my house. The dogs and I made it back, safe and sound. And, even though Wilkes-Barre made it through in pretty good shape, the schedule of bicentennial events for this weekend has been postponed. That includes the Beach Boys concert that was supposed to be 7/3, and a parade on 7/1. I was supposed to drive a station vehicle in the parade. Now, I guess I'll have the whole weekend to rest up.
So, here's how my Tuesday went.
I took my dog to the groomer (I know, I know) in the morning. I picked her up around noon, so I did not get to see the noon newscast.
I went in to work about an hour early in the afternoon because I THOUGHT we were going to have a staff meeting. It wasn't a mandatory meeting, but I decided to go in anyway. ( I know, I know).
I arrived at the station at the same time as one of our night reporters. I asked if she had come in early for the meeting or if she got called in. She said the latter, which is not all that unusual. But, seeing as I hadn't seen the noon newscast, I didn't know why she would have been called in.
As I approached the door, I saw another employee who said the staff meeting had been postponed because of widespread rain and flooding and no one had time for a meeting. It was all starting to make sense now.
No sooner did I walk into the newsroom, then I was assigned to produce some storm coverage cut-ins, complete with video! Seriously, I had barely set down my lunch bag and they were like, "The first cut-in is coming up in 20 minutes."
Not a good day to miss the noon show. I know, I know.
About 13-hours after my day started, it finally ended. Now all we need is for the rain to end.
This was the night the lights went out in Wilkes-Barre. Not the whole city, mind you. Just at the brand-spankin'-new, we've-been-waiting-for-this-for-years, tonight's-the-first-night-we're-open downtown movie theater! Sometime around 8:15 or so, the entire place lost power. One of the PR types called it a "major electrical problem." No kidding.
About 1600 Chamber of Commerce types and their families were there to enjoy the "soft" opening, when they were all told to get out! The power eventually came back on, but the theater cancelled the 9 p.m. shows - just in case the power didn't stay on. Folks only paid $1 to get in, so anyone who still has a ticket stub from tonight will get free admission - and free popcorn - for a movie between Saturday and Wednesday. The rest of us will have to pay the buck - and pay for the popcorn!
Anyway, the theater is not the only new building in the area to have these power problems. The new airport terminal opened last month, and about two days after opening, the entire terminal lost power for a couple of hours! Then, a similar problem happened a week or so ago with a jetway at the terminal.
Way to make an impression. Let's hope this doesn't become a trend ...
UPDATE 6/25/06: On Saturday, theater management blamed the outage on a lightning strike.
Well, it looks as though a deal that would keep people working at the (soon-to-be former) Rolling Rock Brewery in Latrobe is in the works. It appears that InBev USA, which still owns the brewery, and the CITY BREWING COMPANY, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, have signed a deal for exclusive negotiations. The Governor's office also weighed in with THIS news release. So, while it's not a done deal yet, things are looking good - or at least hopeful - for the brewery in Latrobe to remain open and for the 200+ people who work there to remain employed.
I've never heard of City Brewing Company before, but they appear to be very similar to YUENGLING, at least in terms of their original line of beers. If you check out the company link above, you'll notice a link to a news release from the Brewers' Association. Concerning American craft brewers, City Brewing is ranked no. 5, followed by Yuengling at 6. Where they differ, I think, seems to be in terms of age - City Brewing has been around for less than 10 years - and in the fact that City Brewing also takes contracts from other companies - another article on the web site mentions Smirnoff Ice, for example. So, if the deal with InBev goes through, I suppose there's no guarantee that City Brewing would actually brew its line of craft beers in Latrobe. It could use the place to satisfy one or more of its contracts. On the other hand, brewing the craft beers in PA might be a way to expand what appears to be a strong regional brand.
Remember, A-B plans to move production of Rolling Rock to NJ, starting Aug. 1. Stay tuned.
Speaking of A-B, I just noticed THIS little blurb from Reuters, by way of Wonkette. So, what's A_B going to do? Buy some of the great PA wineries and start growing the grapes in NJ?
The NBA finals have finally ended. Thanks to D Wade (no relation) and company for wrapping it up in 6 games and saving the night crew from yet another even late night.
As I've said, I'm no fan of the NBA, but the worst part of last night's game had to be the post-game interviews. Dan Patrick handled the trophy presentation and talked to the owner of the Heat, Pat Riley, Shaq, and D Wade. At one point, Patrick asked Riley a question (can't remember what it was - maybe "What did you tell the team when they were two games down?" or something). Anyway, Riley gave a non-answer answer, choosing instead to talk about the greatness of his team. So, Patrick then asked the question AGAIN, forcing Riley to give his non-answer answer all over again. After that, I half expected Patrick to ask Shaq if he had a message for Kobe!
Anyway, just when you thought those were about the lamest interviews ever, let's go to Stuart Scott with the coach of the Mavs. Scott STARTS by saying to the coach, "You picked a bad time to lose four in a row. What went wrong?" Well, how about that question, for starters. Sheesh! I thought the coach handled it as best he could. Unfortunately, all we in the control room could do was sit there and watch until it was over.
Another late night. Thanks to the NBA finals, my Thursday 11PM newscast actually began at 12:09:20 a.m. on Friday. For the record, that's about 4 minutes earlier than we started after Tuesday's game.
So, now that the series is tied 2-2, it's a guarantee that this coming Tuesday will be another late night, following game 6. Did I mention that I hate the NBA?
So, last night, the State House finally passed a Property Tax Reform bill and sent it on to the Guv. As I understand it, starting in 2007, the state will take $1B in money that will, it's assumed, be generated by slots and use it to give a large number of senior citizens a break on their school property taxes. It appears that these breaks will come in the form of rebates. Again, as I understand it, the bill ups the income limit for seniors who would be eligible for these rebates to $35K, thereby upping the number of seniors eligible for the rebate. I believe the bill also increases the amount of the rebate from $500 to $650. Bottom line, seniors benefit first. Then, once the slots money REALLY starts rolling in, the rest of us may get a break, too.
Whatever. I own property, and I'm not convinced I'll EVER see any benefits from this bill. I reckon that by the time I would be eligible for any of these alleged rebates, whatever money I'd save there will probably be offset by an increase in my county taxes, which I'm sure will go up once the commissioners finally pull the trigger on reassessment. Plus, judging by what some state reps were saying last night, don't be surprised if the state sales tax gets raised in the not too distant future. That idea didn't fly this time, but I'm sure it will be brought up again. Maybe it's just me being my normal, cynical self, but I'm not betting a lot on this tax reform business.
On a related note, I was kind of confused by the way the AP reported the story last night. Unless I'm mistaken, the bill the State House passed is the exact same bill that it DID NOT pass about six-weeks ago! HERE is the history of HB 39. You'll see that the House and Senate could not agree on a plan so, in March, they got a conference committee together. In early May, that committee came up with the plan referred to above. In early May, the Senate passed it. The House was supposed to do it, too, but it never came up for a vote because some reps thought it was unfair. Now, six-weeks later, I gather that not so many feel it's unfair - or at least not so unfair that they can't vote for it.
Anyway, my point is that when the AP reported the story last night, the articles mentioned the conference committee and the senate passage, but NEVER said that all that happened six-weeks ago! The AP made it sound like it could have happened six-hours ago or something. Weird.
I hate basketball. OK. Let me be more specific. I hate the NBA. I especially hate it on nights like last night when my 11PM news didn't go on until 12:13 AM due to the NBA finals. We'll go on late again tomorrow, after game 4. Then game 5 is Sunday. If there's a game 6, it will be next Tuesday. Game 7 would be Thursday.
I don't really care who wins but, at this point, I'm hoping for Dallas in 5. Go Mavs. Yeah.
The "O" is for Oprah and, a couple days ago, the Queen of All Media graced Central PA with her presence. Oprah and her entourage ate dinner at a little place called the Pine Barn. For those of you who don't know, the Pine Barn is just outside Danville, within walking distance of Geisinger Medical Center. The Pine Barn also rents rooms and, in the days when my station used to televise the Children's Miracle Network telethon from Geisinger, I stayed there one or twice. I've also eaten at the Pine Barn, so add that to the very short list of things that Oprah and I have in common.
Oprah and her entourage managed to sneak into the area undetected. I'm not sure exactly what they were doing, or how they happened to pick the Pine Barn. But, I gather that they've been travelling from California to New York, stopping at historic sites (and small restaurants) along the way. As far as I could figure out, Oprah needs to be in New York for Sunday's Tony Awards, something about a play/musical version of "The Color Purple."
Anyway, we didn't know she was coming and neither, apparently, did the Pine Barn. The reservations were under someone else's name. By the time someone tipped us off, Oprah and company were just leaving. We weren't able to get anyone to the Pine Barn for another hour or so, but I thought it was still worth sending someone to do a story - even if her show does air on another station in the market. I mean, it's not every day Oprah comes to town.
Our reporter and photographer did a nice job with the story. They talked to the guys who waited on Oprah and company, talked with a waitress who got a picture with Oprah, and even showed us the very chair where Oprah sat. My favorite part, though, was when the reporter asked one of the waiters if the fork she used would end up on eBay! No, the tip she left was apparently big enough to make selling souvenirs unnecessary. That Oprah, she thinks of everything.
Wow! I didn't see this one coming. Granted, sometimes it's a little hard to see all the way across the pond, but I wouldn't have figured on this. The University of Leeds (in England) is closing Tetley Hall and putting the property up for sale! As far as I can tell, the place is a little run down and the University can't/won't spend the money to fix it.
Tetley is one of the University-owned residence halls. It's in a section of Leeds known as Headingley. You can walk from Tetley to the University in about 20 minutes - if you keep walking as you pass all the pubs that line both sides of the Otley Road.
As you can see HERE, the Hall itself consists of several Victorian houses and a modern block of dorm rooms. When I spent my junior year abroad studying at Leeds, I lived at Tetley Hall, in a section of the modern block known as Woodhouse. I lived on the 4th floor, which was all girls until January, the start of the 2nd term. One of the residents on our floor didn't come back to school after the holidays, and her room was taken over by John, an American grad student from Yonkers. Somewhere, I have a picture of him trying on a dress...
Anyway, that was all about 20 years ago. And now, after more than 50 years, the University is closing Tetley when the academic year ends this summer. Later this month, the Hall hosts its annual garden party, and all the Tetleyites are invited back for a final look 'round. A trip to Leeds is not in my immediate future, so I'll have to skip it.
But, I'll never forget:
- when Anne, Jackie, and I used green trash bags and caps made of cardboard to dress up as cans of Tetley Bitter for the Halloween fancy dress disco. We won second place and, I think, some chocolates.
- when movie night in the Junior Common Room featured "Grease". The room was packed and everyone sang along to every song. "Tell me more..."
- when I helped design the set for the Hall production of "Pirates of Penzance." Take white sheets, dye them tan, then hang them over a row of tables standing on end. Looks like a beach, doesn't it?
- when everyone sang carols at the holiday formal meal. I knew the words, but what in the hell tunes were they using?
- when a certain resident of W4 would get a phone call from her boyfriend in Canada (who she met in Africa while teaching lepers how to knit. I swear, I am not making that up. And, just to avoid confusion, the boyfriend was not a leper). Then, after they hung up, she would run up and down the corridor yelling, "He called! I can't believe he called!"
- when, after seeing "Top Gun," this same certain resident made a habit of running up and down the corridor yelling, "I feel the need, the need for speed!" The rest of us soon felt the need for silence!
- when I first hung my clothes in the so-called drying closet, which is basically a cabinet placed over some heating pipes. Your clothes will be dry in no time, my friend said. And, they were - if you consider 24-hours to be "no time."
Damn, they were good times.
So, occasionally, while I'm at work, I'll phone home to check my messages. I did as much today and was treated to a garbled message from a man whose voice I did not recognize. Now, the quality of my answering machine is not great, but I thought I heard him say that his name was "Steve" and that he would be coming over soon. I even listened to it again, and it still sounded like "Steve....be there soon."
I do know a Steve or two, but none who would be likely to leave a message on my answering machine let alone stop at my house. So, I figured I must have heard it wrong. I also figured it was a wrong number, but, you know, I wanted to know what he said!
When I got home, I listened to the message again. Since I was standing right in front of the machine, it sounded a little clearer. But, the man spoke very quickly, and all I could make out was something like, "Hey, man, talkingveryfastcantunderstanditall, I'll be over to pick up the mattress."
What? Some guy I don't know is calling to tell me that he's coming to pick up my mattress?
Look, I understand that it's possible to dial a wrong number. What I don't understand is people who dial my number by mistake and then, when they get my answering machine, somehow miss the part where I say "This is Jennifer" and go ahead and leave a message that's clearly intended for someone else and which threatens to leave me without a mattress. Some people just don't listen.
First, the freon. It's amazing what a little freon will do. Actually, about five pounds of it! The AC guy came over Thursday morning to check out the system. Turns out I was out of freon! There's probably a small leak somewhere in the system. It probably took a few years for it to all leak out. But, thinking back, the level was probably low last year. I remember thinking that the AC really wasn't making things as cool as it should have. Anyway, I'm all filled up with freon now. By the time this stuff leaks out, I'll probably need to get a whole new, modern cooling unit.
As for the beer, here's an update on the Rolling Rock situation. Congressman John Murtha is now getting involved. The AP reported today that he's trying to set up some kind of deal involving the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, makers of Iron City beer. It all seems to be in the "I made some calls" stage right now, but I guess Murtha's idea is to, somehow, have PBC buy the brewery in Latrobe and then maybe work out some sort of licensing deal with Anheuser-Busch to keep brewing Rolling Rock in PA.
I'm not sure Murtha's plan will ever get past the talking stage. For one thing, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company is in bankruptcy protection. I'm no financial whiz, but Chapter 11 does not really seem like a good time for a business to go out and buy big ticket items - like a brewery. Murtha would probably have to cook up some kind of grant or loan package - maybe based on the Latrobe brewery's historic value? - to make the money part happen.
Beyond that, is Anheuser-Busch. They now own the Rolling Rock name and recipe. It's theirs, and they can brew the beer wherever they please. In this case, it's supposedly going to be an A-B brewery in New Jersey. An article in one of the Pittsburgh papers quoted an A-B spokesperson as saying, basically, we won't take work away from our own employees. I suppose A-B might reconsider, but Murtha would have to come up with a VERY nice financial package for them, too, I think.
HERE is an article from June 1 about Murtha's efforts.
HERE is a follow-up article from June 2.
I hadn't really planned to post anything tonight, but then I came across THIS. You'll notice that it's the website for a new show called "Falcon Beach." Hadn't heard about it, but it's apparently coming to TV near you this Sunday night at 8 PM. You'll also notice that it stars several hot-looking young people, only two of whom appear to be wearing any clothing that could be considered modest. The rest are showing plenty of sexy skin. And, you'll notice that "Falcon Beach" and it's scantily-clad bodies will be airing on the channel known as ABC Family.
I'm just sayin.
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