So, here's how my Wednesday went.
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.