Have you ever listened to someone tell a story that involves you? They always give an impression you’re not used to (unless you listen to stories about yourself all the time).
The other day, I was reading some old blogs online about the life and times in a newsroom. The paragraphs were accounts from different perspectives. Different views. All of the authors are still working in the media business today, as they should be. They’re perspectives have become great memories. This was from my old station in North Texas from around 2008:
You may have noticed when anchor Charlie Haldeman signs off at the end of a newscast, CH always says,”For Maureen Kane, Steve LaNore, David Reed, and everybody behind the camera, I’m Charlie Haldeman. Have a good night.”
So welcome to the world behind the camera. This is the latest entry to our “From Behind the Camera” blogs to shed a little light on what goes on here at KXII. Our latest entry is from producer Marisa Ruiz, who shares a story of police scanners, Santa Claus, and helicopters.
As a producer one of my responsibilities is to monitor the scanner and keep an ear out for any noteworthy activity crossing the airwaves. It can be obnoxious and trying at times to have the constant buzz of static and dispatchers in your ear while answering phones, checking news wires, keeping track of reporters and assignments, watching for incoming faxes, all while trying to put together a newscast, etc. etc. That being said I feel like I’ve developed an ear so to speak for what’s really worth paying attention to on the scanner and what should be ignored as trivial happenings. I remember one Friday evening in December, sitting at my desk regrouping after the 5 o’clock newscast and getting ready for the 6. It was yet another busy day as we scrambled to get in the day’s news, effort our Toys 4 Tots drive, and make sure certain on-camera talent made it to their respective Christmas Parade appearances on time. At this point it was about a quarter to 6, scripts were printing and I was getting ready to head back to the control room when I hear something cross the scanner about a LifeStar helicopter preparing to land in Sherman. Sirens can be heard as frantic voices spout out coordinates to land the chopper. You can hear the urgency in their voices. Something big is happening. I can’t quite make out exactly where the activity is going on, but I establish it’s somewhere in downtown Sherman near Travis street. It looks like the Sherman Fire Department is working on the situation so I call to see if I can get an exact location and find out what’s going on. Chief Jones answers the phone and I can hear the booming helicopter in the background. He hurriedly answers my call and asks if I can call him back in about 5 minutes because he’s about to help land LifeStar. By this time the 6 o’clock news is about to start. I decide there’s no time to waste and rush a reporter and photographer out the door with an approximate location and tell them to call Chief Jones on the way. “Call me in the control room if it’s something we need to break with!” I tell them as they head out the door. The 6 o’clock news cast goes off without a hitch and I never hear from my crew. I head back to the newsroom at 6:30 to find out whatever happened with the chopper in downtown Sherman . I find my reporter and photog calmly sitting in the newsroom and I wonder why they’re back so soon from what sounded like something that was big news! “Oh it was nothing,” they reply. Frustrated I ask them how and why. “It was just Santa. Santa Claus. They delivered Santa in a chopper this year for his big Christmas Parade debut.” I closed my eyes and cover my face. Yes. The parade. How could I have forgotten? I apologize for my embarrassing mistake, while fortunately they find it quite humorous. That being said, I don’t think I will soon forget the Christmas Santa decided to trade in his sleigh for a chopper.
Editor extraordinairre Kelby Archer shares a day in the life of a news editor….
Silent Terror: The Life of an Editor
By Kelby Archer
Part 1: Editors are Masochists
You must possess a certain degree of self-loathing to be an effective news editor. It simply doesn’t work any other way.
Little did I know this upon taking the position, but I soon found out. Perhaps the first hint that I was in for more than I bargained for was when a colleague of mine, Rick (who is a former editor himself, and now a photographer) pulled me aside to give me a little reassurance. “Once you get your first ulcer out of the way, it’s all downhill from there,” he told me.
I know what you’re thinking. Why is it so tough? It isn’t really. All I do is capture national video from the CBS server, read the script for whatever the story is, edit to the script, and record the edited video into the news server. Rinse, repeat. I’m also responsible for building a playlist in the news server that puts the right video in the right order (so that when the anchors are talking about a new school principal, video of a terrorist doesn’t pop up) and running teleprompter. No, the basic part of the job itself is pretty easy; the fun stuff involves everything that can go wrong with that simple process.
Editing computers crash. The CBS server stops working, necessitating a call to a special CBS helpline. The news server decides to randomly delete video that I need for the playlist. Not to mention that we could have a breaking news story, which can change the entire layout of the show I’m working on. Regardless of any technical issues I encounter, I’ve got do my very best to have everything done by the time the show starts. With all that in mind, let me give you a peek into an average day as I prepare for the five o’clock news:
3:10 p.m. – I arrive at work, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Our lovely producer, Marisa, hands me a rundown of the five o’ clock show that tells me where all the video is coming from and what order it needs to be in. I smile, sit down, and leisurely begin to build the playlist. Life is good.
3:30 p.m. – In the midst of capturing all the national video I need from the CBS server, I realize that one of the CBS reporters hasn’t left enough pad at the end of their story (the director needs a little extra video at the end of each video segment so that he has plenty of time to punch out of it). I’ll have to artificially create some using video from earlier in the story, which will soak up valuable time.
4:00 p.m. – Somewhere in Texomaland, a trailer has exploded. And, in breaking entertainment news, Krusty the Clown has suddenly dropped dead. The entire five o’clock rundown changes. I sigh, and begin completely re-arranging the playlist.
4:35 p.m. – The video capture window on my editing computer completely stops working. I reload it. Still nothing. I grudgingly decide to restart the computer, all the while fearing the amount of time it will take to get everything back up and running. At this exact moment, the reporters in Ardmore call, and are ready to send me their video so I can put it into the news server.
4:36 p.m. – Panic.
4:56 p.m. – Against all odds, all the video is in. I mark the last thing off my rundown, glance over the playlist to make sure everything is in the right order, flip a switch so that the director has control of the server, and stroll out to the studio to run teleprompter.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that as soon as the five o’clock news is over, I’ll have to do all of this again, and this time I’ll only have thirty minutes to do it?
You must possess a certain degree of self-loathing to be an effective news editor. It simply doesn’t work any other way.
Here’s another look “Behind the Camera” from KXII production man Steven Martinez…
I Can’t Read Lips
by Steven Martinez
Very early in my time here at the illustrious KXII, it became quite clear that occasionally there could be hiccups in the communication process from the on-air news personalities and those of us who were “behind the camera,” as it were.
One such time occurred when a man named Charlie Haldeman, perhaps you’ve heard of him, was anchoring the six o’clock newscast after he took over as news director. I was operating camera one. That’s what we call them in “the biz.” Camera one, camera two, and camera three. Charlie, as we call him, thought that his mic was still on while one of our reporters, Emi Fitzsomething, was giving a very riveting report on how it was snowing outside. If Charlie’s mic was indeed on, anything he said would have been broadcast live, and as such he would be talking over Ms. Fitzwhatever.
It was at this point that Charlie looked me dead in the eyes of my camera and began mouthing his concern to me. Naturally, having full use of my sense of hearing, my ability to read lips is not so well developed. So while he may have been mouthing, “MY MIC IS ON,” to me, it seemed like maybe he was saying, “I BIKE HAS HORN.” Of course, this gibberish made no sense to me, and so I informed the technical director, Jimmy Isham (pronounced either EYE-SHIM or EEEEEEEE-SHAM) that Charlie had lost his mind. Jimmy replied with a very concerned, “Okay.”
Charlie continued to stare me down like a set of headlights into the soul of a deer. He attempted again to relay his message to me, this time using his hands to gesture as well. He pointed down and up, then drew his finger across his neck, in that old western fashion meaning, “YOU’RE DEAD.” I leaned around my camera and looked at him fearfully.
Again I passed on this message to my director. “Charlie’s going to kill me,” I said. “Okay,” came the reassuring voice in my headset.
Third time, Charlie grabbed his mic and yelled silently at me. I told Jimmy, “Turn Charlie’s mic off, I think he’s about to dropkick me.” Jimmy said, “It’s not on.”
So I looked at Charlie and said, “Your mic isn’t on.” He looked both relieved and angry, like when you get the news that your car wasn’t stolen, you just left it in drive and it sailed down the road and into someone’s living room. Then he threw a chair at me and we laughed and laughed and after my release from the hospital, we laughed some more. Well, mostly he laughed. I just kind of laughed out of fear that he might hit me again.
Nowadays, when such a moment erupts, I just pretend to faint. Works every time. Most of the time.
It hasn’t worked once.
In the first “From Behind the Camera” excerpt, producer Marisa Ruiz shares her take on a memorable night.
Spiderman NOT to the Rescue
So I get off of work after yet another day of delivering the news of Texoma, excited to go check out Spiderman 3 with Dan that evening. The night started off uneventful, but as we sat in the theatre waiting for the movie to begin, we could hear the rain pounding the roof. I got the chills and told Dan I didn’t have a good feeling about the storm that was happening outside. Storms don’t usually scare me, but I had a funny intuition about this one. He said not to worry, that as soon as the movie started we wouldn’t be able to hear the wind and rain. We set our phones to vibrate, (as every good movie go-er should do), and the movie began. Not 15 minutes into the show, we realize our phones had been blowing up with text messages and calls. Apparently the sky had opened up and all hell was breaking loose outside.
We quickly left the theatre as we were both called in to work for wall to wall coverage of the storms that were ravaging much of Texoma. We frantically try to drive towards the station as lightning streaks across the sky… my heart is racing. We get to the intersection of 82 and 1417 to find that the power is out, no traffic lights. It’s an eerie sight. I get word of a tornado warning in Howe, and try to call Charlie to let him know – in the off chance the station doesn’t know already. Charlie proceeds to answer my call while on the desk giving the news and to my surprise has me give a play by play on the air of what things looked like from where I was at the moment. (You would not believe the number of phone calls I got the next morning!) We get to the station and the phone is ringing off the hook, the power is flickering, and the newsroom is utter chaos. The madness is invigorating! Emi and Luthe are already halfway to Southmayd after word that the roof has been blown off the elementary school. I’m asked to help take note and report which areas are currently out of power, and who is getting hit the hardest and where. It’s almost time for the 10 o’clock news so that needs to be finished up as well. Dan, Rick, and MVP are out the door helping to survey the damage in the Sherman/Denison area. They come back with loads of footage of downed trees, power lines, and flooded streets.
I’ve lived in Texas for the majority of my life and it always amazes me how quickly the weather can change in a matter of moments. It was a long night that night. Rather than enjoying a fictional adventure on the big screen, I ended back at work helping to report our own real life adventure. Thankfully no one was seriously injured in those storms, but they did keep us all on our toes that night. Never a dull moment when it comes to the news. And that’s a look from behind the camera… Thanks for watching First News!!