A Silver Circle Day – or am I getting old?

February 20, 2010

Today I was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Silver Circle. NATAS is the organization that handles the local and national emmys.

Those inducted into the Silver Circle have been in the business, mentoring and contributing to the community for 25 years. 25 years. That’s a long time in one profession.

It was neat that my assistant news director nominated me – he’s already a silver circle member, organized a table for several members of our team and helped put a tape together.

I tried to keep my acceptance speech short. Unlike most of the other inductees, I live behind the camera. Trust me, it’s better that way for our viewers.  Below is my “acceptance speech.” and thanks  Gerry for your advice.

I want to thanks NATAS for this honor. There’s nothing better than getting an award for getting old.

I thank my team that’s here this afternoon. I promise to be shorter than a Wendy Saltzman investigative piece involving a local PIO.

I do want to thank the most important person here – my wife, Karen. Karen is my rock. My conscience and my life guide.. In June we will be married 33 years.

And also my sons – one is on his honeymoon right now and the other is at grad student at Harvard.

A true story

My family has been intimately involved in my career. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls from the newsrooms in the past with a problem and my kids ask for the blow by blow of the issue and tell me how we should deal with it. Often times they have the correct solution.

But as a silver circle it’s great to know that newsheimers is setting in, And more importantly as Eric Ludgood, my assistant news director and fellow silver circle member, just about everyone we interview for jobs these days and seemingly hire is younger than us.

So let me be brief and sum it all up with David Letterman’s help.

Top Ten List

Why I love being in TV news and a News  Manager

10. I get to watch TV all day and say it’s for work.

9. I get the opportunity to move my family up and down the east coast and tell my wife it’s gonna get better at the next job with the next general manager.

8. I’m not selling insurance.

7. Even though my two sons are grown up – and one got married this past weekend – I still get to wipe bottoms and change diapers at work each day and get paid for it.

6. As a news manager I pray for snow storms because I own stock in kroger’s and my 401k grows when people stock up on milk, eggs and bread.

5. I love asking the tough questions while doing news that actually helps you  and providing live, local coverage you can count on.

4. I get to watch the Masters and PGA events in my office and say I’m just making sure Tiger doesn’t let anyone play with his balls…golf balls.

3. I get to listen to my friends and people at parties tell e what they hate about TV News.

2. Dagmar works for me.

1. I get to interrupt People’s Court to carry live coverage of critical news events that people need to know about immediately – like Thursday’s coverage of a circus Zebra loose on the highway.

(Later I will add the video that they showed.)

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American Airlines – how do you track luggage?

February 20, 2010

We’re back home from LA.

The wedding was, well, great. We had a wonderful time.

But did I hear you ask if we got our luggage? That’s a whole ‘nother story.

We arrived Thursday after 14 hours of travel and a promise from Janette at the Atl ticket counter T11 that our luggage would follow us. I thought she said it would be on our flight. I must have misunderstood her. We got it late Sunday. – Basically on the fourth day of our trip.

Here we are in LA for a wedding and all we had was the clothing on our back and my wife’s dress and my tux that we carried on the plane.

On Sunday morning – like I did twice a day – I called the American Airlines lost baggage line. I finally figured out how to bypass their voice mail picket fence designed to frustrate and infuriate you. Just say “Operator, Operator, Operator.”

I chat with a nice person who asks “you still don’t have your luggage?” Ok, call me foolish. If I had my luggage would I be calling the lost luggage line?

She looks in the file and says they have two pieces at LAX with my name on it. I said then it’s probably mine. She calls the airport and it turns out they never matched the luggage tag numbers with our name. It seems the luggage has been there at least one day. I can’t get her to tell me if it’s been there longer.

So. by late that evening we have our luggage even though we’ve spent hundreds of dollars on clothing for our pre-wedding and post wedding events. We’ve started the process of trying to get reimbursed. Wanna bet they lose our receipts?

So we put it behind us and enjoy our last day with our clothing and head home on Tuesday.

But bet you can’t bet what happens when we land. Yup, American Airlines misplaced one of our bags. I can’t make this stuff up.

The good news, we got it the next day.

And you wonder why I normally only do carry on?

La – the very latest

February 12, 2010

The road trip continues.

We made it to ORD – otherwise known as Chicago. The challenge was finding out if Karen had a seat,

We stopped at the first American Airlines desk to see if Karen was going to be taking my seat and I would be fending for myself getting to Jan and Ben’s wedding.

Rule 1 – Always be nice to ticket agents. If you’re nice they will try to help and at least not work against you. If you play the nasty game you will lose. I promise.

Our agent was Pam. She was awesome. First she told us what a nightmare this place was this morning because of the issues in the NE and Dallas with weather. She’s been with the company for 32 years – she has street cred.

So she started working the computer. First Karen had no seat, then they put her in coach. Now understand I traveled for years for NBC and had a ton of miles and I used a ton of it to get us in first class. Hey, it’s our son’s wedding and we deserve it.

I was in first, but for some reason Karen now only had a coach seat. Pam did her magic at the keyboard and got us a ticket.

Miracles can happen.

BTW – Rule Number 2 – get every agent’s name. The AA agent in Atl –Janette could have been a little more helpful. She had a little bit of an attitude. I was nice, honest.

So we grabbed some lunch with plans to kill 3 plus hours at Ord. O’Hare, the home of some fine fast food cuisine and Dunkin Doughnuts.

We did try to grab an earlier flight but they were oversold by 5 folks or so and 20 people on the standby list in front of us.

I’m not complaining. As I sit here writing this we’re now on our flight.

We have our first class seats. Nice seats, Karen is happy so I’m happy.

Now, maybe we can relax for a few hours after the past 24 hours of stress.

When we land it starts all over again. We have a production schedule to make sure we get everything done for tomorrow’s rehearsal dinner and then the Saturday nuptials.

Wow

I don’t remember our wedding 32.5 years ago anything like this.

Update – after 14 hours we’re here.

But the question is where our bags are? AA can’t find them

Gee, I want to thank Janette the gate agent at gate T11 who promised, promised that our bags would be there. Interesting – this is the same person who assured us that Karen had a seat only to find she wasn’t even on the list when we got to Chicago to connect.

So at the Lax bag office I asked AA where our bags are. They don’t know. The agent admitted that AA is one of the few airlines that don’t track bags.

How can they NOT track bags – especially with homeland security concerns?

Trying to get to la for our son’s wedding

February 11, 2010

here’s an entry from the cabin of an AA flite to Chicago….

will update later
We’re now on our third or fourth flite change…

this is an update from 34,000 feet on the way to Chi town.

Originally we were to leave at 8:25 and fly to dallas and connect to la

Then last night we got word we had a later flite into and out of dallas – all cool

then after we checked in this am we got an email saying we were moved to an earlier flight.

as we were waiting at the gate we got another email saying our flt to dallas was cancelled and the dallas to lax was cancelled.

They put us on a flite to chicago with connections to lax. But at this point only one of us actually has a seat on the flite – that’s me. We’re now enroute to Chi, but if there is only one seat then I’ll put Karen on it and find any airline that can get me to Lax.

Talk about stress – I can handle ratings, now coverage, budget meetings – but this is a little higher on the stress meter.

adding to it

Karen’s best friends from Philly lost their flites – so last night I was on the phone using hundreds of thousands of miles of airlines miles trying to get them to the wedding.

If you have daughters talk them into eloping. Remember they drive the wedding train, the groom just goes where he is told to go. (Love my soon to be daughter in law)  …sorry for snowmagadon

I’m back…

February 5, 2010

I figured I needed to get my blog going again.

There are several reasons.

First I expect members of my staff to keep their blogs up to date. So it’s only fair that I keep a blog going.

Second, for those us old timers we need to make sure we’re using, playing with and connecting with you through all the platforms available to us. Speaking of platforms, it’s rather clear that we are consuming news more frequently and in different ways.

Recent research shows you are using local TV for content and the web with a surprising increase of folks getting news updates via their smartphones. On the downside – newspapers. In fact, in some categories some demographics get more news via their phone than the newspaper. Hint:  There’s no future in newspapers.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I have two sons, one 26 and the other 21. I’m not sure the last time they read a newspaper except when they were visiting mom and dad. (We read the NYTimes daily. Yes, I’m feeling old.)

However, they are voracious news consumers via the web – especially CNN. I would lay odds that they are more knowledgeable about world events than I was at their age. There’s that age thing again.

So, I’m back and will stay connected.

One of my hopes is that I explain and answer questions you may have about what we do here at CBS Atlanta and our news decision making.

CORRECTION – OK – I’M GETTING OLD. MY YOUNGEST IS 22, NOT 21. DUHHHH.

More than News…

October 26, 2008

So, just a brief note on where I am this weekend.

I’m writing from Philly. We came up to watch the Phillies play Tampa Bay last night. Game time was supposed to be 8:30. But with the rain the first pitch was closer to 10p. An amazing game that ended around 2 am. Tampa purposely loaded the bases and the Phillies scored. Go Phillies. (And I actually stayed til the end of the game. There wasn’t even a prayer suggesting to my wife we leave early.)

Now we’re off to see the iggles play the falcons. We lived in Philly  couple of times so we have 10 years or so on our philly clock so we’re partial to the bald birds.

I’ll post some photos over the next week.

I’ve been busy, sorry

October 19, 2008

OK, OK, I’ve been a little lax in keeping my blog updated.

I should commend the city for finally talking about Wendy’s trash workers investigation. I am kinda surprised about a couple of his comments.

 

Basically I heard –

The city is exceeding it’s ot budget.

That it’s not a big deal if the workers sit around, reading newspapers and play checkers.

Hmmmm…maybe this is why the city is millions of dollars over budget.

ATLANTA – WHO IS ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS?

October 4, 2008

 

Admittedly I’ve only been here a few months. But one thing I’ve learned is how the Public Information Officers – PIOs basically run the government. And the local newspaper and TV stations allow them. In fact, they endorse it by not asking the tough questions and asking for accountability.

Try getting the Governor to do an interview. The best you’ll get is a mess when the governor makes a public appearance and the reporters start shouting questions. And when the questions get tough the session ends. Amazing. . And then he goes and hides or flees to Europe while the rest of us are around looking for gas.

Then there’s our story on City workers slacking off on the job listening to their iPods, reading newspapers or playing checkers while earning thousands of dollars in OT.  The department manager won’t talk. His flack says they’re working on a response. Working on a response? Heck, we asked for their comments two weeks before the story actually aired. To this day they’re still working on their response. 

http://www.cbs46.com/investigates/17601319/detail.html 

Then yesterday the PIO calls me to tell me that they’re still working on their response and it will make it harder and take longer for them to respond as we continue following the story. We should stop reporting on a hug government waste? NOT A PRAYER.

Then there’s the mayor. Try getting an interview with her. Heck, try getting past her flack.

I must admit the flacks in Atlanta do a wonderful job shielding their bosses from accountability and answering the questions.

What I find amazing is the citizens of Atlanta don’t seem to care. They go along their way search for gas, paying taxes for excessive overtime, watch their schools lose accreditation but just think it’s acceptable and part of life.

Part of our job is to hold government accountability and challenge their spin on what they’re telling or not telling the electorate. But the PIOs have figured it bout. Deflect, deter and don’t respond and maybe we’ll go away. Sorry, not on my watch.

Come on folks – as the commercial says WAKE UP!!!!. 

Sarah and the media

October 2, 2008

I’ve been debating about writing this blog. But I figured what the heck.

 

I’m at a loss about this circle of protect Sarah Palin is getting from appearing on live interview shows.

 

I don’t get it.

 

Is there something to hide?

 

Is the party embarrassed by her?

 

Was she a late night mistake?

 

We hear the criticism that the media is picking on her and asking her difficult questions.

 

Come on.

 

We’re supposed to be asking her questions. Questions that shows the electorate what she’s about.

 

I just saw Katie’s interview where she asks Palin what newspaper she reads. Palin doesn’t answer except to say she reads what’s in front of her. What? In front of her?

 

Katie very politely asks for specifics. Then another Palinesque vague answer.

 

Katie tries again. Still no answer on what she reads.

 

Then various bloggers and columnists say Katie picked on her. How? By asking her what she reads?

 

I’m rather disturbed that someone who is 72 years old away from running this country can’t answer a question. No matter who or what you support you should also be disturbed.

 

Our role is to uncover, reveal and discover what we can about our candidates. I don’t care about her private life. I do care about knowing her views, opinions and positions on critical issues like the economy, foreign policy and the like.

 

Oh, and we should be going equally hard after Joe Bidden. What was he thinking with his Hilary comment?

 

How come the candidates have been a little obtuse on the bail out? But I feel McCain, Obama and Bidden know what the bail out means.

 

I’m worried when we say bailout to Sarah, she’s think bailing out the boat.

 

Dear Republican Party:

 

Let Sarah be Sarah. Let’s see her on the Sunday morning talk shows. Live.

My 911

September 13, 2008

I’ve never written about this before. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m not a person who keeps journals or records my personal feelings.

 

But there are days in our lives that we will always remember where we were.

 

I can tell you where I was when I heard JFK was shot.

 

I know exactly where I was when the Challenger blew up.

 

And I will always remember the moments and the aftermath of the planes hitting the towers. It had a significant personal impact on my life.

 

First, you should know I’m a New Yorker. A real New Yorker. I grew up in Manhattan.

 

But back to that day, that moment in time.

 

I was in my Philadelphia office. I was the ND at the NBC station. It was a gorgeous September day. I was at my desk with the Today Show on one of my monitors. Then I heard the hosts mention they had breaking news and I looked up.

 

There was a picture of smoke billowing from one of the buildings. The first plane had hit. We started sending a few crews to NY immediately to cover the story in case our sister station needed help. We also launched our news chopper to the city.

 

Minutes later we saw live the pictures of the second plane hitting. Now we knew it was something much bigger. The concept of us being under attack was foreign to me so it wasn’t my first thought. I honestly don’t remember thinking anything else other than this was bad and we had to get more crews there.

 

Within minutes we realized it was an attack. We sent additional crews and told them to take different ways into the city incase roads were blocked by traffic or police. Little did we think they would actually close the bridges in tunnel into the city.

 

Then we got a call from our chopper pilot. He was halfway to NY when he was ordered to land. Period. The FAA told all choppers to find their nearest airport and land. Period. (It was grounded at a small Jersey airport for days.)

 

I was so busy and consumed by work that I didn’t realize how this was affecting my family.

 

You see my son was a freshman at NYU. Ben has been there for just two weeks when the towers were hit and the sound of sirens and the smell and smoke started to cover parts of lower Manhattan.

 

My father-in-law called. It was very ill at the time. When I picked up the phone he was in tears. He was crying as he watched the pictures in his home near Cincinnati. He asked whether we had heard from Ben. I hadn’t. But worse was I never connected the tragedy with my son being less than a mile or so away and wondering was he safe. Now it was consuming me.

 

I tried calling him; you couldn’t get through to anyone in NY. The phones were overwhelmed.

 

Then I was thinking of my sister and her daughter. My sister is a single parent. She was living directly across the street from the towers. She was on the west side of West Street.  She passed the towers every day on the way to her daughter’s school and her workplace.

 

I hadn’t heard from here and couldn’t reach her.

 

So now I’m covering a major story, trying to coordinate our crews and worry about their safety and also worried and wondering about my family. It was horrible. It’s now mid morning, maybe closer to noon and the story was still developing. Someone from the assignment desk runs into my office.

 

Basically there was a rumor that some planes were unaccounted for and one of them was heading to Philadelphia with the Liberty Bell as the target. Could we be pulled into the middle of this disaster? I remember calling our contact at the FBI and telling her what we heard. It was one of those very direct, honest and human conversations. Basically, this is what we’re hearing just tell us what you’re hearing. No official statements, comments or spin. Just tell us. They got it. This was real.  Within minutes our FBI called back and told us that no one had any info on unaccounted plane. (Remember, the FAA grounded planes as soon as they got close to an airport big enough for them to land._

 

But could we be sure?  We just didn’t know. There was nothing we could report and we didn’t want to start a panic but we did advise our crews in the field and moved a couple closer to center city Philadelphia just in case. I know that sounds terrible but that’s what we do. And at the same time we kept telling our folks their safety was our highest priority.

 

Sometime later I got an email from Ben. I remember it was all in caps. I wished I had saved it. Basically he was talking about what it was like there and how what happened reminded of a scene from Tom Clancy’s book, Executive Action.

 

Later I heard from my sister. Her story is chilling.

 

Vicky had just dropped her daughter at the elementary school in the shadows of The Towers. As I recall her telling me, Vicky was walking into World Trade Center 7 when stuff started falling from the sky. She didn’t know what it was at the time parts of the first plane and debris from the building falling to the ground.

 

Vicky explained that as she left the building she saw the belly of the second plane as it headed and struck the second tower. She started running to the school to get her daughter. She grabbed he daughter and started heading north, running, walking uptown. As I recall she told me she asked her daughter not to look back. But it was too late. Her daughter asked her why people were jumping from the building. It was a chilling conversation. It brought very close to home the pictures we had been watching on TV all day.

 

Vicky and her daughter were safe but they had no place to live. Essentially her apartment was on the edge of ground zero. We offered to take Vicky and her daughter into our Philly home. Vicky needed to stay in NY but she wanted her daughter with us in Philly.

 

I asked Ben to come home and bring Vicky’s daughter. Honestly, I was using her daughter as an excuse to get Ben back home. I didn’t want him in NY. It was a very scary place, lower Manhattan was on fire and I feared the smell of smoke and death would overtake parts of the city.

 

Ben didn’t want to come home. He wanted to stay with his new friends. They were standing in line at the local hospital to donate blood. Unfortunately no donations were needed.

 

Ben did come home for a day. He brought my sister’s daughter.

 

After a day he said he had to go back to NY. He wanted to be with his friends at his new homes.

 

For thousands of people who lost friends and family when the Towers fell, Flt 93 crashed in Pennsylvania or when the Pentagon was hit my story is minor. Everyone in my family is fine now.

 

My sister and daughter were never able to return to their apartment. But they regrouped and now live in Nyack, NY, just north of Manhattan.

 

My son is now working in Burbank. He doesn’t miss New York.

 

911 will always be a top of my mind.

 

But again, for me my family is alive and well.

 

But almost every time I see pictures of the Towers or pictures of the pit I replay parts of that day in my mind