Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dropping the F Bomb!

I used to swear like a sailor at work.  Swearing was a lot more acceptable in a newsroom environment 30 years ago.  The flood of four-letter words could be endless.  Despite having an extensive vocabulary, my language was more than a little salty.  My tongue has been a source of great embarrassment as it was today.

I was sitting on the assignment desk dealing with a balky email.  Journal Broadcasting has decided that Gmail is the route to go for handling station email over Outlook.  For the past 2 days the system has barred me from being able to get into the email which goes to the assignment desk.  It's been restored by our IT guy on more than a couple of occasions and then goes back into failure mode.  About mid-morning I realized that I had suddenly stopped getting emails into my account altogether.  A GD, F this S followed. 

Not more than 15 feet away from my perch is a conference room with paper thin walls.  As Andrew our 6 p.m. producer giggled at my short rant the GM stuck her head out of the door and asked, "Is there anything I can help you with?"  I meekly bowed my head and responded, "No."  I had forgotten about a manager's meeting that included some corporate suits that was going on in there.  Andrew proceeded to snicker even harder.

I apologized to folks as they moved past my desk for the outburst.  One of the corporate guys looked at me and said, "It wouldn't be a newsroom without a little colorful language!"  I was still embarrassed by my bad behavior.

But that little incident pales in comparison to two remarkably similar verbal miscues.  It was probably 1985 or 1986.  The sports department had their own office on the first floor at WDAF where the graphic arts folks sit now.  I had come downstairs from the newsroom in the middle of the evening and let forth with a spew of obscenities aimed at sports director Frank Boal.  It was the foulest of the foul and as I turned the corner into the office there sat Frank sporting a shit eating grin with two Catholic priests looking at me with the widest of eyes.  I did a quick 180 and excused myself.

Fast forward to a decade later.  The station was undergoing some renovations and sports had been stuck in a horrid spot behind the studios next to the garage.  I was back working at WDAF, my third tenure at the station.  I once again headed downstairs at mid-evening and started with a foul tirade aimed at Frank.  Now don't misunderstand me, Frank could go toe to toe with anyone when it came to blue language, so he was an aficionado of cussing.

This time I came through the doorway to find him sitting in discussion with two guys, both wearing polo shirts with the FCA logos.  That FCA stands for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I turned beat red, apologized, turned and retreated.  I never learn.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chasing 4000

I produced my first newscast on a early October weekend in 1978.  I remember it because the Royals were in the process of losing the American League Championship to the New York Yankees as I watched from afar in Eugene, Oregon.  I had traveled out to Eugene in hopes of finding my television fortune.

Instead, I had run into a good-hearted man, Peter Speer, who ran the newsroom at the ABC station in Eugene, KEZI.  For about a month I produced the two weekend newscasts for Peter while I looked for full-time employment.  I remember working for a couple of pioneering women in broadcasting, Debbie Segura who would later land as one of the first employees at CNN and Dixie Watley who made her name as a entertainment reporter.   I was clueless.  I stumbled my way through putting together rundowns, timing the shows out, and writing legible copy.  But Peter saw something in me and helped me land my first full time TV gig at WTCN in Minneapolis where I once again produced weekends. 

I was way in over my head.  But I had a great teacher, Paul Adelmann, who took me by the hand and taught me the intricacies of good writing.   I received my finishing course in producing a little more than a year later in Little Rock working for Garry Long producing the 10pm news at KARK.  So by the middle of 1980 I probably had about 200 newscasts under my belt before moving on to WDAF where I had my longest run as a producer from 1980 to 1987. 

I produced a ton of newscast at WDAF.  It wasn't unusual for me to double on the 5 and 10 or 6 and 10.  I filled in on the weekend newscasts constantly.  During that almost seven year period I produced, conservatively, 1750 newscasts.  There was a summer in which for a period of three months I had 5 days off over 90 days.  A lot of those days included a lot of double newscasts because of a staff shortage.  Despite the abuse and I got plenty of it I had a news director, Mike McDonald, who encouraged me to experiment and take chances.  My newscasts had a flair, a character, a style that none of the other newscasts in the market could claim.  And I had helped built it from a bottom scraping number 3 to a strong number 1.

I had another 2 plus year run in Phoenix as a 10pm producer before returning to KC in 1990 where I remained a producer until June 1991.  Again, conservatively, I produced an additional 875 newscasts which would put me at a conservative estimate of 2850 newscasts before I took my first news director position in 1991 at KSNT.

I spent much of the 1990's as a news manager but I did a lot of producing.  I was at KSNT for a little more than 2 years where I produced at least 100 newscasts in that time.  You can add another 25 or so during my stint in Paducah and another 25 more in my even shorter stint in Omaha.  That puts me at 3000 newscasts.

I returned to WDAF in the spring of 1995 as a fill-in EP who produced a little bit before getting a full time producer's gig in September that last until January of 1996.  That's another 85 newscasts.  The rest of my time at WDAF I was an executive producer but I produced a lot of newscasts.  I filled in as vacation relief, producing special programs, being the go to guy to plug in any hole.  That four year stretch would put another 100 newscasts under my belt conservatively.

I went to Fargo as a news director but a budget cut put me back on the line in a big hurry handling newscast a minimum of three days a week.  I easily racked up another 150 newscasts produced.  Then it was off to WINK TV where we were always short of producers.  I remember within my three months on the job I produced the 5 p.m. news for about two months.  That first year because of staff shortfalls I produced another 80 newscasts easily.  2004 was much the same although that number fell to about 50.  By 2005 because of illness and my departure that number fell dramatically to 25.  So by the end of 2005 as I headed to my fourth and final news director job I had closed in on 3500 newscasts. 

In my short lived stint in Topeka I produced no more than a dozen newscasts.  Back in Fort Myers as an EP in Waterman I never touched a newscast.  It was frowned upon which I found stupid.  But I got back right back into the swing of things when I was lured to Sacramento and back to television where I worked as an EP beginning 2010.  I was supposed to produce sparingly.  I produced closed to 100 newscasts or special programs. 

That brings us to my new job as morning assignment editor at WFTX.  I remarked tonight to our director extraordinaire Xane Peters that I had produced about 4000 newscasts.  But alas I think I am actually short of that magical number.  I've plugged my way through another 60 newscasts.  So give or take a 50 or so newscasts I'm somewhere in the range of 3650 newscasts.  That's not a bad number by well short of the 4000 I bragged about to Xane.

Now throw in the 8 plus years of working as an Executive Producer with direct input on two or three newscasts a day and I zoom past 4000.  We're closing in on 10,000 in that case.  What does it all add up to or even mean.  I'm willing to be you that less than a dozen people have produced as many newscasts at as many television stations as I have.  It's nothing to brag about, in fact I find it embarrassing.  I got into a bad habit of chasing jobs that I thought would lead to something better. 

I probably should have never left WDAF the first time in 1987 because I could have and probably should have stayed there for the rest of my career.  But I would have missed working with so many great people who I still hold near and dear to my heart.  It's been a rollercoaster God willing, I'll put away number 4000 right here in Fort Myers at WFTX.  Now that would be something for somebody who is officially the morning assignment editor, now wouldn't it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Paterno Postscript

When I hear the name Joe Paterno, my mind immediately drifts back to the 12th man.  It was a football game that put Penn State on the national map and a heartbreaking defeat for my Kansas Jayhawks in the 1968 Orange Bowl.  Kansas had stopped Penn State's try for a 2 point conversion late in the game when the officials flagged the Jayhawks for having 12 men on the field.  Penn State converted, winning the Orange Bowl and completing an undefeated season that gave the school a big shot of legitimacy in the eyes of the national media.

I always respected what Paterno accomplished at State College.  But by the mid-1990's it was clear Paterno needed to retire.  The truly great coaches know when to leave the stage.  John Wooden did,  Bear Bryant did, so did Tom Osborne and his predecessor Bob Devaney.

Paterno's ability to hold onto his job despite some pretty average teams over the last 15 years shows just how powerful he was inside the university.  The Sandusky scandal would have been stopped 14 years ago if Paterno had stepped up and called out his assistant.  I think what happened was a generational misstep on Paterno's part.  He wanted to protect the school, himself and his friend.  He didn't realize the serious nature of sexual child abuse because it was a subject taboo to a man of his age.

In my opinion Paterno's legacy is undone by his careless actions.  Those actions speak to the larger problem of the unbelievable power that is now assembled in 50 or so college athletic departments across the United States.  I can guarantee you that incidents have occurred in the last decade at a handful of our power house collegiate programs that would measure up to the Baylor murder cover up or Sandusky's locker room escapades.

Drugs, rape, and murder are part of the culture many of these young athletes are exposed to and they bring that baggage with them to college.  But we shouldn't expect it from our exalted coaches.   The next big scandal awaits.  But nothing will change, not with all the money that's at stake.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Some Baseball Life in Kansas City

Kansas City loves baseball.  It positively glowed for the 2012 All Star Game.  It marked the first time in a generation that a real sense of excitement enveloped the city.

What most of America doesn't know is that the Royals were the epicenter of the sporting culture of Kansas City and the 300 miles that surrounds it for a solid 20 years.  It took Carl Peterson taking the Chiefs off life support Ewing Kauffman's death to slowly eat away at the top spot the Royals enjoyed throughout the 70's and 80's.

Kauffman Stadium was stunningly beautiful Tuesday.  Of all of butt-ugly cookie cutter stadiums built in the 1970's on The K survives.  In fact the whole sports complex is still something else and despite all of the problems that grips Kansas City it remains a source of public pride.  And forget all the clamoring about a downtown ball park, the two renovations done at Kauffman over the last 20 years have served the ball park well.  Kauffman is a great place to watch a baseball game.

What's sad is what David Glass let happen to this once proud franchise. He pissed off the entire city when the team was struggling and he hinted at moving the team to the National League.  It threw the whole ownership change into a six year plus turmoil from which it never recovered.  Then when it looked that no one with the deep pockets needed to keep the team in Kansas City would step up, Glass resurfaced, the public having forgotten and forgiven his horrendous missteps and welcomed him as the owner.

What a disaster.  He ran the team like a Walmart cutting corners and running in and out an array of washed of free agents through the team, allowing the farm system to flounder and letting good players slip away to other teams.  Then he hired Dayton Moore, a man from the Joe Burke/John Scherholtz school of baseball and every so slowly, but surely, watchable baseball has returned to K.C.

If Glass would just spend a little more and lock in some of these talented players to long term deals, the team could thrive.  The Royals can draw 2 million plus every year.  Kansas City loves good baseball and goes ga-ga for great baseball.  The city deserves it.  The fans have earned it.  But I don't know that it will ever happen with David Glass as the team's owner.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fire, Kingdoms and Injury

Even though the rainy season is underway in Florida fire is a constant threat.  A major fire shutdown the interstate on Sunday and the smell of smoke hung heavy in the evening air even though the blaze burned more than 10 miles away.  The stench of smoke stayed strong Monday morning making it easier to deal with the fact that I couldn't go out for a morning run.

It's been two months now since I've been able to train consistently.  First it was my left hamstring that was bothersome.  Just when I had a handle on that problem my right calf started bothering me.  It started as soreness behind my right knee and then it worked it's way deep into my calf.  I've run 20 miles in the last eight weeks.  The only saving grace is that if there is a time of year to be injured it's right now.  The heat is here but without the usual humidity, hence the fire problem.

Sunday afternoon the Czarina and I escaped her unending home renovations to see "Moonrise Kingdom."  It's Wes Anderson's latest creation starring a slew of big name stars.  But in this instance two youngsters steal the heart and soul of this compelling love story.  The writing is crisp, quirky and smart.  The film is beautifully shot as well.  While it falls short of the smart humor of "The Royal Tennebaums" it's well worth a watch.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Felix vs. Tamroh

It was the race that would USA Track and Field a good dose of primetime reality television for a sport that is dying a death by a thousand cuts.  Jeneba Tamroh suckered punched USATF denying it the splash of publicity that it wanted.  The question is, where does the blame fall?

The fact that USATF didn't have any contingencies in place for a tie is beyond belief.  This should have never been an issue dragged out over 9 days.  As soon as the finish line judge with the help of a committee reversed itself (the right decision in my opinion) the athletes involved should have known the consequences.

Instead after an exhausting week of racing and media scrutiny a 22 year old girl was suddenly was put in an eat shit or die situation leaving her in a hopeless emotional quandary.  You could see it in her eyes during Sunday's interview with Allyson Felix.  Tamroh was teary eyed as she acquiesced to the idea of a run-off.  She didn't want to race again for a spot on the Olympic team that she felt in her heart belonged to her. 

Felix comes off as an unfeeling bitch for denying her supposed friend and training partner a chance to run an individual race in London.  I think any criticism directed toward Felix is inherently unfair.  She is a better runner than Tamroh, period.  Felix is doing what she feels best for her number 1 goal and that is to win Olympic gold at 200 meters.  She knows barring a miracle start in London she won't medal in the 100.  Heck, she won't even make the finals.  But neither would have Tamroh.  But Felix believes the 100 rounds will hold her in good stead when it comes to running the 200.  I get it.

The losers in all of this is the USATF.  Stephanie Hightower is a wreck as the President and Chair.  But we knew that already after the Doug Logan debacle. Here was a chance for supposed PR genius Max Siegel to step up and sign and polish a turd into a diamond.  Instead the turd exploded and left track and field in a world of shit.

As for Tamroh, I really don't feel sorry for her.  She had a chance to step up and show some courage.  She had a chance to step in and salvage a disaster for a sport she professes to love, a sport that she wants to make a living at as a professional.  What she did today was anything but professional.  But it's not entirely her fault, most of the blames goes to Hightower and Siegel.  Only a 4 X 100 relay gold for Tamroh, Felix and the U.S.A. will help heal the wounds the sport inflicted on itself with this dead heat disaster.