September 2009

Jog Dial Adventures

Monday and Tuesday at Fox were largely variations on a theme. On Monday I sat on the assignment desk for a while but it was a slow news day and I eventually went up to master control upstairs. Unlike previous days I’ve done this, Ms. DeCorte must have missed me because she came up and asked when I would be done. I went back to the newsroom but didn’t have much to do. Perhaps they were swamped earlier. I did take some calls but I was largely unoccupied.At five I went up to the control room to watch the broadcast, always fun. Things went pretty smoothly so I was able to ask some questions of the producer I was sitting next to. Later that evening after I watched Thunderball.On Tuesday I worked in the newsroom again with more hope that I would have a chance to get out of the station for a while. There wasn’t too much to do in the early afternoon. Shortly after four I volunteered to cue some tapes, which gave me a chance to play with the Betacam recorders. The station received a subpoena for media coverage of a French Quarter murder and some tapes were pulled. The ones I got didn’t have much on them and when I finished, Nicole helped me find more. I went through those as the five o’clock news was starting. I was able to find the relevant story without too much trouble although I had a bit of trouble. The copies they make of the newscasts do not seem to have voiceover audio on the take so when B roll is running during VOSOTs, you hear the audio of the footage and not the anchor speaking, which I would imagine is not much help for someone wanting a copy of news segments.After I finished I went back to the assignment desk and got to talking with one of the production assistants I met a couple weeks ago. She’s interesting to talk to as she’s very candid about how things work at the station, so to speak. When the newscast ended at six, she was good enough to show me how to operate the teleprompter. They use Autoscript +WinPlus+ which works with ENPS. Operating the software does not seem difficult although it would take practice to master the scrolling dial and matching the speed of the anchors.The real difficulty is keeping up with the script changes as the broadcast is ongoing. The producer will routinely kill stories and apparently it’s not always clearly marked by the producer for the prompter operator. The operator has to pay close attention to the radio chatter while keeping up with the anchors and everything else going on.

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All Dressed Up

This weekend passed rather quietly at home, with the exception of Friday night. That evening I was about to settle into a night of movie watching when Andrey called me at eight. He told me to put on a suit, tie and be ready to be picked up in 30 minutes. I was rather bemused by the request but I didn’t have anything better to do. A short while later, Andrey and David arrived dressed as well as me and we went to the westbank Palace theater to see The Informant. There weren’t a lot of people around when we arrived so three dudes in suits at the movie theater didn’t make much of a scene. It was a funny movie and the viewing experience reminded me of Curb Your Enthusiasm in that it’s very funny but I often find myself covering my face, unable to watch the absurdity ensuing on screen.After the movie I was adamant that we went some place where a suit and tie were appropriate so we went to Melange at the Ritz-Carlton. It was about midnight when we arrived and the band was on break but Jeremy Davenport was scheduled to play until one so we saw some of him before last call.Following a couple rounds at the Ritz we honored tradition and stopped at Rally’s on the way to Andrey’s place. We hung out there until about 2:30 when I got a cab home.

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Wednesday at work was rather uneventful. I had some things to work on and didn’t leave myself much to do tomorrow. That evening I started watching The Kid Stays in the Picture and 25 minutes in I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more. I went to bed uncharacteristically early at nine.Having slept so thoroughly the night before I was up uncharacteristically early this morning, but there was no milk to have an uncharacteristic breakfast. Dad didn’t eat before we left either and he decided we were going to Betsy’s Pancake House, a fixture of New Orleans I’ve not visited before. I probably should have gotten a breakfast item which they are famous for but I got fried chicken and baked macaroni instead.I mostly had housekeeping work to do this afternoon and by the end of the workday I had a clean desk. This evening’s Practicum class was a continuation of the resume dissections we did last week. Attendance was light and there were only three to get through tonight including mine. There was some constructive criticism of my resume although I was expecting more radical suggestions. Class was dismissed just before 7:30.Dad was waiting to pick me up afterward. He went back to the office after dropping me off to do some work so I didn’t feel as bad about him agreeing to wait around. I was dropped off at the LBC around eight so I had plenty of time to kill. I spent a portion of it writing this.We had a healthy crowd at ballroom this evening… somewhere around 40 I suspect. I had trouble with both the old and the new material. Afterward I got a cab home although I did have to wait a while for it.

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Late Package

Like yesterday, Dad dropped me off at WVUE not long before 11 this morning. There were only seven stories on the board when I arrived and it was looking like another slow news day. I was not particularly interested in working the desk today either so like yesterday I camped out in master control again. I learned a little more today. Debbie and later Ron talked about how they “ingest” programming for broadcast. Promos, some commercials and other content come in through digital Betacam tapes which are manually reviewed and transferred to a server. Some syndicated programming is received in advance via C/Ku band satellite and other shows are received through Pathfire, a digital media distribution service.Two live feeds were scheduled for the newscast and I saw how those signals are acquired. The weather was stormy however and they were canceled due to the threat of lightning.At five this afternoon I went to the director’s booth to watch the newscast. I saw one from there last week which was pretty interesting. There was a lot going on but everything did go smoothly. Tonight there was a hiccup that had to be worked out for the rest of the broadcast. One of today’s top stories was the start of the crime camera trial and Sabrina Wilson shot a package to be aired. Unfortunately it wasn’t ready when the broadcast started and it still wasn’t ready when it came time to air it.Instead, Wilson did an ad-lib Q & A with the anchors instead, hoping all the while it would be a lead-in to the package. After two minutes it still wasn’t ready and they moved on to the next story. A few minutes after that it was ready and apparently one of the editors made the call to run it even though the story had already been covered. That put the broadcast in the red on time, a couple minutes over the hour allotted. For the remainder of the broadcast, the producers I was sitting next two cut segments, rearranged and shortened others to fix the time issue. Being a novice at this sort of thing, it was interesting to watch them solve a frustrating problem while remaining perfectly calm.I left for the day just after six. I don’t recall doing anything in particular this evening.

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Master Control

This weekend passed without incident. I was home throughout and didn’t do much. This morning, I arrived at Fox just before 11. Ms. DeCorte was not working today and it was a slow news day, like most Mondays apparently. Not content to sit in the newsroom all day, I went upstairs to the master control room and introduced myself to the people working there and hung out for the day. I met Debbie, a broadcast engineer with about 20 years at WVUE. I was here last week for a few hours but I didn’t actually learn much as all the equipment is a bit overwhelming at first.Debbie was kind enough to show me Florical Airboss, software which controls the programming and commercials. Generally speaking it’s programmed a day in advance so a lot of the work that the master controllers handle is for future broadcasts, although that changes when they are showing live events like Saints games. After two o’clock, Debbie’s shift was over and Rob, who I met last week, arrived to take over. He showed me a few other things although there wasn’t much going on in relation to the programming on screen. There were a couple guys huddled over a screen working on a problem after upgrading Avid Deko, software used for “bugs” in the corner of the screen.I stayed through the newscast at six. Although I knew Airboss was configured well in advance, I was still surprised to see that absolutely no intervention was needed in Master Control throughout the hour-long live broadcast. Control of commercial breaks is diverted to the director during the news. The news appeared to go pretty smoothly, at least from my seat. I left for the day at six.We had red beans for dinner, quite good. I don’t recall wasting the rest of the evening in any unusual way.

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Friday at Fox

I arrived at Fox just before 11 this morning. There was more than enough news to fill the broadcast this evening but I didn’t have a great deal to do. Early this afternoon Nancy suggested I observe some in studio interviews Val Bracy conducted. She interviewed a couple people working with the inspector general’s office which is part of an ongoing news story.Later on I accompanied Natasha Robin and photographer to a small press conference held by Danatus King, local NAACP head. He and a local minister were announcing that the NAACP were launching their own investigation into the current business with the inspector general’s office.I left for the day at four o’clock. I squandered the better part of the evening playing Team Fortress 2.

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Work at the office on Wednesday and today was pretty uneventful. I did take some time today to go to the Ruby Slipper for lunch. I ordered an omlette. At six, Dad took me to Elmwood for class this evening. This evening’s practicum class was about resumes. We were all directed to e-mail one to Ms. Hart and we spent the class. We ended up dissecting about five of them. Class was dismissed at 8:30. We’re supposed to get to the rest next week.Early in class I asked around for a ride uptown for ballroom this evening. One lady obliged me although I deeply regret not remembering her name just now. Another friend was riding with her and she needed to stop at Wal-Mart before heading towards the city.With that out of the way we made it uptown pretty quickly but I was still about 10 minutes late. The turnout this evening was quite impressive at about 80 people, a drop off from last week but still quite remarkable compared to previous years. There wasn’t much new material this evening which was fine with me because I could hardly get what we were introduced to.After ballroom, I got something to eat with Andrey at Felipe’s. He told me about a table tennis tournament he participated in a few weeks ago and some other things going on in his life. At about 11, I caught a cab home from Tulane. I had the same driver as last week, Tom, and had another interesting conversation with him.

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Like Monday, there was not much going on at the station, being a slow news day. I spend quite a while at the assignment desk not doing much. I decided to give myself a tour of the engineering stuff upstairs. I took a seat in the director’s booth upstairs and introduced myself to the lady who was working there. Nothing was really happening since it was over an hour away from the newscast. After a little while I walked down to the master control room where I met a young man who was working there. All the screens and controls were pretty fascinating and I learned a bit about how commercials and syndicated programming are queued up. While everything is still rather complicated, the extensive automation makes things a lot easier than it might otherwise be.At five I walked back to the director’s booth to observe the director and producer conduct the broadcast. It was fascinating to watch all the talk and commotion that goes into directing a newscast. The director was calling out the shots and graphics, the producer sat behind the director and keeps the newscast on track, and keeps track of time. There is an assistant to play back all the video clips and sound bytes as well as a woman there to talk to the two live trucks that were doing remote broadcasts.At 5:30 I left for the day. The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful.

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Friday to Monday

Friday at Fox was not particularly interesting. It rained all day and I was on the assignment desk most of the afternoon. I did go with one of the photogs, Donny, to interview some AmeriCorps people that were handing out flyers on flu/disaster preparedness at Loyola. It wasn’t much of a story and I got nice and wet from the rain. I left for the day at four.The weekend was rather uneventful. I didn’t leave the house and spent a lot of time playing shoot-em-up games on the computer and I watched a couple of movies.I worked at Fox today from 11 to five. I would normally stay until six but Dad took Mom out to dinner this evening so my ride wanted to be home earlier. I was in the newsroom all day and didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything. I might have been more forward in finding something to do were I not leaving as the evening newscast was starting.This evening I watched Paris, je t’aime, a collection of short films centered around the City of Lights which was actually quite interesting. Later on I watched some of the Jay Leno Show premiere and the Raiders / Chargers game.

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Work on Wednesday was pretty uneventful. Dad seemed to be reasonably caught up on reports so I got around to some housekeeping work that’s been on my desk for a while. Several months worth of checks were waiting to be entered into the computer and I spent a lot of time doing that among the distraction of other activites. That evening I broke down and upgraded to Trillian Astra and finished watching Bringing Out the Dead.Today, Dad and I arrived at the office after 11. Earlier this morning I was watching the conclusion of an eBay auction offering a Sony VAIO U101. I would have loved to have it, but not as much as a couple other people, apparently. Work was not particularly eventful. Some of the data entry was yet undone but I didn’t get to it today. Instead I have a couple patient reports and records to prepare. I also made a couple calls to the Reily Center this evening for a club sports pass. The assistant director, Allison, was very helpful and I was able to buy a pass over the phone rather than having to take time off of work and appear in person and I have in previous terms. After work, Dad dropped me off for class this evening in Elmwood.Tonight’s practicum class featured another around-the-table update on everyone’s internships or lack thereof. We had a couple class presentations to get through including one by a familiar face, David, another student I’ve seen in previous classes over the years. After a lecture about personality traits relation to career paths, Ms. Hart played an instructional video from the 90’s on resumes.After class, Dad was waiting to pick me up. He was kind enough to wait for me and take me to Tulane’s uptown campus for the first session of Ballroom dancing this semester.This was my first time being at the Uptown campus since last term. The McAlister Place project appears to be in full swing, converting the street and parking to a pedestrian walkway. This pretty much guarantees Tulane will remain a perpetual construction site through the five years I have been a student.With about a half hour to kill before ballroom this evening, I sat in the LBC for a little while and typed most of this. I walked to the Reily Center. There was quite a crowd milling about on the top floor. Luckily we are in the larger lakeside room this fall which was more apt to accommodate everyone. There were several familiar faces to say hello to as well as a plethora of new ones. I believe the count was 139.Tammy Clark is back as out instructor as well and samba is the first dance style of the term. It took me a little while to pick up the basic step. I usually depend on seeing the instructor but it was rather crowded and I seldom had a clear view. Megan, who’s recently returned from Europe, had a grip on things and showed me the how it was done. Later on when we moved on to a promenade step I was a bit lost again. I should be caught up next week though.Afterward I caught a cab home and had an interesting conversation with a long-time local who has been involved with several business ventures.

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VO Patrol

I arrived at Fox shortly before 11 this morning. I didn’t have much to do at the desk this morning. This afternoon, Nancy sent me out with Avis to do a short interview with Roger Villere and photograph some “real estate” Kenner related to a double shooting last night.I was a bit nervous about conducting an interview per se but it was no big deal. The questions don’t go on the air if an intern or photographer is doing the asking and the subjects generally know exactly what you’re going to ask and already have answers in mind so I would guess they almost always get the sound byte they want without incident. We met Mr. Villere at his florist shop off Veterans Blvd. and the whole thing only took about two minutes.With that in the can we drove out to Kenner and Avis shot some voice-over footage of duplex apartments in the area where a shooting occurred last night. There was no evidence that anything had taken place last night, not even caution tape. Before heading back to the studio we had to drive out to Harahan for some reason so Avis could take care of something. As we started heading back, Ms. Decorte called and sent us to do another interview with Cedric Richmond who announced his candidacy for congress next year. This and the Villere interview would both be VO/SOTs, which stands for voice over/sound on tape. During the newscast, an anchor will read some copy, a soundbyte will be played and the anchor will wrap up the story before moving on. We interviewed him at a law office slash UPS Store on Elysian Fields. Nancy gave me a couple questions over the phone. Most importantly, I asked why he was choosing to run for office. I also asked him why he was announcing so early, over a year before the November 2010 election. He decried partisan politics and said incumbent Joseph Cao was merely voting on the party line and lamented his no vote on the stimulus package.After returning to the studio I sat around for a little while and eventually in with Avis as he edited down the “real estate” footage and later with another editor who was doing the interviews we shot. That didn’t take long. Most of the time I spent observing, he was working on the super open, which promos the upcoming newscast with snippets of the main stories.At five o’clock I left for the day. Dad was waiting to pick me up. The HOV lane was closed today and traffic was heavier than usual. It took almost an hour to get home. I didn’t do much later this evening as I developed a headache after work. I did start watching a movie before Krystle called.

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Script Running

Dad dropped me off at Fox at 10:30 this morning. Janette, the lone managing editor for the day let me in. After I got settled, John, a production assistant on the desk, gave me some press releases to enter in ENPS and later I did the better part of the beat check, which involves calling surround police precincts to ask if they are working any big cases. Apparently you almost never get a bite, and after 30 calls my notepad was still blank.Later on I went out with one of the photographers, Avis, to Marrero where governor Bobby Jindal was appearing to present 157 Louisiana Veterans’ Honor Medal at American Legion Post 222. A handful of local politicians and sheriff Marlin Gusman were also in attendance. Aside from carrying the tripod in and out there was not much for me to do outside of observing. The ceremony itself went smoothly with the exception of some excitement during Jindal’s address when one of the medal receipts had a fainting spell of some sort. He appeared to be fine but he was taken away by ambulance. Governor Jindal presented him with his medal before he left.Following the interruption, Jindal finished his speech and they began distributing the medals. Avis and I were there for about half of that process before heading back to the studio. When I got back I had lunch. Chick-fil-a left a bunch of food for the newsroom right before we left and I finally had a chance to eat. 15 minutes before I was planning to leave at four, Janette asked me to stay until six. Apparently the rest of the interns were leaving at four and she wanted one to hang around through the newscast. I called Dad to let him know and he didn’t seem to mind staying at the office for a while longer.I spent the rest of the afternoon helping one of the production assistants with the script printing and distribution. She showed me how she goes about printing script copies before the newscast. It would be a trivial affair but the process is complicated by late arriving copy. They start printing at 4:30, half an hour before they go on the air. As things come in closer to five o’clock and even later, those pages are run to the director’s booth, sound engineer and news anchors separately. A few minutes before the show started, the assistant I was working with went in the studio to set up and operate the teleprompter and left me to get the last remaining pages printed and distributed to everybody. Being my first time doing this it was kind of exciting even though the tone of the whole day was comparatively calm and quiet. I had to make four or five trips to the anchor desk and the booths upstairs.By the second commercial break, everyone had all the pages. I sat in with Claudia while she operated the teleprompter through the duration of the newscast. I had a headset to listen to the director’s and producer’s chatter which was interesting and occasionally amusing. Nancy Parker was the lone anchor this evening and I got to chat with her briefly during a couple of the breaks. She comes across as a rather pleasant person. I left for the day at six o’clock, just after the newscast ended. Dad was waiting for me outside.I don’t remember doing much of anything that evening outside of dinner and wasting time on the internet.

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Wednesday at Work

Dad and I got to the office at about 11:30 this morning, maybe sooner. There was no significant backlog from my absence yesterday and I didn’t have much work remaining to do by quitting time at five. This evening I spent some time working on my practicum class homework, an oral presentation on a career possibility. I picked sports telecast director, a rare job and not a good choice as far as potential research is concerned. There was a great article on the subject in January’s Atlantic Magazine, though.

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First Day at Fox

Dad dropped me off at Fox 8 at around 10:30 this morning, half an house before I was supposed to report. Travis, one of the PA’s, let me in and showed me the ropes for a while, mostly the ENPS newsroom workflow software they use and how to interact with it. One of the jobs interns sometimes do is enter information from faxes, e-mails and press releases into the event calendar. Certain items are pulled from the calendar and use for story ideas. I was shown the software during my station tour but I didn’t use it myself. That afternoon we got a handful of calls about the John McDonogh High School principle repeatedly canceling band practice. I didn’t pay the first call much thought but we received calls from a few parents and MS. DeCorte apparently made an inquiry and received a less than informative response.Later on I accompanied reporter Jennifer Hale and a camera man to get a brief interview with congressman Joseph Cao who was spending the afternoon touring points of interest related to the homeless problem in New Orleans. We were waiting at the abandoned St. Augustine High School which was to be one of his stops. We never did see him and ended up returning to the station empty handed, as the reporter also got a de facto interview cancellation on another unrelated story.After returning to the station I didn’t have much of anything to do, although just before five, the lady that operates the teleprompter and apparently works on the scripts invited me to help her out a bit and I went with her as she distributed copies of the scripts to the producers upstairs and the anchors in the studio. I was able to introduce myself to Nancy Parker and Jennifer Van Vrancken. I left not long after five but I got to sit at the teleprompter controls for the first few minutes in the studio. I was surprised to see the cameras are controlled remotely upstairs rather than having operators behind them. The only people actually in the studio are the anchors and teleprompter operator.Dad picked me up from the station just after five. I didn’t do much in the evening. I had a bit of a headache and laid down for a while and eventually went to sleep for the night.

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