Monday, February 27, 2006

Balancing Act

What a week. Every day saw me roaming the highways and byways for nearly the entire shift. This means that I didn't have to hang around the pod-people, but also meant a little more work than ususal. Tuesday and Thursday found me in New Orleans, and I spent Wednesday in a Public Service Commission meeting (YAWN).

Tuesday found cub reporter Scott Satchfield and I on location of an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The blue crew is restoring a church on Carondelet St., so we're going to feature that for the last couple days of sweeps. I was actually looking forward to going, because I watch the show and have always wanted to see what the production is like. For those wondering, Ty wasn't there that day, but Michael and Paige were. The first story airs tonight, and the second on Tuesday.

The other trip to New Orleans is the real focus of this story. After getting to work on Thurday, I find out that I'm paired up with Scott again and headed south. We've scored a one-on-one interview with this Royal Hershey Highness, Ray Nagin. Others may have done this, but it's the first for the Baton Rouge stations, so I'm a little pumped. I even brought a second camera to hopefully up the production value.

We arrive at City Hall and I haul out all the gear I've got to make it in one trip. Doing my best pack-mule impression, I exit the elevator on the second floor to find a press conference in progress. That's not us, we've got a one-on-one, so we head for the receptionist's desk, to be met by an exuberant field producer for Fox News Channel. It turns out that our one-on-one was actually going to be shared time with FNC.

It only gets worse from here, folks.

The young producer, who is ecstatic with our arrival, fills us in on the latest developments. The interview has been moved to another location at a time to be determined after the currently running press conference ends, which is now several minutes past one o'clock. Nothing to do but lay down the extra hundred pounds of gear that I'm carrying and have a seat. At least the company is good and we all have a few laughs.

The conversation eventually turns to the crazy amount of gear each group brought up in the vain hope of actually using it. The other crew relates a story about their equipment cart, that while functional, is not quite shipshape. It has a busted wheel, so when it rolls down the hall, it wobbles and shakes, threatening to throw everything from it. It also has a lean, not unlike the three-wheel motion found in many '64 Impalas.

"So, what you're saying," I begin, looking them straight in the eyes, "is that your cart isn't 'Fair and Balanced'?"

It got a good laugh from all involved, except for the 'talent', who seemed to take it a bit more seriously than the others. While it could have degenerated into a shouting match, she tried to lord her 'Network' status over our lowly 'Local' heads, it was neither the time nor the place for such. As it was, I couldn't think of anything better to say!

Soon they scurried after the mayor who would give them a sound bite at the Extreme Makeover site. We, on the other hand, were not to be lead by the mayor's leash and were assigned to pick up another story. Several hundred suspects could possibly go free due to a shortage of public defenders. Ah, the life of a local news shooter.

Before leaving N.O., I discovered that the 'all-powerful' Network crew had suffered the same fate as their local counterparts.

As a good friend says, 'It's just the same circus, different city.'

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lonely Pines

I love the sound of the wind sighing through the pine trees. It provides the perfect backdrop for some leisurely reading on vacation.

Unfortunately the pines in today's story aren't the evergreens I enjoy, but The Pines Motel & Lounge. Anyone who watches the Deuce knows, by now, way more than they ever wanted to know about this dive on Airline Highway. It has been the focus for many evacuee stories, as it is the locus of many, ranging from honest victims to relocated crack dealers.

The Ritz it isn't. I've heard suggestions that before it became a haven for hurricane helpless, it's rooms were used by the business people of that area to close deals, whether on their backs or otherwise. It's only gone downhill since.

Last week check-out time came for the Katrina evacuees who hadn't gotten an extension on their stay. This would be for those who are legitimately trying to get back on their feet, instead of lounging around all day in their room or the parking lot. The manager has a list in his hands with 17 names that haven't checked in with their new numbers. Thinking he might be able to start renovations soon, he knocks on each door. With each successive knock, he gets the same answer, and less optimistic about the future of his motel. They already got their number, or they're on the phone trying to get one.

I've got no problem lending a hand to the victims having to start over with nothing. All I ask is that they do something to help themselves. These people knew when they got their last number that they only had a couple of weeks, but they waited until they were about to get kicked into the street to make a phone call. These few bad apples are giving the other victims a bad reputation. Now hiring signs are posted on nearly every street corner in town, yet some people say they don't have transportation to get to work. How about the two feet God gave them?

Again, I'm not making these statements about all the victims of this tragedy. I'm only talking about the people I see at this one location, sleeping in their rooms all day, and drinking in the parking lot all night. These are the people I'm tired of supporting.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Last Man

It's never good being the last man to a gang bang.

That's one of the slang terms we use in 'the business' to describe the huge throng of cameras and reporters surrounding a high profile subject. Being the last one to join that group means that you usually only get a bad shot of the vip's ear. This happened to me Monday while on a tour of New Orleans to kick off the second legislative special session since hurricanes Katrita hit.

After following the busses hauling legislators, aides, and media folk from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, we found ourselves in the Ninth Ward. Our slow paced trek through the ravaged neighborhood came to a stop, and through the open window I hear chanting. A protest in honor of the governor's visit to the area, how nice. Clutching my camera and mic I roll out of the passenger door and head along the convoy, following the siren's song. Once I've got the requisite video and sound needed to tell this part of the story I look ahead to see the busses negotiating a turn, possibly letting people out, about two blocks away. Since the Jeep is half a block behind us, we decide to go back to it. Three minutes later we're parking it in the same place it was because the military guys say they aren't letting any more vehicles down the street. Any other day I might have argued, but time and opportunity were slipping from our grasp, leaving us with a three block run as our only option.

Halfway to our destination we're stopped by another military type who wants to check our credentials, saying he has no way to know who we are. As we run the rest of the way, I tell my reporter they would know who we are if they had let us drive.

Abandoned tripods are our last obstacle as we reach the crush of reporters and cameras encircling the governor and I work my way into the scrum. Story shot we make our way to the convention center for our live shots.

One last note is this point made by Sen. Cleo Fields, who didn't go on the trip: The governor and FEMA can get busses to take people to the convention center and put on a huge dinner after the joint session, but they couldn't do it when people were dying there with no food and water.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone who might still be checking for updates. Overhauling my computer was a fairly simple task which went well, except for a minor problem. Playing with all the new features like editing video and watching and recording TV on it have taken much of my free time. I did take pictures and will post a blog about the build, for anyone who would like to know how to do it.