Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Other Life

Photojournalist by week. Writer by weekend, although right now I'm focused more on putting together a marketing strategy for my novel MOTOR DOLLS (website I've learned a lot over the last couple of weeks about creating a viral presence on the web. Publishing houses are going through tons of changes, especially for the debut author, and getting the book out there now falls primarily on the author's shoulders. I want to be prepared. Premature? Maybe. But I'd rather have everything in place so I'm not scrambling when it happens.

January, I parted ways with my agent, and now that I'm free of that contract, I'm forging full speed ahead toward publishing. I have two agents currently reading, and have entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, making the first cut from 10,000 novels to 2000 novels. I'm also checking into smaller publishing houses and other options, like e-publishing and self publishing. The world is changing, both in the news world and in the writing world, and I want to roll with those changes rather than cling to dying standards.

Every option will be explored. And now... I'm off to write.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can you say EW?

Did you know in California we have wild parrots? Tons of them. They come out at sunset everyday in certain parts of Orange County, in giant flocks, sounding their trademark screech. Today while setting up my liveshot, it actually startled me. I looked up to a blacked out sky from the birds flying overhead. Bizarre. No one knows how they ended up here, although there a lot of urban myths. (


Speaking of bizarre...  Remember my long day yesterday? It went Twilight Zone on the drive home. Here's the scene: I'm in a giant news van with a huge peacock on the side--kind of impossible to be incognito.  It's about one in the morning. I'm on the freeway. This SUV full of drunks comes up beside me. It started innocently enough with them flipping me the bird (and no, not a parrot). No big deal. It happens. I've learned to ignore it. Then they mooned me. Yep. Whatever. I've seen butts. Oh. And then they turned around... Let's just say I saw entirely too much stranger anatomy--and not just from boys. A girl too. When one of them put his butt out the window, and, uh... defacated... that's when I called CHP.

So when you see a news van, wave and smile. We're actually pretty swell people! No need to S**T on us! Ew?!!! Who does that??

In the news realm, we covered the verdict on a 30 year old serial murderer case. He's been convicted three times, but keeps appealing, putting the families through hell.

Once again, he was found guilty of all charges, but the family of Robin Samsoe, twelve years old when she was murdered, has a hard time finding solace in that considering Alcala keeps appealing. As they said, it's like burying Robin all over again every time they go through this.

When covering a big case like this, it's too disruptive to let every media outlet into the courtroom, so we use what's termed a "pool camera"--one camera shoots and feeds out to everyone else. The scene in the hall of the eleventh floor was nuts, full of cameras and tripods and recording decks.  Most courthouses have restrictions on where we can photograph, otherwise I would have snapped a shot of the pandemonium.

From there, we rushed down to the second floor--the only place in the courthouse where we're allowed to do interviews--and set up a mic stand so the family could make their comments. Pictured here is DA Matt Murphy giving his statement. If you look behind the woman in the white blouse, grey vest, and black flower (my reporter) you'll see the top of my head. For the most part, we try to keep things civilized (like this), leaving a good pad of space between our mic stand and the cameras. Of course, it doesn't always happen this way.

Next, this case goes to the penalty phase, and I'm sure we'll be back to cover it. (A link to our news story. About halfway down, you'll see the video link:

So what's on tap for tomorrow? I have absolutely no idea. It's the best part of this job, never knowing where I'll be, who I'll be meeting, and what I'll be learning about. It's endlessly interesting.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A rewrite of yesterday's blog....

I'm afraid I came off a bit angry and negative yesterday--not my point. So consider this a do-over.

Some days, life as a photojournalist can get pretty challenging. It's not like I go into an office, punch the clock, have lunch at noon, and go home when the quittin' bell rings at the end of the day. When news happens, we need to be there to cover it, regardless of the time or circumstance. It's part of the excitement of doing what I do.

Like today.

I'm working my second double this week. I'm starting with a sleep deficit, have a headache, and am two and half hours from home. Our live shot isn't until after the Olympics at 11:30 pm, and we also have to do a hit for San Francisco. Then, I have to break down the shot, put the gear away, and drive the two and half hours back to the OC. So I'm guessing I won't get home until about 2:30 am, and then be up all bright and shiny the next morning (or rather, later that morning) to report for duty. Not an easy deal.

You say (if you read yesterday's blog!), "But I thought you were doing a story about water bottles?" Yeah. That's how the day started off. We had the story three-quarters of the way shot. We had fun with it.

And then, the dreaded phone call: "We're changing your story."

Sadly, a female whale trainer at Sea World Orlando was killed by a whale. What does that have to do with Los Angeles news? we asked. There's a Sea World in San Diego. So we had to drop our water bottle story (sales are down, did you know?) and head south. SD Sea World planned to close all of their Orca shows until further notice.

Mind you, it was one o'clock, and our newscast comes on at five. It would take us two hours to get there.

Our angle on the story was to find tourists who were in the San Diego park when
they closed the Shamu show. Luckily, we found a family visiting from Wisconsin who went to Sea World just to see the killer whales. While standing in line to get in, the announcement was made, and they didn't get to see the show. We ran across this family just as we parked at a nearby seaside amusement park--which helped immensely with our time crunch. Sometimes it's challenging to find people relevant to the story. Not today.

Next, we chose our live spot (Sea World wouldn't
let us onto their property), the reporter wrote the story, I edited the story, set up the live shot.... all the while with the clock ticking ever closer to four-thirty--our deadline for the five..

But we did it. As we always do.
A hit at 5. A hit at 6.

And then the phone call...

"We need you to stay and do a hit for the post-Olympic show at 11:30pm." Oy. I wanted to say, "Hell no!" but I didn't. This is my job. And even with the challenges, I love what I do.

In this line of work, you've got to keep things in perspective. It sucks working a double shift. It sucks having to make the drive home afterward. It's really going to suck getting up tomorrow morning. But I'm still alive. Unlike Dawn Brancheau, I will go home. She went into work this morning with no idea it would be her last. 

So really... who am I to complain about working a double shift? Would I want to be doing anything else? No.

Until tomorrow....

Check out this guy...

My news assignment yesterday. Talk about genius marketing. Michael Williams, twenty-eight years old, found himself unemployed, but instead of kicking back on the couch with government cheese, he took his future to the streets. Literally.
He gets up in the morning, puts on his suit, and takes a sign to a busy street corner in Irvine. What does it
say? SEE MY RESUME. All day, he stands there, holding his sign, trying to drive people to his website, And you know what?
It's working.

He's a good looking guy, very well spoken, and driven. To do what? He's not really sure, but he  knows what he doesn't want to do: 100% commissioned sales. He likes to be challenged. He likes marketing. Ideally, he'd like to work with youth ministry since his master's degree is in Youth and Family Ministries. He simply wants someone to give him a chance.

People smile at him. Give him thumbs up. Wave at him. He's had over 2000 hits on his website 
and a few interviews, but still hasn't been offered the right opportunity.

If you want to read more about him, go check out his
website. In case you didn't get it, it's

These are the days I seriously love my job. Shooting the story was a blast, it was fun to edit, and I made contact with a really terrific human being--the best part about being a photojournalist.This story had its challenges too. All of the b-roll (the video to cover the reporter's words) was of one thing: Him holding a sign. It took a lot of creative angles to make it work, a lot of tight shots to sequence. The end product? Something I was very proud of. And the producers liked it to! Used it in two shows instead of the usual one.

It was a good day.

Today's assignment? Water bottles. They're on the decline. 

Until tomorrow, 

Later gators.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Standing on a Corner... Winslow Arizona!

Funny how song lyrics can make a town famous.

 My best feller has this fantasy about packing it in from the big city (Los Angeles area) and moving to a small town in the middle of nowhere, so this week--for his birthday--we trekked to Winslow, Arizona, made famous by the Eagles song, and you know what? I actually liked it.

Besides being a historic Route 66 town, it has an interesting art and architecture scene.

The people were fantastic throughout town, especially at The La Posada Hotel. What a phenomenal place. I mean, seriously, seriously cool stuff. Go to the linked website and check it out. What the owner did to bring it back from the brink is unbelievable.

Birthday boy Brian at the
entrance to La Posada with
his friend the camel.

Live guitar music
at La Posada. I could
have sat all night and

We fell in love with a building.
And hey! It’s for sale!

But here’s the deal. Winslow is
about population 10,000. Small.
Really small. I’ve lived in big cities
for most of my life. Could I handle such
an extreme change? I’m pondering.


Especially after going
 from this gorgeous
desert sunset... this hideous LA traffic.                             

Who knows? Maybe I could be right at home in Winslow. Just hole up, and write.