Sunday, March 28, 2010

Home Again, Home Again!

(A disclaimer: I'm sleep deprived, so don't expect clever writing, proper spelling, or fascinating tales.)

I've finally wandered back to Southern California after my time on the road.

Friday we covered the McCain/Palin event in Tucson. The day started with a six a.m. live shot--and it was cold (45 degrees)! Who would've expected Tucson to be cold! Thankfully, my pal Allen (a photographer for the Today show) loaned me a jacket. Thanks, Allen!

The event started around 12:30. Most of the 1000 guests told us they mainly came to see Sarah Palin--and she didn't disappoint the crowd. But I won't discuss politics here. I'm all about the behind the scenes, right? Other than clueless reporters stepping on and off our platform during the event (shaking the platform, thus making the shot shake) the event went nice and smooth.

By the time we did our liveshot at five o'clock. most everyone had already gone. Five minutes until air, one of the deconstruction crew comes over and tells me they need to take the platform down. He said he'd wait until after our shots, but the guys actually started taking it down around us. Yikes! With only a half an hour to get ready for the six, I had move everything off, quickly slam together (edit) our 6 o'clock piece, and reset the shot. Run! Run! Run! Weirdly, I kinda enjoy the pressure. I know, I know. That's messed up, right?

The downside of the day? The lack of food and sleep. The night before, we got to squeeze in three hours sleep before getting up for the early show. Once we got to the fairgrounds where the event took place, we were locked down for the day, and there was no food anywhere to be found! Luckily I carry Cliff Bars in my bag. It's weird though. When you're working and have deadlines to meet, the hunger and fatigue move to the backseat. It's not until later you start to crash. Around seven thirty, we finally got a bite to eat, then shot our piece for the 11pm. To bed by midnight. Yay!

From there, instead of heading back to SoCal, I took a little detour to Phoenix to spend the day with my family. My pretty mommy and I went to a wedding.

I watched my twin nieces ride horses.

Saw all the cool things my nephew builds.

Met their cool tree frog "Gummy" (aptly named since everything sticks to him). They also had several hamsters and dogs. They love critters. Reckon it runs in the family.

Visited my 91-year-old "Nannie."

Of course got the best daddy hug in the world. All in all, a fine day trip on the way back home.

Thanks for indulging my family photos. Tomorrow, back to work! And now... it's time to SLEEP. Ah... sleep. How I've missed you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Tucson on Assignment

Back in the day, I used to travel a lot for work, all over the world, but these days with budget cuts, we don't get on the road as much, instead, letting affiliates pick up the shoots.

I like traveling for work. Sort of. It was a lot easier pre-911 considering how much gear we travel with, but I've gotten pretty darned good at juggling it all while navigating airports. Generally, I travel alone with the gear since I like flying out of a smaller regional airport near my home rather than braving LAX. The challenge is trying to move the five-to-ten cases of gear (depending on the assignment) without letting it out of my sight. Sky-caps are great, especially my guys at John Wayne Airport. They make it so much easier.

I'm in Tuscon on assignment for the next couple of days to cover John McCain and Sarah Palin, together again to try and draw the conservative base back to McCain.

Travel was a breeze today. Everything went according to plan. I got the gear on flight ($400 in excess baggage!), got it off the flight, into a rental car, and to the hotel. Now comes the tough part. The day started when I headed to the airport about ten a.m. and arrived in Tucson about four. We go live tonight at eleven, have to come back to the hotel, sleep for about four hours, and get up to do two hits for our morning show (six and six thirty a.m.). And that's all before we've even covered the event!

Around noon, we shoot the campaign event, write and edit our stories for five and six, do the live shots for five and six. Whew. Done?

Maybe. There's a chance we'll have to go again for the 11p.m. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we don't. So yeah... travel assignments are exhausting. We work our butts off. But it's a nice change of pace.

And look! My pillow wishes me goodnight! Sadly, I won't see the pillow again until after midnight.

Until tomorrow...

Later gators

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to Convince People to get Naked

I knew that title would get you!

But hey! That's what I had to do today. Convince a girl to get naked. In front of a camera. For TV.

One benefit of being a female television photojournalist is that there aren't a lot of us out there, and in certain situations a girl cameraman is a heck of a lot more appropriate. Like for breast cancer stories. Or stories that are highly emotional.

Or stories at tanning salons.

Yep. That's where I had to ask a girl to get nekked. But I swear! There was a news hook!

Part of the new health care package passed by congress includes a 10% tax on tanning beds--kind of a "sin" tax on something potentially not good for you, like the cigarette tax, and a way for the government to (partially) fund the new health care plan.

But how do you visually tell a story about tanning beds without seeing someone in a tanning bed? And what do people wear in tanning beds? NOTHING!

In comes the female photographer benefit. Had I been a dude asking to enter the room while a girl tanned, I'd probably have been kicked in the nether regions. Granted, the first three we asked said, "Hell no!"

Then I saw my target. A super fit young girl who looked insanely confident in her body.  So we asked. Her eyes got big. She hesitated. Then she shrugged and said, "Why not?"

Granted, when we got into the room and I ran the scene through my head I realized I wouldn't be able to get anything but tight shots if she was, well, nekked. So we compromised on her sports bra and panties.

So where are the pictures you ask? Come on! It's one thing to show a moving image on TV, quite another to put a still up to be analyzed. The girl didn't agree to that! (Sorry Sir Venator!)

So. Would you get naked for a TV camera?

I know my answer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm grinnin' for no good reason

Remember a couple of days ago when I posted about finding your happy?

Well today, my news story... no. I'm not going to tell you. I'll just tell you today's assignment had something to do with one of my blog posts last week about someone with the initials "O.M." Got it? 

Anyway. So it was a hectic, up to the deadline kind of day and I was rushing around, shooting, editing, getting us ready for air, shot a quick, last minute interview, edited it down... rush, rush, rush... break down the shot, pack it all up, wanna get out of there and take a shower after our story.... ew... and then this:

 I screeched to a halt on the sidewalk. There, amongst the blades of grass, this pretty little flower! It was the size of a clover, so small, it could easily be missed in the sea of green. A little bitty... what is that? A pansy? Whatever it was, it was so insanely cute I had to grab a picture.

Seeing this happy little thing made me smile like an idiot. It made me forget my truck's transmission's death that morning. Forget I was wasting yet another day at O.M.'s house. Forget I didn't make the quarterfinal round of the Amazon novel contest. None of it matter. I had this pretty little flower staring up at me.

Oh man! Forget... Was it a forget-me-not?? I totally don't know my flowers. Anyone?

So hey! Did anything make you smile today? If so, share!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Jobless Redhead Gets A Job!!

Don't you love happy endings?

Last month, I covered a story about a "Jobless Redhead" who found an inventive way to search for a job. Check out my blog post from February.

Way too often, we (the media) don't follow up on stories, which is sad. One day a person is top of the newscast, the next forgotten. In this case, my reporter kept in touch with Michael, and yesterday he texted that he'd found employment through his efforts. By standing on the corner with a sign directing people to his resume (posted at, he got over a thousand email responses, many interviews, and several offers. The one he accepted?

A marketing job for an oral surgeon. He'll visit dentist offices--both ones with established relationships and those without--and build relationships for referrals. It's a great job for him. The guy is personable. He's smart. He's creative. No doubt he'll do very well.

So what's he going to do with his Jobless Redhead website? Maybe rent it out to another unemployed redhead, he says. Now that's thinkin'!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is this news? Or is this gossip?

I have a question for you, and I want you to answer honestly. Not how you think you should answer, but an honest to goodness from your gut answer. Ready?


Are you interested in the Octomom? Is her life news?

Stop laughing. I'm asking you seriously. I know you think you should say no, but look deep. Are you curious?

Here's why I ask. My assignment yesterday was to stake out Octomom's house. I was mortified. That's what TMZ is for, right? I'm legitimate news! I work for the Peacock for goodness sakes! We don't cover gossip!

But is it gossip?

Here's what I found:  Whenever I'd tell someone what my assignment was yesterday, the first thing they'd ask was, "Oh! What's going on with Octomom??" So clearly most people want to know, just like I'm sure you kind of want to know even though you might not admit it. (Or maybe you already know.)

I'm quite torn on the issue. My gut says, no, it's not news. But what is news? Is it simply what people are talking about? What they want to know? Or does it need to have some value?

My thought is, if we didn't offer up  trash, the world wouldn't know. Would you feel any less informed not knowing the status of the Octomom?

Give me your opinion. Be completely honest.

Are you curious?

If so, read on and answer my question on whether this matters enough to be part of a news cast:

When Nadya Suleman (Octomom) bought her LaHabra house last year, she couldn't get financing (she's unemployed and has no source of income other than welfare). The owner of the house struck a deal with Nadya and her father. She would pay $4100 a month for a year, and at the end of that year, she'd have a balloon payment of $450,000. It's now been a year. She missed her last $4100 payment, and has not paid the $450,000 balloon payment and will be evicted on Tuesday if she doesn't come up with the money.

Okay. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to be Happy

Monday, I had a pretty rotten day, mostly from a mistake I made at work. I had a tough time not dwelling on it. But my brain came to the rescue during the night. Sometime just around dawn, I dreamt of puppies and kittens. Adorable little Dachshunds and even a blue Tartan cat (yes, I mean tartan like Scotsman tartan). I really, really love critters. And because of their dreamland visit, I woke up happy (even though it was an earthquake that woke me up).

I've mentioned how covering news can sometimes be a challenge on the emotional front. When you layer on technical issues and indecisive producers, it can do a doozie on your head. Yes, it's been on of those kind of weeks so far (which is why I haven't kept up on the daily blog front), but I refuse to let it get me down.

So what's the best way to pull out of it? Let's contemplate with the help of Google:

-- Eating a whole bunch of cake. Yes, it might provide a momentary slice of happiness, but would only make me sadder in the long run, right? Okay. So no cake.  :(

-- Ha ha! Okay. So I entered "ways to get happy," and on a Reader's Digest list I found this:  10. Tune out the news. For one week go without reading the newspaper, watching the news, or scanning the headlines online. Instead, take a vacation from the misery we're exposed to every day via the media and use that time for a walk, a meditation session, or to write in your journal.-- Oh dear. I'm in big, big trouble. So I can't tune out the news considering it's what I do for a living, but I reckon I could make sure to get my daily walk. I've been slackin' lately. So there's one to add to the list. Good. Next...

-- Years ago, Oprah suggested to keep a journal of happy things. She called it something I can't remember (gratitude journal?), but I loved the concept and still try to apply it every day (even though I don't always write it down). Like today, while parked near a jogging trail to report on sexual predators (ew!), I saw this really adorable squirrel dash across the grass. He was so doggoned cute! A really nice little nugget. (The joy, not the squirrel. I wouldn't eat a squirrel, even though I am from hillbilly genes.)

-- Save someone's life. Seriously. I found that in my Google search. Ummm... well. I don't think I can just-like-that save someone's life, but, uh... I'll keep that in mind. Next?

-- Act happy. Fake it 'til you feel it. YES. Now that fits perfectly with my philosophy.
 I'm a big believer in happiness being a state of mind. You can either dwell in the dark, or bring yourself back to the light. Several years ago, I got laid off from my job with a film company because of a merger. I was devastated. I moped. I ate donuts. And then I read The Power of Positive Thinking. I know it sounds hokey, but that book seriously changed my life. An absolute keeper!

-- This one's going to sound silly, but BREATHE. It's a Yoga thing, and Yoga makes me happy. So often, we forget to breathe deeply. We take shallow breaths all day long, starving our body when what it really needs is a big old snootful of air. Go on. Try it now. I will too. Maybe it will erase the bad day. Wow! I feel SOOO much better already!!!

-- I found quite a few lists suggesting singing. And yes, while singing does make me feel good, it makes those around me feel really, really bad. I mean, I'm the girl who got kicked out of choir. Whose boyfriend musician booted me from the background vocals on a song because I was THAT BAD. For the sake of the world, I'm going to skip the singing--at least in populated places.

--  Losing yourself in a great book. Now we're talking! There's nothing like getting completely absorbed in another world to make the negativism melt away. The written word is such a precious gift. If I don't have a book in progress, I feel lost. Yes. Reading is a sure-fire road to happiness.

So my top five:

1. Take a Daily Walk and enjoy the beauty of the fresh air.
2. Find the little things every day that make you smile and hold onto them.
3. Act happy even if you feel miserable, and soon you'll forget you're bummed.
4. Breathe all the way into your chest several times a day.
5. Read. Read. Read.

What are your favorite ways to get happy and stay positive? Drop a comment and share your tips!

And now... I'm off for a relaxing walk to look for the little things, all the while smiling and breathing and reading a book. Okay. So maybe I won't read while walking. That might get dangerous. I'll read in the bathtub when I get back.

Later gators!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Carlos the Seven-Year-Old Hero

Finally, a feel good story after a couple of weeks of covering tragedy. Our story today could have been another bad, bad situation had seven year old Carlos not been so brave, hiding in the bathroom and calling 911 during a home invasion robbery.

First, click on the link below and watch the story. Pictures speak louder than words in this case.

Watch the video here.

Cool kid, huh?

Impressive, right from the start. He walked into the room packed full of media with only the slightest look of nerves. After meeting the dispatcher who'd walked him through the call, the deputy picked him up and put him on a chair to reach the microphones. While the deputy was introducing him, I noticed the boy's mouth moving. What the heck? I thought. So I looked closer. He was silently counting the cameras, "...thirteen, fourteen, fifteen..." and there were a lot of cameras, as you can see.

Carlos worked the crowd. He had us laughing and smiling. He engaged us with his eyes, looking directly at those who asked the questions, scanning the room and the cameras. So often kids--even ones who want to be on TV "more than anything in the world!"--get nervous once the big camera is pointed their way and totally clam up. Not Carlos. What a kid!

Feeling good at the end of the day is all too rare in the news biz, but thanks to Carlos and his last, "that was my sister!" (referring to the screaming heard at the end of the 911 tape) he had me not just feeling good, but grinning like a fool.

Thanks, Carlos, for making it a swell day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Amber DuBois

On tough news days, like today, getting one of those little life moments that make you smile is really a gift.

I’m in San Diego again covering the continuing John Gardner case, the sex offender accused of killing Chelsea King and now suspected of killing Amber DuBois whose remains were found on Saturday. Downtown San Diego is filled with homeless people, most of them not quite all there. This morning, while walking from our news van to the courthouse—totally sleep deprived and emotionally exhausted—a homeless man sitting against a building says to me, “I like your outfit.” It instantly took me out of the moment and made me smile. Here this man, who is holding a sign for money, who is missing most of his teeth, and who has the sun and alcohol reddened face of the homeless, put a much needed smile on my face. I wish I’d have had something to give him. Since I didn’t, I gave him a smile and a thank you instead of walking past as if I hadn’t heard. Probably not what he wanted, but the best I could do.

The toughest part of blogging about my profession is that generally it will be bad news. I could say it’s what we’ve become, but really, it’s what we’ve always been: The bearers of bad news.

So I contemplated skipping this entry, skipping the very sad story of another group of pained mourners. Last night we covered our second candlelight vigil for a dead teen in a week, this time, for fourteen-year-old Amber DuBois, probably killed by the same murdering sex-offender who killed Chelsea King, last week’s murdered girl. Another double shift filled with sadness. I had to keep telling myself, “Just get through the day.” And I did, through the 5pm newscast, the 6, and the 11. Part of why I contemplated skipping the entry is because I feel selfish for talking about the affect on me because who am I to talk? I’m merely covering the story. I didn’t know either girl. I’m not family. How must they feel?

Today we stepped away from the sadness a bit, just like the parents of both murdered girls are doing. They all want action. They want laws changed. Gardner never should have been free to commit these crimes. Our coverage focused on John Gardner, the accused killer, and where the gaps in the system failed Amber and Chelsea.

He was in court this morning for a status hearing, and we were there. I watched him. His eyes never stopped moving and he rarely looked up. But he doesn’t look like someone you would peg as a murdering sex-offender. He looks like a guy you’d drink a beer with. Or see on a construction site—proving there is no profile, no standard. If this guy approached me, my hackles wouldn’t go up. And that’s bad. Sadly, giving your trust can sometimes be fatal.

But I also know, I still will. I won't be stupid, or at least I'll try not to, but I'm not going to stop giving a smile to a stranger for paying me a compliment.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oh, how I love Tim Burton....

I've figured it out. It has to be the hair. Yeah...

We just got back from watching Alice in Wonderland in 3D.


I mean, really, really loved it. But then, I love everything Tim Burton does. I think it's because of the hair. You know, the crazy, wild mop of black. Could it perhaps stem from my passion for The Cure? Robert Smith and Tim Burton have some scary similarities, right?

But it goes beyond just Tim Burton. It's the trio, really, that works for me: Burton, Depp, and Elfman.  I was a huge 21 Jump Street fan, and Oingo Boingo. Loved them. So it's only natural I adore Burton's films, right?

And of course Richard Zanuck pictured next to Johnny, who has produced all of Burton's film over the last few years.

My love of Burton started with Pee Wee's Big Adventure. How fun was that? And then Beetlejuice. I fell madly in love with Beetlejuice. I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen that film. Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood. Big Fish. Love, love, love them.

So what is it about his films that gets to me? For one, there's a timelessness to them. Like in Edward Scissorhands. The neighborhood seems straight out of the 50s, but then there are modern appliances. You can't place the time frame. And of course the stunning visuals. The surrealness. The MOOD created in his films. He always pulls me out of my reality and into his; just what I want a film to do.

 (Hmmm... there goes that Robert Smith thing again.)

Critics may not be in love with Burton's version of Alice, but I am. The story moves. It's visually stunning (especially in 3D although my feller disagrees and wants to see it in 2D). The casting is fantastic. And it stays true to Lewis Carroll while still giving a fresh interpretation. I've never heard a theater full of kids remain so quiet through the entire film. They were captivated just as I was.

Only one scene in the film stood out as a bit of a clunker: The dance scene near the end. The music was wrong. The moves clearly special effects. It didn't work for me. But that's it. The rest swept me away.

Keep doing what you're doing, Mr. Burton, and I'll be your fan forever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A tough assignment

As a photojournalist, you get tossed into the heart of a lot of very difficult situations. All this week, I've been covering the case of missing seventeen-year-old Chelsea King.

Thursday, she went for a run at a Rancho San Bernardo park on a jogging trail that encircles Lake Hodges, and disappeared. Her car was left in the parking lot with her cell phone and bag. When she didn't come home, her dad went looking for her and found her car. Sunday, police arrested John Gardner, a registered sex offender, after finding an article of Chelsea's clothes with his DNA on it. This isn't the first time for Gardner. The guy shouldn't be free to stalk young women. Our system is seriously broken.

I have a tough time with assignments like this, one, because it's obviously emotionally tough, but two, because I'm not fond of putting a camera in people's faces when they're grieving. Late in the day, they found Chelsea's body, but even so, her parents showed up at the planned vigil to thank the thousands of people who had helped search for her. The media, of course, swarmed them. Me included. I'm never proud of that moment. I think it's vile. My reporter justified it this way: the family has been very open with the media from the beginning. They knew media would be at this event. For them, it was expected, and a way to get their message out to all watching. And she had a point.

We lead such a weird life. I looked behind me last night, and for as far as I could see, reporters and cameras lined the yellow tape doing hits for the six o'clock news. What is it about human beings that we need to hear news like this? I'm not suggesting we live in a bubble, and yes, by getting news like this out there perhaps laws will be changed regarding sex offenders like John Gardner, but... I don't know. The energy behind the story disturbed me a bit. Our piece last night was lovely. Candlelight makes for very pretty pictures, especially on the emotional faces of the attendees. But the guilt part of me kicked in, as it always does. Is it right to exploit grief?

Or are we simply honoring the life of a loved and respected young lady? Some family's shun the media during these situations, others open themselves up. I don't quite understand the motivation, and I suppose, should accept that it is their choice. I'm a private mourner. I don't like for even those close to me to know when I'm hurt, so I guess I can't relate, and that's why I get agitated by our invasion of a griever's privacy. But maybe for some it provides  comfort to know the world will learn a little bit more about their loved one.

Today we head to court for John Gardner's arraignment. With her body found, they will be able to charge him with rape and murder. I hope the man never sees the light of day again. 

And now... it's time to go.