Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Swear, I Get Some Work Done

I have a fever. An itch, even.

No, it's not some new airborne plague carried by mosquitos or grackles. It's something I've had since I was about 10 years old: Baseball Fever. It has caused a nearly-unhealthy obsession with my childhood team, the Texas Rangers.

I'm from the Dallas area, so really, I have my choice of four major sports teams. The obvious choice is the Cowboys, a five-time champion, model franchise (until recently... but that's another subject); the Mavericks, a perennial contender and, were it not for some questionable/probably-paid-off officiating (YEAH, I WENT THERE), near champions; and the Stars, who won a championship a decade ago in a sport called 'hockey'. I think.

But no. The Rangers are on my pedestal. And from that pedestal, they continually reach down and beat me over the head, year in and year out. And still I come back every spring, as hopeful as ever. It truly is 'the audacity of hope' to root for them.

And now that I work here, I'm having a hard time stifling this obsession. Opening Day is like a holiday for me, and my dad and I had a good streak going of consecutive openers attended. This year it was an impossibility, so I did the next best thing: I wore my Rangers jersey to work on April 6th.

And it did multiple things. First off, it totally helped the Rangers win! I did it! Second, of course, it sent the message that I'm slightly unhinged when it comes to this team.

Which brings us to Wednesday night. If you've read the most recent installation of Bob's Banter... and there's no reason to think you haven't... you know that it was a bit of a light news night. So, if a television in the newsroom happened to get flipped to the Rangers/Toronto Blue Jays game, you might understand why.

Along the way, though, a few cooky things happened.

My beloved Rangers, already hovering somewhere around the .500 mark, found themselves on the losing end of a 7-4 score headed into the final inning. Then things got weird in a hurry. A Toronto error helped Texas climb to 7-6. Then Michael Young, who has been with the Rangers seemingly forever, stepped to the plate as their last hope... and didn't disappoint! The shortstop-turned-third-baseman, who is usually known for hitting singles and doubles, muscled up and crushed a pitch out of the Toronto Skydome to tie the game.

That means a few things happened: first, extra innings! The more baseball the better, I say. It also meant that all the highlights Sports Director David Robinett had been preparing just became obsolete. Sorry, David! Third, and most pertinent to this blog, I stopped what I was doing, stood up, and bellowed an ear-splitting "YYYESSSS!!!!" through the newsroom, forgetting for a moment that I was not, in fact, sitting in the bleachers. Sorry, everyone. Continue what you were doing. Nothing to see here.

This was after what may turn out in hindsight to be the most exciting moment of 2009 for Texas: the major league debut of Derek Holland. Holland, who made his first appearance as a relief pitcher, is set to eventually become an elite starting pitcher, and something the Rangers have never had: a dynamic power left-hander. We die-hards are über-excited about this guy.

Then came the really weird part. Less than twelve hours earlier, the Rangers had a acquired a pitcher named Darren O'Day from the New York Mets. This guy went from eating lunch in Florida, to an airport in Tennessee, to a customs checkpoint in Toronto. As travel weary as he may have been, his day was just beginning. Team officials rushed O'Day directly to the stadium and warned him that he might get in the game that was going on right then. Turns out they were right.

There was just one minor issue: twelve hours didn't give the Rangers enough time to prepare a uniform for Darren O'Day. You know, the fancy ones with nice lettering that cost we the fans a hundred and fifty some-odd bucks or so. What did the Rangers brass do? Easy: they put him in someone else's uniform! Just like Bruce Wayne putting on a black rubber suit to become Batman, Darren O'Day put on someone else's jersey and became... Kason Gabbard? O'Day, a right-handed relief pitcher, was forced to wear the jersey that belongs to Gabbard, a lefty starter who isn't even currently on the Rangers roster.

And then, five pitches later, it was all over. O'Day/'Gabbard' gave up the winning run, and it was all over. Five pitches that will live in infamy.

I guess I could have just let him borrow my jersey... after all, the Rangers are undefeated when I've worn it in '09.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reporting the Good News

If you had asked me a day or two ago what the subject of my inaugural blog here on would be, I couldn't have imagined it would be a 47 year old Scottish woman on a British reality TV show singing a song from a French stage musical. It just doesn't make sense: I'm not British, I don't watch reality shows, I'm not particularly big on stage musicals, and singing competitions usually annoy me to no end. But more on all that later.

I get the feeling that the typical TV news viewer, whether he or she lives in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, or Abilene, Texas, thinks their TV stations enjoy reporting the bad news in their respective communities. And I understand why. Murders, car crashes, fires, philandering politicians, and the like fill up large portions of newscasts from coast to coast every night.

I started my job as the 10 pm news producer for KTAB-TV in mid-January, and have already seen more grassfires than I care to count. And then I think about the house fires, the murder trials, the tragic hit-and-run, and the tone-deaf former priest twice convicted of molestation. Then I consider the level of political discourse across the country, which at times has been downright scary (including people yelling "secede!" at Governor Perry yesterday?! Please think before you speak. No one wants to even think about going down that road).

And sometimes, the most unlikely thing catches your eye.

When producing a newscast, we try to end each show with a light-hearted or funny story. We in the business call these kinds of stories 'kickers'. Sometimes we can't get to them; breaking news happens, the show ends up running too long, etc. But on Wednesday, it was clear that our newscast had to include Susan Boyle.

Those unfamiliar with Ms. Boyle need only Click Here. Upon first glance... and second glance... and third... the 47-year-old Scotswoman seemed a little, well, off. Just like the typical tone-deaf wannabe reality contestants you've seen a thousand times before. A distant relative, perhaps, of American Idol's William Hung.

And then Susan Boyle began to sing.

I was fortunate enough to travel through parts of Europe the summer after my junior year of high school. While in London, I took in a performance of Les Misérables. What can I say? My girlfriend at the time, who was also on the trip, was a theater buff. The only thing I remember from the play was the announcement beforehand that an understudy would play Jean Valjean that night. I'm impressed I still remember that.

Hearing Susan Boyle sing made me sorry I'd forgotten the song 'I Dreamed A Dream' from that play. It's moving, it's beautiful, but it's an incredibly tragic song. And up until that moment in her life, Susan had been a most tragic character herself: 47, unmarried, mocked in school, learning disability, unemployed, never even been kissed. But by the time she had sang the first eight words of the song, her life as she knew it had already changed... by the time she sang the song's last line ("Now life has killed the dream I dreamed"), her life's dream was about to be realized.

Watch the clip from beginning to end. Even the most hard-hearted (I include myself in this category) will forget the producers' attempts to make her look like a crazy cat lady and see her as the woman who melted the hearts of a cynical audience (not to mention Simon Cowell!). Eat your hearts out, American Idols!

She's now the overwhelming favorite to win Britain's Got Talent, which would allow her to sing for the Queen of England. The YouTube clip you've just watched has existed less than a week, yet has already received millions upon millions of hits. Even the song itself, 'I Dreamed a Dream,' has gained (or regained) popularity; it currently sits at #43 in the iTunes top 100. Think that's happening without Susan?

Times are tough right now. Of course, you don't need any reminder of that... after all, you watch the news. But while we as a nation, and a community, continue to work our way toward more prosperous times, it certainly can't hurt to be a little inspired by Susan Boyle. By Miracle on the Hudson pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger. By Captain Richard Phillips, who was ready to lay down his life at the hands of ruthless pirates so that his crew could stay safe... on the week before Easter, no less. Hello, symbolism!

Why write about Susan Boyle? Because I want everyone to know that we actually like good news. Because my favorite story in my short time here has been the immediate outpouring of help to a Hamby woman with MS who lost her scooter, her only mode of transportation; from the moment her story hit the airwaves, the calls started coming, offering replacements. That gave me a small taste of the awesome power and responsibility we have here in the newsroom. Because when good news happens, we want to be there to report it.

So when we do report the bad news, try not to let it beat you down. Even if it sometimes seems we're trying to do exactly that.

P.S. On a personal note, I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to my co-workers, as well as the people I've met here in Abilene in my nearly 3 months of living here. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms... and for letting me produce your news.

City Council Debate

Tonight we're hosting two debates, one for Abilene City Council Place 1 and the other for Place 2. The debates will be posted in their entirety on

I've never put together a debate before so I hope I've done everything correctly. Luckily this isn't Bob's or Downing's first rodeo, so they've helped me out a lot.

Here are my fears:
  1. I'll forget to record them. I have one thing set to record straight into the computer and another to record on tape. But do I need a backup for my backup?
  2. The set won't be lit properly. We're taping this in one of the studios in an area that's normally lit for one person, not three. I'm sure it will be fine but it still worries me.
  3. We'll be ironing out the kinks for the first debate, and it will take so long to get it going that the next one will be pushed back and I won't get home til Friday morning!
  4. STORMS WILL HIT! Our #1 concern is our viewers and their safety, so if severe weather happens while we're supposed to be taping the debates, sorry guys. Gotta go on the air.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

High Heel Shoes Don't Pair Well with Breaking News

Yesterday when I heard that there was a fire in Callahan County, and that we could see the smoke from here, I knew we had to stream it live online.

It's a great way to bring news to viewers before the news comes on without interrupting soap operas or whatever happens to be on at the time.

We've had so many fires lately, the "breaking news on the web" drill has become second nature. You -- send out a breaking news alert. You -- type up something on the ticker to tell people to go to the web site. You -- run down the hallway and hook up the video from the truck to the live video page. That last "you," the one that involves running down the hallway, that's me.

Murphy's law states that if I wear high heels there will be breaking news.

Yesterday, however, it wasn't just high heels. My legs are incredibly sore from a class I took at the gym. I also sit behind a desk all day, so hopping up and running is no easy task! But, we got it on the web within minutes and we were able to give our viewers/users current information about an important news event.

And I need the exercise.