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Lou Pickney's Online Commentary

November 2000


Wednesday
November 29, 2000
9:35 AM EST

The November Sweeps period is now over (at least for me)! It technically ends tonight after the 11 PM newscast. Now we play the waiting game and see how we end up doing in the ratings. A strong book should help to further establish the success associated with WSAZ Sunrise/Today.

I finally caught the show Boston Public on Monday night on Fox. If ever there was a show that would make you not want to be a high school principal, this is it. I found it to be a rather well produced and entertaining show. Granted, it's no My So-Called Life (which is on my short list of the all-time greatest TV shows of the past 20 years), but it is still quite interesting. I could do without the soliloquies, but overall it's a worthwhile show.

My little sister Mary Beth designed me an RPG game on the computer for my birthday, and finally I got the thing to work today. It's simple, but amazingly well done, especially considering that she's 11 and all. Sleep is on tap now...


Tuesday
November 28, 2000
8:22 PM EST

In a highly irritating move, the lame duck Huntington city council voted last night to enact a two dollars a week "user fee" on people who work within the city of Huntington. Not only do I not believe this to be an illegal tax (though they tried not to use that word), I think it is the latest in the continuing series of short-sighted governmental moves that I have witnessed here in West Virginia. Because lame duck mayor Jean Dean and her cronies can't manage a budget, I have to pay an extra two dollars a month? On top of all of the other ridiculous taxes and fees and restrictions that are placed on us... it's just too much.

My fantasy football team, the West Virginia Snipers, have clinched a playoff spot. I've never missed the playoffs, so it was pretty important to me to earn a playoff berth again this year (only Brook Gardiner in the league has also never missed the playoffs). My trade of Fred Taylor for Terrell Davis, in hindsight, was perhaps not the best decision, but such is life. As it is, Peyton Manning has been great for me, and having Marvin Harrison hasn't hurt, either. I drafted Deuce McAllister last year, so I will have him plus whomever I pick up in the draft going for me in 2001.

I just saw a guy on Who Wants to be a Millionaire who goes to NYU law school with my friend Brook. I called Brook right away when I heard that the guy went to NYU (and he landed his undergrad degree at Notre Dame, where my friend Phil Murphy went to school), but he wasn't in so I left a message.

A cool song that I've run across is "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by the Gap Band. It's an older song, but nonetheless one that I like. Also, thanks to my digital cable, I've found some new hip hop/rap tunes that I enjoy, including songs by artists like Scarface, Canibus and Guru.


Monday
November 27, 2000
8:06 AM EST

Perhaps one of the best things about my shift is that my Monday of work is over before it begins. Of course it's rather upside down to have morning shows on when it's time to go to sleep, but then with things like digital cable I can just pop on the Rap or Alternative music channel and chill (and also find out about some really cool songs).

I've had the itch to write some lately, but unfortunately not the fortitude to see it out into anything concrete. Sadly I have begun many more stories than I have completed. Speaking of which, I really need to hook up my old computer so I can move some old writing files over to the new system. Not much else to say right now...


Sunday
November 26, 2000
5:52 PM EST

"Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do."

-Robert Browning "Porphyria's Lover"


For once, the local CBS here (WOWK) is actually showing a Colts game, as they are playing the Dolphins right now as I type this. Normally we are given the likes of the Browns, Bengals and Steelers, which isn't the most compelling selection -- in this season at least.

The 5 PM Sunday election deadline has passed in Florida, and the results could be certified by tonight. Somehow I have the feeling this whole thing will drag on, but at least I know I'll have a strong lead story for tomorrow morning's newscast.

Last night I went to Jimmy Treacy's 30th birthday party. Actually his birthday was a week and a half ago, but scheduling can be tricky on things like this. The party was a fun time, as several other people from WSAZ came. After the party wound down, we went to Hank's Piano Bar, which I hadn't been to in several months. It was a fun night.

Friday night was very fun as well, as it seemed like the entire crew from this summer was back at Sharkey's, along with some new people as well. While it would have been nice to be home and see my friends there, at least I had the chance to hang with everyone here.

Four weeks separate right now from the extended Christmas Break I'll have. As it is, I have every weekend booked with something between now and then -- the Marshall/Western Michigan MAC Championship game next weekend (if I decide to go, which is iffy given its early afternoon kickoff time), the WSAZ Christmas Party the following weekend, then skiing with Dave Kinder and his family the weekend of the 16th before flying out of here on the 23rd. The skiing will be a good opportunity to actually learn how to do it before I hit the slopes in Colorado...


Friday
November 24, 2000
6:34 PM EST

As I sit here and type, with the sound of Los Angeles' Power 106 streaming through the Internet and playing from my computer speakers, I revel in the empowering freedom that is the weekend. The journey here proved to be a long one.

First of all, I need to thank Melanie Shafer and her husband Terry for their generosity in inviting me to their Thanksgiving Dinner. See, while most businesses close down for the holidays, there are some that do not -- and the TV news field falls into that category. In some ways, holiday newscasts can be more compelling that the norm, seeing people hungry for the top spots making the most of rare opportunities to shine in the spotlight.

But anyway, my point is that I had to work over the Thanksgiving holiday. As a relatively new employee and as a company man, I had no problem doing that. The downside is that, unlike many people who work at WSAZ, I have no family in town to spend Thanksgiving with, and with having to work, travelling wasn't an option for me. Scott Sabol, our morning meteorologist, was in a similar spot as well. So Melanie invited Scott and Scott's girlfriend and I over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. The meal was delicious, and it was much more fun that spending Thanksgiving alone at a Shoney's, I can assure you of that. Plus, Melanie's 11 month old son Max provided quite a bit of entertainment for us all (Max is in a Christmas promo with Melanie that's currently in rotation at WSAZ for those of you in the Huntington/Charleston TV market).

Work today proved to be rather interesting. My normal eight hour shift wasn't all that spectacular, though producing a newscast the day after a holiday is one of the most difficult things a morning producer has to do (I'd say the toughest aside from the morning after an election). The day after Thanksgiving is a bit easier, as you have the mega sales and shopping stories as an option to run.

The interesting part came after the newscast. Adrienne Stevens, one of our producers who normally does evening newscasts, came in this morning to fill in for Phil Weber (our normal cut-in and midday producer), who had today off from work. Christine Cassen, the Executive Producer at WSAZ, asked me a few days ago to stay late to help Adrienne with the cut-ins, which I agreed to do. I walked into the newsroom, and Adrienne asked me if I knew how to shoot. I said yes, and so she sent me out to Wal-Mart in Cannonsburg, Kentucky, where they had received a bomb threat at 6 AM, undercutting the store on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Under normal circumstances, we don't cover bomb threats (as that just tends to encourage the practice), but this had newsworthiness in that the store had been shut down for hours, losing potentially tens of thousands of dollars. So I loaded up into the Caravan and headed out to the highway.

Of course this was a day that I had happened to dress up a bit, wearing my white silk dragon shirt, but under my big WSAZ NewsChannel 3 coat it made little difference. The 20 degree weather in Huntington this morning was a bit chilly, though the Caravan was funny in that the heat wouldn't work if I was pressing down much on the gas. But once I made it to the Ashland/Cannonsburg exit, I had a hard time finding the Super Wal-Mart. After driving past it (and, *gasp*, having to stop and ask for directions), I finally found it.

The parking lot had an angry mob of people waiting to do some holiday shopping. I parked the van and unloaded my gear, and I kid you not, a cheer came out from the crowd. Considering that I spend more than 99% of my time at work in the building, rare occasions like this one remind me of how "over" WSAZ is with the mainstream audience. I shot some exterior vids of Wal-Mart and the crowd and the Boyd County sheriff's department cars. Attempts to speak with anyone official on scene proved to be impossible, as I was gruffly told to back away from the building (that's a bomb threat for you). I talked with a couple of people waiting there in the cold, some of whom had been there for well over an hour. So, in TV terms, I "turned a VO/SOT" and headed back.

So finally my weekend began at 9 AM. But I didn't mind; it was kind of fun to do a little photog work, plus holiday overtime pay is nice. Since Emmis counts the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday, I pulled in holiday pay for two days this week, plus the two hours of OT I accrued on top of that. Not bad at all.

Tali called me a little while ago, and she's in town tonight. So I must be going to get ready to go out; it should be fun chilling with some old friends...


Wednesday
November 22, 2000
8:07 AM EST

On the day before Thanksgiving this time last year I left work at ABC 25 in a hurry.. because I had to get to my house to grab my suitcase and change clothes before flying out of Evansville for a job interview at WSAZ here in Huntington. It sure doesn't seem like a year has gone by, but time passes quickly these days.

It would be nice to be home for Thanksgiving, but the upside to having to work is pulling in some monster pay as a result. That will be nice, just in time for the Christmas season.

I've been watching quite a bit of Fox News Channel lately, especially the Fox & Friends morning show. Their segments with Mancow from Q101 in Chicago are especially entertaining.


Tuesday
November 21, 2000
9:27 PM EST

A couple of things to follow up on from yesterday... It was brought to my attention that the Clinton Chronicles video was financed by a group backed by the Rev. Jerry Faldwell. I don't want my comments to sound like I back Rev. Faldwell or his beliefs, many of which I find to be an abhorrant affront on the individual freedoms that we enjoy in America. And likewise, there are some things that President Clinton has done that I support, such as supporting NAFTA and his recent veto of a bill that would have made it a crime to leak classified information to the media (which would do a major disservice to the American public in my view).

We had a meeting today at work with a representative from Merrich Lynch, the company which WSAZ is going through to set up our new Emmis 401K plan. I'm a big believer in long-term investing. I plan on going with an aggressive investing strategy, which makes sense given my relative youth (at 23 I'm still one of the youngest full-time employees at WSAZ, despite having been there for nearly a year).

I listened to the UE/Bowling Green game over the Internet tonight, and unfortunately the Purple Aces lost (in the battle of former Bob Knight pupils). Bowling Green is tough, though. Later.


Monday
November 20, 2000
8:20 AM EST

Charles Ruff, the lead lawyer for Bill Clinton in his 1998 impeachment trial, died over the weekend. So now Mr. Ruff joins the likes of Vince Foster, Ron Brown, Barbara Wise, and the literally dozens of other connected with Clinton who have died. Click here for more information on the topic.

And the presidential deadlock in Florida continues. What I cannot say in my newscasts, but very strongly feel, is that Al Gore is trying to hijack the election. With the widespread reports of subjectivity, inaccuracy, and outright fraud involved with some hand counting of ballots, it hardly seems to me to be a more true counting of the votes.

But, hey, at least the deadlock has assured me that we've had something strong for a lead over the past two weeks. Actually today we were surprisingly chalk-full of news, which is rare for a Monday. A diesel tanker truck collided with a pickup truck on I-64 just before 3 AM near the Hal Greer Blvd. exit, a wreck so major that it had the interstate closed down through at least 7 this morning. It was so bad that the Cabell County 911 operator called me at 3:30 to ask that we run a crawl to let people know that the Interstate was shut down. The wreck killed the driver of the pickup truck, and the accident was so bad that they don't know if a second person was killed because they couldn't tell if one or two people had been in the truck. Luckily the truck was nearly empty of diesel fuel and the fuel amazingly didn't catch on fire, but it was nonetheless a scary situation. Our photographer, Grover Tadlock, did an excellent job getting the video of the wreck and driving it back to the station in time for us to get it on in the 5 AM news block. It was poor Grover's day off, though the schedule had him slated to work at 9:30, meaning he was the earliest photog on the docket so I called him in. But overall everyone helped out and made our coverage work well.

We had some light snow flurries in Huntington this morning, our first snow of the winter. It has been unusually cold here as of late. And this probably means that Menifee County, Kentucky, schools will be out until March...


Saturday
November 18, 2000
4:50 PM EST

"Hits somersaults without the net
But this'll be the year that we won't forget..."

-Outkast "Bombs Over Baghdad (B.O.B.)"


It's official -- I have Christmas Day off. And what's more, we were able to get the plane ticket moved to the Friday before Christmas, so I'm set. This has me very happy.

I've been doing quite a bit of work on planning out my new 401K. Unfortunately my eligibility for Emmis' 401K in December eliminates me from being able to contribute to my IRA for fiscal year 2000. Lee Enterprises' 401K was out of this world incredible, and while Emmis' isn't nearly as good, hardly any other 401K is that good. In hindsight I should have put a provision in my contract to extract compensation under the circumstances that my 401K should change, but how did I know that WSAZ would be sold mere months after I came in? Regardless, Emmis has an overall very attractive financial plan, and their 401K is good too, just not the incredible deal that Lee offered.

My patience with bluelight.com's free internet service has worn thin, and I'm giving Net Zero a try right now. With bluelight, invariably I would get knocked off roughly 30 minutes into the connection, which became most frustrating when trying to download from Napster. Net Zero is not perfect either, with some annoying pop-up messages, but overall it seems to be better than bluelight. Of course me breaking down and getting DSL Internet access would make this problem moot, but I digress.


Friday
November 17, 2000
9:38 AM EST

In a startling turn of events, I found out just before the start of the Sunrise/Today newscast this morning that I won't have to work on Christmas Day.

The word came almost as an afterthought, as our director, Mark Watts, asked me if I had heard about there not being a Christmas morning newscast. For a brief second I felt angry, as my parents had gone to great lengths and expense to secure me a Christmas Day plane ticket home, but then I felt absolutely thrilled. As it had been set, I was going to have to spend what would have likely been a wasted weekend in Huntington right before Christmas, then go in at 11 PM on Christmas Eve to work my eight hour shift into the morning on Christmas Day. Originally, several months ago, I had been promised either Christmas Day or New Year's Day off, and I requested, in writing, that I get Christmas Day. Several weeks passed without me getting word, and then an embarassed Maribeth Anderson (WSAZ managing editor) asked me if I could end up working Christmas Day after all. She had originally promised it to me, but since they had no one else I agreed (though it totally screwed me on plans). It would have meant that I would have had maybe 16 hours total time to spend in Nashville. Instead, now I can fly home on Friday and have the entire weekend and Christmas Day to enjoy in town before we fly out for Colorado the day after Christmas. All's well that ends well, I guess. Though now my dad has to do some wrangling to get my ticket moved from Christmas Day to the Friday before Christmas, so I suppose I'd better not get too excited until that is set.

So the week ends on a high note, which is great. The plans for this weekend still remain a bit unclear at this point, but I figure I'll find some fun here in town. Next week Tali's coming back to visit for a few days, and maybe Doc will get up here, too. Plus Thanksgiving Dinner at Melanie Shafer's place will be nice. My friend Jere Warren from work was also kind enough to invite me to her family's house for Thanksgiving, though I had already accepted Melanie's invitation. Their generosity is most appreciated.

I caught a bit of the celebrity Who Wants To Be a Millionaire last night. The interest in seeing celebrities in the hot seat is, for me, tempered by the fact that they are essentially allowed to cheat their way up to $32,000 (the guaranteed minimum for their charities). As it is, Millionaire is suffering long-term from overexposure, as it appears that Disney and ABC really are going to ruin an otherwise sure thing (though at least they made a near idential port of the British version instead of butchering it with "their own ideas").

Anybody have a remote control that I could have for a Toshiba M-752 VCR? I've purchased two so-called "Universal" remotes, but neither can change the record speed, access the L1 or L2 options (meaning I have to manually switch from the Playstation to the DVD player every time I go from one to another, which is a major pain), or program the VCR. So last night I recorded Bulworth and Varsity Blues in EP on my cheap-o Symphonic VCR, which I purchased with the purpose of dubbing tapes (which is important when you work in TV news and want to send out resume tapes). The price of buying a new remote is a ludicrous $65, but perhaps I might have to break down and get it. I lost my original remote in 1998 when I went to England, and my Toshiba is a really nice VCR and I'd like to get my full use out of it...


Thursday
November 16, 2000
7:58 AM EST

"If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent's good will."

-Benjamin Franklin


Last night's episode of South Park included a hilarious parody of the presidential chaos in Florida. People tend to look toward the raunchiness of the show, but South Park, much like Beavis and Butt-head, contains a strong layer of social commentary (though South Park is a bit less abstract about it than Beavis and Butt-head).

Today at work was great. It went smoothly and the shift flew by, and now there's only one day left until the weekend. Very nice...

I've got some new Widespread Panic tunes cranking right now. They just rule, that's all there is to it. I have to catch them in concert sometime. More later.


Wednesday
November 15, 2000
10:41 PM EST

Not much time to talk now -- between going to a director/producer meeting today at 1:30 PM (which would be like 3 AM for most people) I lost out on sleep during the day, and as a result I ended up sleeping until 10 PM. That was not key, as my bro Matt would say.

Speaking of Matt, here's a pic of him from this past weekend at a Gangster party with Tri Delt down at MSU. He's on the very left (with his head half-cut off in the picture for some reason). But he has the Tony Montana look from Scarface going in full effect.

Later, time to get ready for work...


Tuesday
November 14, 2000
9:40 AM EST

Evidentally people at WSAZ read this commentary page. I came in to work Sunday night to find a few pictures printed out, all with me in them. Two came from my brother Matt's webpage, and the third was the Halloween pirate picture that I had linked exclusively from this column. It doesn't bother me, but it does seem strange. I wish I had time for that kind of stuff at work. Hell, if they're so over-staffed on weekends, let them send me some help for the morning show. Actually I should put a false report on here about jumping to New Orleans to see if a rumor might start about me leaving (oh wait, I forgot, that already happened).

But speaking of rumors of people leaving, one that is all too true is that the human resources manager at WSAZ, Debra Selbe, has taken another job in Huntington and will be gone before the end of the month. When I first started at WSAZ, Debra did a great job of making me feel welcome and helping me adjust to moving to an unfamiliar, brand new town. She's put forth an outstanding effort for WSAZ and she's completed a tremendous volume of work in helping to make the transfer happen in ownership from Lee to Emmis. Debra, we'll miss you.

I'm coming up on my 11 month anniversary at the station, and still no business cards. Wonder if they'll be here before Christmas? Apparently they've ordered two batches before that have both had problems, so we'll see if the third time's the charm. If they ever arrive, that is.

Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Marshall football team plane crash. You might hear about it today on several of the major media outlets; if you live in Huntington, you stand little chance of not hearing about it. That crash had such a profound effect on this community -- an effect that is still felt to this day. Triumph ultimately overcame the tragedy, but the sadness still remains for many who lost loved ones in that flight.

The election situation is beyond ridiculous at this point. Who would have thought that one week after the election we still wouldn't know who the next president would be. Amazing...


Sunday
November 12, 2000
10:23 PM EST

I had written an update for Friday, but my computer decided to lock up at an inopportune moment and it was lost. Such is life.

After six trips to Adelphia Cable, and nine days after digital cable was initially offered in Huntington, I finally landed my new digital cable box on Friday. I had to wait an hour in line but it was well worth it. Right now I have everything but the PPV channels unscrambled, perhaps as reparations for Adelphia pissing off so many customers with their incredibly poor customer service and planning. This has meant an unbelievable variety and availability of movies, and in the past few days I've seen Fight Club, American Beauty and Dead Man on Campus. I'd seen them all before, but they were fun to see again (even Dead Man, which isn't a particularly good movie). It beats four bucks a rental from Blockbuster, at any rate.

My friend Josh Tenisci came to town to visit on Saturday. I showed him around Huntington and I gave him a tour of WSAZ. We watched some college football (including the dramatic Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma game), threw back a few beers, then walked down to Marshall for the game. It's funny that I almost decided not to bring a coat, which would have been total disaster. It was freezing cold last night, with a vicious wind adding to the chill. Marshall absolutely blew up on Miami of Ohio, and Josh and I headed out at halftime to grab some dinner. We hit the Calamity Cafe, which I had eaten at only once, when I had first come to town. I had thought we'd go hit the bars after that, but Josh wanted to get back (the LSU/Ole Miss game was on ESPN2). At the time I thought that I wasn't all that tired, but I think that was wishful thinking on my part. We caught a taxi back here, and almost right away I dozed off watching the game. Try as I might to turn my sleep schedule around, it's a difficult turnaround to do, sleeping pills or not.

But it was cool for Josh to get to visit. I miss my old school friends; here in Huntington there aren't all that many people that I know that like to go out alot. Many of them will be back in Nashville for Thanksgiving, but of course I'll be stuck here in Huntington for work. No sense bitching about it though.

The situation with the votes in Florida is absolutely ridiculous. Keep this in mind: when you hear Warren Christopher or any of the other DNC shills talking about "The Will of The People", remember that it translates directly to "The Will of The Democratic Party." This situation is ridiculous beyond belief.

My time's up, I have to get ready for work now...


Thursday
November 9, 2000
7:58 AM EST

Today at work was much less crazy than yesterday, but then the same can be said of most days. One positive is that pure chaos can make you appreciate the comparative calm of the mundane, "average" day (though in TV news, no two days are ever the same, so there really is no true average day.)

Last night ESPN ran a one-hour special on the 30th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash. One of the ironies of my life is that I have ended up in two places which have suffered major tragedies with sports teams due to plane crashes, having gone to school at the University of Evansville (where a 1977 plane crash claimed the lives of the men's basketball team) and now having worked in Huntington for the past year (the home of Marshall University; in 1970, a plane crash at Tri-State airport in nearby Kenova killed the Marshall football team along with several others connected with the team who were on that plane, including my co-worker Keith Morehouse's father).

The special itself was insightful and well done, though they had a brief byte with Keith in the very beginning without identifying him, only to not go back to him during the program. Our guess at the station is that Keith's story was eliminated due to time constraints, but that his byte at the beginning of the package was inadvertantly left in toward the beginning.

The desperate tactics and posturing by some Democrats about the election debacle has been most humorous to watch. I'm still convinced that Bush will come out the winner, but nonetheless it has made a number of people look very stupid, including many in the national media. We'll see how it continues to transpire.

Melanie Shafer, one of my anchors from work, invited me (along with some other people who I work with who aren't from this area) over to her house for Thanksgiving Dinner. It's very much appreciated, especially since I'm stuck here that week (thanks to our friends at Nielsen who, for a second straight year, booked November sweeps through Thanksgiving). Last year I had Thanksgiving dinner at a Shoney's by myself, which is about as depressing as that can get. I haven't been home for Thanksgiving since 1997 (in 1998 I was in England).

I'm still not sure if my friend Josh Tenisci is coming to town this weekend or not. It depends on what happens with Miami (OH) women's soccer team, so we'll see...

Too many thoughts in my mind, too many ghosts in my dreams, how can I hope for what to find, when nothing's as it seems?


Wednesday
November 8, 2000
8:01 AM EST

"Pull out some hope for me
It's been a long day..."

Matchbox 20 "Long Day"


In a case reminiscent of the infamous Chicago Tribune "Dewey Beats Truman" headline, NBC and the other major news organizations pronounced George W. Bush the winner in Florida, and of the entire election, just before 2:20 AM Eastern Standard Time. I knew that something big was coming when Tom Brokaw interrupted in, and sure enough he broke the big news. Most of the news crew had finally called it a day at about 2 AM, though my news director, Ken Selvaggi, was still in his office. I quickly let Ken know about the announcement, and as Tom Brokaw officially proclaimed George Walker Bush as the president-elect, I send an announcement over the all-call about Bush winning. Aaron and a couple of other guys who were still in the building came into the news room and I gave them the lowdown about what had happened.

Florida had already been a source of much embarassment for the national media. I went in to work at about 8:30 PM EST last night, but while watching the network coverage before I left I heard Dan Rather announce that Florida was projected to go for Gore. That happened shocking quick after the polls in Florida had closed, and Bush's camp said that they were disputing those findings. I thought it might be just posturing from the Bush side with the polls still open in part of the country. When Pennsylvania and Michigan both went to Gore, that gave him the trifecta if you will, the three lynchpins needed to go with sure wins in New York and California to gain a major edge. The states were flying off the board very quickly.

But then a funny thing happened -- Florida was put back into play by many news organizations, including Voter.com (which had the best on-line election coverage in my opinion). It came to the point where there were five states left: Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Oregon and Nevada. There could be no tie -- a candidate needed to win Florida and any other state, or all four of the remaining states. It was like a board game, or like trying to project who would make the NFL playoffs (you know, if Green Bay beats Arizona and the Saints tie or lose to the Rams, then the Packers make the playoffs, that kind of thing).

Voter.com was reporting that Nevada was going for Bush, meaning that Florida was a must-win for Gore. When Iowa fell for Gore, it became obvious... the winner of Florida would become the next president of the United States.

So after Florida went to Bush, it seemed to have things in order in an otherwise chaotic political day in Huntington, West Virginia. A day where the incumbent governor, Cecil Underwood, who holds the distinction as being both the youngest and oldest man to hold the governor's office in the state, lost to Bob Wise. A day where the third most expensive congressional race in the country, Jim Humphreys vs. Shelly Moore Capito, went down to the wire, too close to call. A day where the two-time incumbent mayor of Huntington, Jean Dean, lost to an unknown 25-year-old Marshall graduate who was working as a substitute teacher. By this point, at 2:20 AM EST, I had been at work for six hours, and I thought that everything was set. But how wrong I was. The chaos had just begun.

Ken went home after 3 AM, but before he left we conferenced on how to handle the Charleston situation -- word was coming in that there would be a winner called in the Humphreys/Capito race in the early morning hours. Scott Saxton told me that his sources indicated it would be Capito. Meanwhile, I had two reporters, Scott and Diane Dimoff, both battling to be allowed to stay and keep working. I work with some devoted people at WSAZ. Ken had suggested that they go home, but he finally agreed to let them stay.

Meanwhile, setting up my two hour newscast was becoming far more challenging than I had thought it would be. I had all of the races set up, and I had our executive producer, Christine Cassen, helping me with some fresh soundbytes and story placement, but time began to crunch. I can only imagine how chaotic it would have been had I come in at 11 PM. The problem was that the scripts from the night before didn't have the clear-cut winner listed, but only said "Democrat Rey Mysterio Junior =OR= Republican Juventud Guerrera" or whatever the names were. We have a sophisticated computer system set up for elections and school closings, but unfortunately for all its sophistication, it is not congruent with our NewStar operating system, and thus any information must be duplicated between both systems for them to match. I had hoped to have time to change all the scripts with the updated information, but as I will chronicle, that was an unrealistic goal.

The proverbial walls began to cave in just before 4 AM. Scott and Diane called from Charleston with some very good ideas. Unfortunately, I had a stuffed newscast already, with reporters providing me with new packages and with page after page after page of election results. Christine set me up for two live shots with NBC, generic lives where the anchors pretend that they're talking to the live reporter but really they're just tossing to them. Time was at a premium... but then came word that Capito was going to give her acceptance speech at 4 AM. Diane went out to reporter, with Scott working as the photographer.

At this point I worked to shuffle my newscast. Normally the Sunrise/Today rundown is a four page demon, but this morning it was a behemoth pachyderm, swelled to probably 7 pages. The key error I made was believing that the election results would go quicker than they did in actuality. This hurt me later.

Joe Thornton, my skilled tape editor, told me he needed a tape list, so I worked on that. With the massive number of scripts, production was swamped trying to get them ripped and sorted, let alone marked. Charleston was wanting to bring Shelly Moore Capito on the set live in the 5 AM block, Jere was asking me how I expected to have so many still-stores in a row when the leader computer (which later crashed) needed time to be loaded, and the chaos was building.

So if you've ever wondered what it's like to be a news producer, now you have some idea. Ultimately the newscast worked, though we had several problems creep up (not the least of which was having NBC mysteriously not pop up when it was supposed to at 5:01 AM with their live shot). But we got the major results on, we had Shelly Moore Capito live, and I was able to run all of the reporter packages.

At the 6:20 AM mark, the bottom fell out. The leader computer crashed. Totally crashed. We were calling our computer personnel, many of whom who had been up into the early morning hours themselves, trying to figure out how to get it fixed. Without the leader, I had no still stores. At all. For those of you not in the know, a still store is a full-screen picture. If you see something that says "Decision 2000" and the results from a political race, or a phone number to call for a product recall, that is an example of a full-screen. And without full-screens, we had nothing to go to from our anchors, which would prove to be especially devistating with all of the races where the prompter did not indicate a winner. But by amazing fortune and coincidence, the Today show went on a half hour early to cover the presidential election fallout, so the decision was made to go to it at the 6:31 AM mark. Once the leader was finally re-booted, we threw up lower thirds with results to the local reactions. Normally going to national like that would be a no-no, but given the crash of leader and the amazing twists and turns of the presidential election gave us just cause to do that. At least I hope so.

The people who worked last night went out for beer after they were finished. There are no bars open this early in the morning, and it's a bit early for beer anyway, so I figure I'll just crash and head to sleep. I love TV news.


Tuesday
November 7, 2000
9:43 AM EST

Today is election day, and I've already voted. It will be a most interesting day at work tonight, as I'm going in very early (probably a couple of hours early) to make sure that everything is ready for the morning. Of course, with so many tight races, it is entirely possible that I might get to break the news of the presidential winner on my newscast. We shall see.

After my newscast ended this morning, we had a crunch situation (with a photog down in Boyd County) and so I grabbed a camera and went to shoot video of a polling place that had problems due to the worker not showing up on time. Unfortunately, no one told me that I couldn't go inside the main room, so I was in there shooting away when a woman came up and told me I couldn't be there without a pass. Oops. And the video wasn't exactly Emmy-winning material, but hey it was either that or we wouldn't have had it at all. I'll do whatever is needed to make our news product number one.

The excitement builds for tomorrow morning, I'll let you all know how it turns out...


Monday
November 6, 2000
9:02 AM EST

Sleep will come soon. But for now, I've fixed the link from my homepage for this month's new commentary page (I start on a new page every month).

I finally finished "The Dark Side of Camelot". Wow, what a book. Mark my words: you need to read this book. Seymour Hersh is the author, and his five years of work produced a masterpiece of journalism and storytelling. It's a must-read.

Adelphia Cable won't have my new digital box ready until Thursday. What a freaking joke. At least they're giving some free stuff as reparations for their screw-ups and poor planning.

The election is tomorrow. There are some interesting ballot issues out there (like Proposition 5 in Alaska), not to mention the big political races. I still say that Bush will win, and his campaigning in Florida yesterday might just give him the state. We'll see...


Friday
November 3, 2000
9:22 AM EST

Ah yes, the weekend is here. This has been a particularly difficult week, and the weekend off will be very nice.

One nice thing about the Adelphia digital cable upgrade in Huntington is that I now have Fox News Channel, which is my preffered choice for national news. Fox & Friends in the morning is a surprisingly entertaining program. More later.


Thursday
November 2, 2000
7:45 PM EST

The phones ring around the country, but no one seems to be home. It seems to be a busy Thursday night out there from the volume of answering machine messages I've reached.

This work week has been unusually stressful, for reasons that are difficult to pinpoint. There have been some out of the ordinary requirements in my newscasts (Town Hall soundbytes, WV Polls, extra commercial time squeezing things further, etc.), but I'm not sure if that's it or what.

Napster is facing charges of having "sold out" by reaching an agreement with one of the "Big 5" music groups. But make no mistake, free peer-to-peer music sharing will continue, as a series of Napster clones and knock offs out there will continue the process. But realistically, Napster was going to go to a pay model at some point (unless they went for advertising-driven revenue, which is a much more difficult dollar to turn).

The election on Tuesday will be most intriguing. The West Virginia governor's race is particularly troubling for me, as I don't support Cecil Underwood much at all, yet my candidate of choice, Libertarian Bob Myers, only has one percent of the vote and will almost surely not win. West Virginia, from what longtime residents and people I work with have told me, is notorious for electing the same people over and over again, even when they are doing a poor job in office. Let's see, the education rank is 50 out of 50 states, the economy is stagnant (due in part to some god-awful tax laws that discourage business), yet the population keeps electing the same inept "leadership" into office. I don't understand it.

Meanwhile, the battle for West Virginia's 5 electorial votes in getting intense in the presidential race. George W. Bush will be here on Friday, while Al Gore visits on Saturday morning. It's Bush's third visit since August, and Gore's second visit in eight days. Speaking of Gore, it's interesting to hear him continue to conjure up the name of John F. Kennedy and the 1960 election (in which journalist Seymour Hersh and many others contend that Kennedy literally bought the '60 primary in West Virginia and the overall election in November of 1960 thanks to mob connections in Illinois and beyond).

At work, there is quite an interesting realm of thought on who will win. Many seem to think that Gore will win, but I still stick by my prediction: Gore takes Florida, but Bush wins the election. Tony Cavalier has even set up a presidential prediction pool, which is a fun idea in my mind...


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