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June 19, 2012

"On my way back to an old destination
I tried all night but I couldn't find the answers, no
I gotta make it work cause I'm running out of chances"
-O.A.R. "Over and Over"

Week one of my return to the overnight shift at WSAZ-TV has begun and so far, so good. This morning I boothed a TV news segment for the first time in nearly ten years. Things have changed, to be sure, and while there's a learning curve to it all, I'm excited to be back and happy that things have worked out the way they have.

There is a challenge to sleeping during the day and then working overnight. I'm in mid-adjustment at this point, though I'm not sure that you ever *really* adjust to the backward schedule. But there are some positive aspects of working on overnights; you can concentrate on your show with fewer distractions, and with my schedule my weekend begins at 7 a.m. ET on Friday.

Being on overnights works out better for me than for most, I suspect, since I'm a night owl by nature. The toughest part is handling the days you have off. I've been surprised through the years at how many people don't understand that when you are adjusted to sleeping during the day, you can't just flip a switch and go into "normal" mode during the weekend. There are always exceptions and adjustments involved, of course, but those who have never dealt with the third shift often overlook the challenge involved with a flipped sleep schedule.

Telemarketers certainly don't know (or care) that I am sleeping during the day, so I turn off my ringtone (presently Mr. Perfect's old WWF theme song) to avoid the problems inherent with that. I forgot to do that on Sunday when I was trying to sleep-shift and a call woke me up, which left me considerably nonplussed.

My favorite part of being a producer is building a newscast. I'm not talking about "stacking a show", a negative term implying that stories were thrown haphazardly into a rundown, but instead carefully crafting a broadcast with story flow and the overall product taken carefully into account. The way I see it, there is an art to building a strong newscast.

Of course, breaking news can happen at any point and act as a giant wave to knock over my proverbial sand castle, but that's the nature of the beast. My job is to construct the best newscast I can, but I do that knowing that breaking news and severe weather coverage trumps everything and that literally everything is subject to change as circumstances warrant -- and that's the way it should be.

I really enjoy TV news producing, at least under the proper circumstances. I can write news stories with ease, though that's also an art as far as being conversational, avoiding unnecessary big words when possible, and keeping stories concise and sentences short, all while being accurate and including the important points of the story. My vocabulary is rather vast, and I have to put the equivalent of a restrictor plate on my mental word bank when I'm writing news copy.

If I want to get verbose and long-winded or use big words, I have the capacity to do that in my columns on here and on Draft King. And, yes, I still bristle at the term "blog" since I was doing this before the term weblog, later shortened to blog, entered the mainstream lexicon. But in times where I've written for newspapers, I've generally been frustrated seeing my name attached to something that I didn't have final say over content-wise.

With TV news, the writer dynamic is entirely different. Television news producers have a certain anonymity, as we write the stories that the anchors read live on the air. We are usually unheard and unseen by the viewing audience, but that's what the on-air talent is there for: to be seen and heard.

I do my best with every story to write it as well as I can, but if an anchor wants to make changes to a story or an on-the-fly ad-lib, that's fine by me. Ultimately, what they read reflects upon them, not me. So, if one of my anchors feels the need to adjust anything in a script I wrote, I'm 100% okay with that, so long as it doesn't lead to incorrect information making the air.

I can't stress enough how great it has been so far being back at WSAZ, which has an interesting mix of people who were there during my first tenure at the station and those who have come on board since I left for WTSP in April 2001. There are some very sharp, hard-working people at the station, and I'm thrilled to be part of the team once again.

If you feel so inclined, you can follow my work Twitter account, which is @WSAZLou. That one is strictly business: news stories of interest to this area along with relevant and/or compelling national and international stories.

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