Archive for August, 2006

What to Wear, What to Wear
August 30, 2006

A recent e-mail from a viewer prompted this latest blog entry. She asked me if I minded wearing a suit and tie in the early morning and who picks out my clothing ( i.e. “the wife”).

To be honest, I have always been somewhat of a clothes “horse”. I love to shop and wear bold and interesting suits and ties. When I was in sports, I had plenty of flexibility in that department ( just take a look at the following screen shots from the past year ).

In sports, you could pretty much wear what you want and I think it was we sports guys that began the trend of “business casual” and have kept it going all these years.

But when I made the switch over to news, I figured I also had to make the switch over to a more conservative look. Let’s be honest, the last person you want to be getting the news from is someone who looks like they are about to hear out afterwards and visit the local dance clubs. At the same time, I’m not about to starting dressing like I work for IBM. Take a look at the more “conservative” Andrew Stockey and the clothing choices I have worn while working the morning news desk.

While I like to get dressed up, my wife does not handle the responsibility of putting me together each day. I’m proud to say I make my own clothing choices and often I will put together combinations of my own.

For some reason, there is this school of thought that men cannot dress themselves without some professional help. If that is the case, then let me help the fashion-challenged gentlemen of western Pennsylvania. Here are just a few hints that I live by.

Since we’re not in the Hi-definition TV world just yet, the really expensive suits don’t come across that way on local TV. That means that you shouldn’t go out and spend big bucks, but buy a reasonably priced, well-made suit that handles the daily wear and tear. You can go to a men’s specialty store, like Berks’ in North Huntingdon, where I have been able to find a selection of well-made and affordable suits.

The shirt should be always be a straight collar, which look cleaner, and it should always be dry-cleaned. Never wear a button down, unless you are going casual and not wearing a tie.

I can wear the same dark suit every anchor on TV wears, but I can stand out by wearing bold and colorful ties. While I shop everywhere for suits, I buy my ties at Bachrach of Monroeville because they carry the kind ties that really make a statement.

Finding a look that is uniquely you. For me, that’s wearing cufflinks from time to time or sporting a two-button suit. Anything that allows your personal style to come out.

Guys, I hope that answers all your sartorial conundrums. Ladies, in case you need more help dressing your man, I always find the latest issue of GQ very helpful. Happy shopping!

Touching a Taboo Topic
August 25, 2006

It’s one of those unwritten rules of television news anchors and reporters: Never let criticism bother you. The theory being that if you outwardly act as if you are bothered by it, it only leads to more slings and arrows from those people. Of course, having been in sports for a decade, I can plead ignorance and I will in this case.

One of the things that stunned me when I switched from sports to news was the amount of reaction there was to the move — in print and in blogs. Though I had been on television in this town since 1995, it seemed as if Pittsburgh had suddenly discovered that I worked at channel 4. I think that speaks volumes to how sports anchors are viewed by the public at large: part of the news team, but hardly playing the lead roles on a newscast.

When the move made the papers, it created some buzz and some questions among viewers but there was little reaction because it was part of a larger series of changes here at channel 4. Since moving to the morning desk, there has been plenty of positive feedback from viewers and people on the street as well as questions as to whether this is what I wanted and if this was a “promotion” or “demotion”.

While the majority of people have been nothing but positive, I do read the industry blogs and see there are some people aren’t pleased with my move to news or they are having trouble dealing with the fact that this one-time “sports guy” is changing roles, covering the more serious topic of news.

While the goal in television is to get everyone to watch your station, I don’t expect everyone to like me. I know there are viewers who do not like change and those who don’t think I make a credible news anchor because sports has defined my career. That’s fine. All I can do is try to grow into the role and get viewers to warm-up to me in this new role. I’m going to have my critics, but this is not the first time. I remember ten years ago when this station took a chance and gave an unknown 28-year-old the sports director’s job at a station once dominated by Myron Cope and Bill Hillgrove. I remember a local paper polled readers as to their favorite TV sportscaster – and I finished third from the bottom.

Point is criticism is part of the business. TV is a fickle business and viewers can be even more fickle. All we can do as broadcasters is be true to ourselves and hope that if we do our best, we can win viewers over. I did it a decade ago and I think I can do it again so I look forward to the challenge. So far, we seem to be winning the majority of viewers over. Channel 4 was number one in the July ratings period from 5-7am.

Can We Talk?
August 22, 2006

My adventures making the transition from sports to morning news continues.

Getting people to talk. That’s what we do as reporters and anchors. We get people to share their feelings and emotions on camera. For years, it’s been relatively easy to do that because in sports everyone wants to talk — even if they start by saying “No comment”. Players and coaches have rarely bee shy in talking about the games they play. I think it’s just because that is part of the sports world — reflecting on the game just played and sharing your feelings. Even when players often do not want to talk, I have been able to build relationships allowing me to get them to speak with me candidly — and openly.

But the news side is a different animal. People – at least so far – have been shy and reticent to speak with me unless they are hawking some service or pushing some agenda. I’ll give you an example. Recently, I was doing a story and just needed a couple of reactions from people walking down the street. The first five people I spoke with passed on the opportunity. No excuses were given, they just said no. Those that followed offered excuses from “I’m too shy” to “I don’t want to be on TV”. When I finally got two people to go on camera to offer their opinions – they weren’t even Pittsburghers. They were transplanted North Carolinians! Oh, by the way, the question that caused so much consternation: Do you think Pittsburgh is an angry town?

Now these are not famous athletes turning me down or high-placed public officials giving me the “Heisman”. These are every day people choosing not to present their opinions to a forum of 300,000 possible viewers. I’m sure there are some good reasons and there are a few people who are probably shy about speaking up, but I think this avoidance of the cameras speaks to a much larger issue: the public feeling about the media.

Years ago, being on TV was a cool thing and it seemed as long as you had a microphone in your hand, people wanted to speak with you. Now, people I believe have a total distrust of the news media for whatever reason and fearful we may spin their words, they choose not to speak. There is also the sense that we have a rather unengaged public. Voter apathy is at an all-time high and people would rather not be involved in the process and that process includes speaking and offering opinion on the public airwaves. Airwaves that we may manage but you own as a citizen.

Then again, maybe I’m making too much of this. Maybe I just have to give people more reason to talk to me.

PS: The new “Madden 2007” video football game comes out today and I intend to finish up work and rush home and get my copy, pop it into my PlayStation2 and dive into an afternoon long football fantasy. I may be 38, but I act like a kid when it comes to video games.

Withrawl Symptons
August 18, 2006

I don’t know how many times I’m asked this question – “are you going to miss doing sports” – and yet I do not have a satisfactory answer. Going into my third month behind the news desk and I have yet to really miss out on anything significant in sports. I’ll be honest. I do not miss training camp. I attended well over one hundred Steeler practices last season and if you have seen one, you have pretty much seen them all.

But right now, Sally and JB are working behind the scenes on our first “Steelers Primetime” of the season. For those of you who don’t know, “Primetime” is WTAE-TV hour-long pre-game show prior to any Steelers game aired in primetime on channel 4. We usually do it from the field and it’s almost all unscripted.

For 11 years, Sally and I have served as co-hosts and the program has won numerous awards. Its how Sally and I really got to know one another and how we began to build a working relationship and a friendship that has lasted longer than any other I have known here in Pittsburgh.

But next week, that relationship officially ends – at least on television. Sally and JB will co-host the program from Philadelphia before the Steelers and Eagles clash in pre-season football. It will be at that moment – watching Sally and JB together on the field in Philly – that it will finally hit me that I am no longer in sports. It will be difficult to watch because I am so proud of that program and what it has become. I will truly miss it.

The reality checks will continue as we go deep into the football season. Not being at the Steelers first game – a primetime contest with the Miami Dolphins and their first home game as world champions. Then, the first high school football Friday will really test my resolve. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to be on the air at 11pm giving our viewers 15 minutes of high school football highlights and all the scores. It was a crazy night and often I wondered if we would get everything on the air in time. Now, I will be like many of you – sitting at home and watching the highlights instead of being there bringing you the action.

Would I trade my current spot in the mornings to return to sports? No. My time as a sports director was a phase in my life and that phase is over. But it doesn’t mean that I no longer care about the world of sports – and it will be difficult to sit there and be on the sidelines rather than in the thick of the game.

I don’t think I will need professional help but, as all you smokers out there know, it’s tough to quit cold turkey.

Andrew On Alert
August 14, 2006

Thanks for checking out my blog. I plan to use this space in the coming weeks and months to take you behind the scenes as I make the transition from sports anchor to morning news anchor here at WTAE:

It was not 9/11 — but it very well could have been worse. The thwarted terror attacks in London had the potential of being the worse act of terrorism in history and I awoke to the news Thursday at 2am. As is my morning routine, I check the news on CNN and Fox and they were running live coverage from the UK. Watching the story unfold before my eyes, I knew that I would be part of the team that would be the first to inform much of Western Pennsylvania about this plot. It was my first breaking news while serving as morning anchor.

As I drove into work, there was a sense of anticipation, relief and trepidation. You begin to realize that when these sort of events take place, viewers are relying on you to tell them what’s going on in a clear and concise manner.

You also realize the story is changing as the morning goes on. Kelly and I were getting information on the minute as to how the US and how Pittsburgh was reacting to the terrorist plot and the changes being made to the carry-on baggage situation here in Pittsburgh. We had a live guest that joined us to discuss what you could – and could not — carry aboard planes. While I felt I was well-read and kept up on the latest in the on-going situation, you are never fully ready for what could happen next and that is the challenge of live TV.

After two hours of coverage, I felt that we had given people the best information we could and done so in a manner which viewers would find helpful. The newscast that day had a little more urgency and I felt less like a TV anchor and more like a real disseminator of information. It was something I needed to go through to begin to reach my goal — a goal of being a better news broadcaster.

By the way, I spent this gorgeous weekend doing — what else — playing golf. Here are the scores and the hilights from 36 holes of heaven.
SAT:Cranberry Highlands (45/46=91, played par golf on the front 5 of the back nine)
SUN:Diamond Run (57/45=102, played one-over-par on fabled final 4 holes)

A Golfer’s Journey
August 7, 2006

I have three passions in my life -my wife, my work and my golfing game. Yes, in that order, though I get a little crazy when it comes to my favorite game. How crazy? Let me tell you how I spent my Saturday.

Don Schwenneker alluded to it a little bit Friday when he asked before the weather forecast how I was planning on spending my weekend. I said I would be playing golf. Then he asked me, knowing the answer, how many holes I would be playing. I told him, with a smile, 36 holes. Now for those of you who don’ play golf, you might say that sounds a like a bit much but for those who do play, 36 is not an impossible feat. The pros do it all the time.

But Saturday, I did something a little bit different. 18 holes in the morning at one golf course in one county and 18 holes at a different course in another county. To join me on this day-long golfing journey, I asked two of my friends to join me. Joe Seaman and Scott Schutt having been golfing pals of mine for years. Together, we teed off at 7:45am at Lone Pine Golf Course in Washington. Fueled by an excitement about the day, we tackled the rolling hills and lengthy fairways. Scott shot a 3-over-par on the first nine. Then, I jinxed him by talking about the course record and he faltered to finish with around of 87. Joe bounced back to shoot 39 on the final nine holes. Here’s how we finished at Lone Pine

Scott 87 +15
Joe 86 +14
Andrew 100 +28

You can see we all had smiles on our faces – despite our scores – as we left Lone Pine at 11:30 bound for our next 18. A trip that would take us to Fayette County — to Nemacolin Woodlands — to Mystic Rock Golf Course. The same course that will host the 84 Lumber Classic for the final time. Joe and Scott were very excited about the round because it’s rare we ever get the chance to play such a luxurious and well designed course. Just look at the photos below at the scenery surrounding the course.

We teed off just before 2pm and we were also fortunate to have a caddie. Jordan is a student at Pitt-Greensburg and he would help us fin dour way around the track, giving us directions and locating our sometimes errant drives. We teed off on hole 13 in an afternoon shotgun start and found the course a bit more challenging than our morning 18. We also found that while we weren’t getting tired physically, mentally the round was beginning to take its toll.

When we play, we often have fun and tease each other. For instance, when Scott blew his drive on hole 6 some 50 yards past Joe, he turned to Joe and asked him the following:

“Did you hear about the mall they are building out here?”
“What mall?”
“The one between your ball and mine.”

There are plenty of other jokes as well as references from the golf film “Tin Cup” featuring Kevin Costner. It’s those verbal jabs that make it more than just a round of golf but also a day with the guys.

We had finally reached the 35th hole of the day – one hole away from finishing up and on the 507-yard par 5, I had made two of my best shots of the day and was less than fifty yards from the green with a real chance at birdie when I got excited and rushed my shot and promptly shanked it into the water. What was I thinking? Only when the round was over would I realize how costly my shot had been.

Scott 96 +24
Joe 99 +27
Andrew 101 +29

OK, I missed breaking 100 for the second time in 12 hours, but I was the most consistent of my group on the day. Still, I had a day to remember: playing both my home course and the fabled Mystic Rock course on the same day. While co-anchoring the morning news is what I do, golf is really who I am. It’s a passion and a pleasure and while I love what I do, there is nothing better for me than a day on the golf course. Perfect weather, perfect conditions, perfect playing partners and that adds up to one perfect day.

Figuring It Out
August 4, 2006

One of the toughest things for me – moving from sports to news – is the sudden increase of air time. In sports, I was on the air three minutes at a time, maybe a total of 10-15 minutes a day. Now, I spend two straight hours on the anchor desk presenting the day’s news, while playing traffic cop and bringing in weather and traffic reports.

It’s become easier during these first two months – so much so that sometimes it’s hard to keep sharp mentally. At times, stories will run together and you will feel like every other word out of your mouth is the time and temperature.

Co-anchor Kelly Frey keeps things interesting as during the breaks, we’ll talk about everything from her gardening to my golf, but early in our partnership, we started doing something that keeps us both sharp during the final half-hour of the show — and something you don’t see at home.

We have a copy of the Trib on the anchor desk for us to peruse during the morning show and one day – around 6:30am – I pulled out the crossword puzzle and started doing it during the commercial break. Kelly looked over and suddenly started helping me with the puzzle. Turns out we both love puzzles. That’s when it began. Each morning, around 6:30am, we’ll get the crossword puzzle and try to figure it out before we go off the air at 7pm. So when do we have time to finish the puzzle” During commercial breaks, during weather ( Sorry, Demetrius ) and during traffic ( sorry, Melanie ). It’s become a fun thing we do together and not only has it sharpened our minds, I think it helps when we appear on camera because we really are a team – working on the set and behind the scenes.

The only bummer is when we don’t finish a puzzle. Sometimes, we’ll stay on the set until after 7pm to finish it or – if we feel like cheating – asking Pat who runs our teleprompter in the studio because he is a wealth of information and also pretty good at these crossword puzzles.

Speaking of puzzle answers, does anyone out there know the six-letter word for “smart teachers”? I’m kind of stumped this morning. Then again, my puzzle partner – Kelly – has the morning off.

My Second Job
August 1, 2006

Before I begin blogging, I just wanted to say “thanks” for all the replies and e-mails I have received from you. I never thought anyone would read the ravings of a madman — or a TV news anchor — but you have in large numbers. Also, a big thanks to those who have replied and told me that they love contemporary jazz. My last blog indicated how passionate I am about listening to the likes of the Rippingtons, Paul Hardcastle, et al. It’s nice to know that there are others who feel the same way — and that it’s not “elevator music” like some of my friends like to call it. Now, onto this week’s “Adventures in Anchoring”.

I actually have two jobs here at channel 4. From 4am to 9am, I co-anchor the morning news with Kelly Frey and handle cut-ins during Good Morning America. But after 9am, I just don’t go home. Both Kelly and myself become reporters and are asked to produce stories for the 5pm news. Sounds easy, but I have discovered that being a news reporter is very different from being a sports reporter.

In sports, it’s really very easy to cover something like a Steelers game. Everything is right there: the players, the action and the game has a set period of time and rarely do people not want to talk with you ( except Ben if he’s had a bad game ). But news reporting is a different animal. There is no set beginning, middle and end to reporting a story. No halftime. There’s no press box where they feed you and no game notes to tell you what the story could be. And how about this — people sometimes do not want to talk to you!

A great example yesterday. I came up with an idea following the “Touch” nightclub shooting of seeing if club owners in the Strip were worried about the same thing happening at their clubs. Well, I called a couple of clubs and they told me, “No Comment”. Can you believe that? All I wanted was an opinion and they showed me the hand ( guess I won’t be going to Sports Rock Cafe anytime soon ). So I decided enough with the phone calls and drove down to the strip and started knocking on doors. I finally got a hold of the owner of a new club being built in the Strip called “Pure”. It will open in August and the owner was happy to talk with me. Turned out to be a pretty good story that aired at 6pm Monday. Nice club, too although I’m wondering how the see-thru dance floor above the stairs on the second floor will go over with the ladies.

Point is, being a reporter and being an anchor are two different things and require two different skills. I think I have the anchoring thing down, but it will take me a while to become a good reporter so be patient.

Thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions on how to make this blog even better, please feel free to drop me a line.