Archive for February, 2007

To be a live President, you need dead Presidents
February 26, 2007

That about says it all when it comes to politics in this country. If you want to live the life of a President, you need to have dead Presidents – many dead presidents. ( For those of you not up on the latest hip lingo, dead Presidents refer to the faces you find on the bills we use as currency – Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington ).

This fact of life was hammered home this past weekend when forner Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack – a Pittsburgh native – pulled out of the Democratic race for the White House a full 12 months before the first primary was set to take place. Vilsack seemed to be a candidate who actually had a slate of good ideas for reinvigorating the country and changing the way business is done in Washington. Of course, we will never get to hear those ideas and decide for ourselves. Vilsack ended his campaign — because of lack of money. Not so much the lack of money on hand, but the inability to attract the kinds of dollars that would allow him to compete with the multi-million dollar war chests that belong to better known contenders Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama.

Now I’m not some pollyanna when it comes to the political world we live in — a world where candidates spend millions for a job that pays $400,000 a year before taxes. But there seems something wrong with a country which has always stressed that anyone could be President now realizing that unless you are rich or well-connected, you can’t even join the conversation. Let me put it another way: there is no way Abraham Lincoln would even be able to step to the political table in this day in age.

Will it change? Probably not. We can talk about campaign finance reform until we are blue in the face and nothing will ever happen. It just bothers me that we are going to have to watch an entire year of campaigning — or millions being spent — before the first vote is cast and know that our only choices are those who can afford to be in the race, not those who bring ideas which might change the shape of the race.

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Oscar- Caliber Cookies
February 23, 2007

Of course everyone wants to win the Oscar, but for every winner there are four runner-ups. This year, though, the academy award nominees who don’t win the prize are hardly losers in my opinion – thanks to the culinary creations of Caren Weaver.

The Westmoreland County entrepreneur started her business four year ago. It’s called 2 Sweet Kidz. She specializes in organic desserts. Her creations of shortbread and cookies include many ingredients that I can’t begin to understand, but with just one bite – I was hooked.

Caren was asked by the Academy to provide her treats in gift boxes to those who fail to win the Oscar in the categories of best actor, best actress, best director and best picture. Also, Ellen DeGeneres gets a gift box.

After sampling some of her homemade treats, I’m not sure if winning the Oscar is the highlight of the night. To see what I mean, check out my story on Channel 4 Action news Sunday morning or visit her website: www.2sweetkidz.com

Enough is enough!
February 23, 2007

Let me prepare you – I’m going to mention both Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears in the following blog. Don’t hit the escape button just yet. I’m not putting their names in this entry in order to draw ratings. Based on your responses, the coffee pot episode seems to draw more interest.

I’m blogging about these blondes because that’s all I see when I turn on network TV or cable news these days. This week has been non-stop Anna, the court-battle for her body and the bizarre judge who has turned the case into his own one-man show. It would have been “All About Anna” if not for Britney’s desire to get back in the headlines. She shaved her head, left rehab and returned to rehab (at the time of this writing).

As bizarre and cartoonish as the lives of these two women are, the only thing stranger is the media coverage of these two messes. Watching Fox, MSNBC and CNN, it’s non-stop coverage and analysis of these soap opera .. like they really matter in my life. The broadcast networks are also drinking the Kool Aid. ABC, CBS and NBC lead off their morning shows with this dribble and the nightly newscasts are no immune to the drug known as celebrity journalism.

This is why I’m proud to work in local news. Often, critics will ridicule some of the stories we do as “sensational” and “playing to the lowest common denominator”. But at least we spend the majority of our air time covering things that actually affect the lives of our viewers – like traffic, schools and business. The same cannot be said of all this Anna and Britney coverage – especially on cable.

I know the stories are alluring and enticing, but do they deserve this much coverage? Of course, not. Still, it’s hard for me to think the whole world hasn’t turned into a sitcom with the scrutiny and attention paid to these cases that cannot affect anybody but the people involved. So the next time you see me give a smirk or a strange look while reading one of these stories, you will know why.

So how was YOUR Saturday?
February 20, 2007

Before I get to blogging about a typical Saturday, let me say THANKS to everyone who sent their list of the five things they love most. It’s tough to put your passions into a top 5 list, but there were people were passionate about snuggling, those who thought Taco Bell was terrific and one person who found beauty in a 90-minute commute. To all, thanks so much. But guys, I’m a little disappointed in you. It was all women who shared their story. Not that I mind, but it would be nice to see some guys step to the plate.
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Now .. to my Saturday. I usually awake around 5am ( that’s sleeping in for us morning show people ). While working on my computer, I get a phone call at 5:30am ( Calls that early in the morning are never a good thing ). I was asked to head down to Waynesburg to cover a fire .. a fire that killed 6 children.

For the next three hours, we broadcasted live from the devastating fire .. not only for WTAE but also CNN. The thing that stunned me wasn’t the fire or it’s aftermath, but the family members who had lost loved ones .. and how calm they seemed to be. Perhaps they were just in shock.

Moments later, I was back on the road — heading to Pittsburgh — to take part in a fashion show for the city’s Business and Professional Women organization. It was an event I had committed to weeks ago. It was fun serving as emcee while luminaries such as Judge Dwayne Woodruff and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl modeled the latest fashions from Larrimor’s.

After lunch, it was home to walk the dog .. then back out again with Sharon. We had a dinner party to attend in Fox Chapel, but I had drop her off first and head back to the city — to the Benedum theatre. It was there I was asked the introduce the ballet “Peter Pan” to the standing-room only audience. After my intro, it was back up Route 28 for dinner and wine.

Finally got home after midnight … exhausted. I think I need a weekend to recover. Oh, sorry, how was your Saturday?

Speaking Out
February 12, 2007

What was the one thing that made us all nervous in high school? That’s right, speaking in front of our peers. Whether it be presenting a report or just speaking off the cuff as part of public speaking class, we all had to make presentations. I know it used to scare me to death – and it still does. Despite my job of presenting the morning headlines to a large TV audience, I still get scared make public addresses.

Why? Because when I’m on TV, all I see is a teleprompter ( OK, we cheat ). When I speak towards a teleprompter, I’m looking at an object. I don’t see any reaction so when I make a joke, there is nothing telling me it’s not funny. But when you speak in front of a room, the reaction is instant. You know if you are bombing.

There are pictures from a recent address at Westmoreland County Community College. I was asked to take part in their Wednesday night lecture series. About 80 people were in the audience including the president of the college, Dr. Steven Ender and his wife, Karen, as well as the long-time music director at Hempfield HS, Rod Booker:

I had about a month’s notice – and I agonized over the speech. Why? Because I was asked to speak for an ENTIRE HOUR! My job at channel 4 is to sum up big stories in 35 seconds and suddenly I’m supposed to have a compelling hour-long speech? So I sat down and wrote a speech and spent two weekends working on it … and kept fine tuning it all the way up to that day.

As I arrived on campus, I started to get nervous — and when I do that I begin to speak way too fast. Even while meeting some of the school dignitaries, I was getting tense on the inside. Finally, it was my turn to take the podium — and I started by talking about my background. Well, before I knew it, my life and path to WTAE had taken 45 minutes – and my nerves had disappeared. I found when I started talking about something I knew ( my life ) and something I believed in ( my mission as a TV reporter ), the time zoomed by. I actually went over the limit because there were questions afterwards.

Afterwards, I felt good about my presentation – a presentation that wound up being ad-libbed. I never actually got to my speech. What was my subject to be? I’m not telling. I can use it for another occasion when I speak.

Lighten Up
February 9, 2007

Has everybody got a sense of humor? Obviously not. Recent reaction to a couple of Super Bowl commercials has me wondering what you could put on television that would not be offensive.

You know what I’m talking about. The infamous “Snickers” ad during the big game. The one where two guys start sharing opposite ends of a Snickers bar and wind up sharing a kiss and then freak out. Gay and lesbian groups went crazy, forcing Snickers to pull the ad. Look, I laughed and thought it was funny – and at no time did I feel homophobic. I would freak out if I ended up smooching my best friend — for reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality.

Then, the PC police struck again later in the game. A cute and creative General Motors ad shows a robot who makes a mistake at the plant getting fired. He ultimately feels sorry for himself and commits suicide. Then, he wakes up and realizes its a dream. It was cute and clever, but not to suicide prevention advocates. They are up in arms with the GM’s “cavalier” attitude towards suicide and demands the spot be taken off the air.

One final example of PC gone crazy. The ACLU is defending a man who was cited by police for giving an officer the finger. The ACLU’s contention is that “flipping the bird” is protected by the first amendment.

Folks, this has gotten ridiculous. For the groups offended by those two Super Bowl ads, please get a sense of humor and lighten up. Part of being able to be assimilated into a society is the ability to be able to take a joke and get up unscathed. There was nothing demeaning in either ad and the fact that these groups see nothing but hate in the TV spots, tells you where they are coming from.

As for the ACLU, they have an important job in defending the civil liberties of people who are used and abused – and that job is taken a little less seriously when they spend money to defend a man who “flipped off” a police officer.

Look people, I’m part of a racial group that has been at the butt of more jokes than any demographic in the history of man and I don’t see every “black joke” as an insult to my people. So for those offended by commercials, comments or just the fact that someone looked at them funny here’s my advice: “Lighten Up”! The sooner you do, the sooner you can become part of this mosaic we call the United States.

Behind the Scenes: The Coffee Maker
February 6, 2007

What is the fuel that powers the morning show? The producers? The anchors” Scott Stiller’s interesting observations from Sky 4? Wrong on all accounts. The morning show – as Kelly and I like to joke – is that first cup of java. Coffee has become my best friend at 5am and I thought I would take you to the source of our life force – the coffee maker.

Here it is:

It sits in the men’s makeup room on the counter. It’s hardly an amazing sight, but it becomes the center of all activity before I even log onto a computer and looking at scripts. While we enjoy the basic Maxwell House and Folgers House blends, our producer Dana got us a six-pack of flavored coffee from Starbucks that we enjoy throwing into the mix.

Recently, our routine has been thrown off — with the discovery of a malfunction in the coffee-making process: You can see the spout is missing. Somehow, over the course of a few weeks, it started chipping off until it was completely gone. The missing spout makes it difficult to pour that first cup of java without spilling the brew on the counter. I have discovered the best way to pour is to go over the skin and pour from an angle.

Still, it’s time to get a new coffee maker but right now no one seems to be in a rush to get one. Not that we all can’t afford to buy one, but it’s one of those we complain about every morning — and no one bothers to make it better.

I’m guessing it will probably fall on me to make the major-league move – and get a new coffee machine. Wonder if I can write if off as a business expense?