Archive for May, 2007

Intern Season
May 30, 2007

The staff in the Channel 4 Action newsroom grew by 20% yesterday – without a dime being spent. Great management technique? Creative accounting? Nope, it’s just intern season here at the station.

Every year, after Memorial day, we welcome a new group of summer interns to our staff. Internships are critical for college graduates hoping to get into the business of broadcasting. They allow students to make contacts, put together demo tapes and perhaps even land a job. As sports director, one of the greatest interns I ever had – is now the producer of our 11pm newscast.

Also as sports director, I saw it all when it came to interns. I had really good ones who understood the business and we really self-starters. Then, I have had the nightmare interns – young men who tried to impress me with their sports acumen – and young women who didn’t quite understand the dress code at Steelers training camp.

Over time, while interns come and go, I have changed in my approach to interns. When I began, I spoke to interns from day one and imparted my knowledge upon them whether they asked for it or not. Now, I know that was the wrong approach – so I introduce myself to each intern I encounter once and let them come to me. It’s up to them if they want to learn more from those of us that have worked in this business for many years. The smart ones in the herd always come to the top.

As for my internship experience, I did two internships at ESPN. One was strictly on the business side of things while the other allowed me to work in all departments — from the newsroom to promotions department.

If our interns happen to find this blog entry, I hope for all the best for them. This is the time to explore and learn if this crazy business is right for you. So have fun, ask questions and please – dress appropriately when you go out into the field for us — you are representing the station and yourself. Just like your internship, it’s all about making a good impression.

Now, as a news anchor, I no longer manage interns. I am just a source some will use and observe. Over time,

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Conversation Around the New Coffeemaker
May 29, 2007

Hope every had a great memorial day weekend. I had to work both Friday and Monday, but in between I managed to squeeze out quite a bit of action. Here’s the abridged version:

Friday 2pm: Golf at Diamond Run with my buddy Joe on his 40th birthday
Friday 7pm: Celebrity board breaker at board break-a-thon for cancer in Murrysville
Saturday 10am: Golf with my buddies at Birdsfoot Golf Club in Freeport
Saturday 3pm: Family gathering and cookout in West Deer
Saturday 7pm: Melanie Taylor’s family cookout and pool party in South Hills
Sunday 8am: Golf with buddies at Lone Pine Golf Club in Washington
Sunday 4pm: Cookout at home of reader of my blog in Greensboro, Greene County
I’m tired just writing about the weekend and I wish I could have one more day to recover from all the activity and all the driving.

Kelly and Melanie had Memorial day off and when they returned today, there was something new for them and the entire morning show crew. You have been asking and now we have an answer. Check out the new “Channel 4 Action News This Morning” official coffeemaker:

For those of you who like to get the specs on these sorts of things, it’s a Toastmaster automatic drip coffeemaker, model TCM14B. It comes courtesy of our morning show floor director, Matt, who finally took it upon himself to replace that beat up old coffee machine. I do appreciate it and I hope he did not spend a whole lot on it.

Of course, when compared to our old coffeemaker, it looks like space-age technology at work – but the biggest difference is when you pour. Remember, our old coffeemaker lost its spout — forcing us to pour over the sink. Now, the new coffee pot has a cool new spout and it has no coffee stains at bottom.

Whether the new coffeemaker will make us better in the morning – or throw off our game remains to be seen but I thought you all should know about the big change behind the scenes.

Thank You!
May 24, 2007

Of course, we are here to be part of the Pittsburgh community – to inform you and to help make our city a better place. But Channel 4 is also a business — and we are here to make a profit and we do that by putting together strong news programs everyday. The goal is to make quality programming so that we can get more viewers and, in turn, higher ratings.

We just finished our quarterly test of how well we are doing – the May ratings period. Thanks to you, we are Pittsburgh’s #1 morning newscast – for the 4th consecutive ratings period. The entire crew wants to say thanks!
It’s not only the faces you see on the air everyday — there are so many people working behind the scenes to make our program better. Here’s a shot from the folks working upstairs in our control room and in the studio — and thanks to our graphics artist, Alan, who took all the pictures.
One person is not in this photograph who deserves major kudos is our morning show producer Nick Matoney. Since coming on board in the last year he, along with executive producer Dana Brown, have been a major part of our success. Many of the words that come from Kelly and myself are written by Nick — who works overnight as well as Dana — and then runs the show from the control room. Good job, Nick! We could not do it without you.

Thanks once again to you for allowing us to enjoy a rare place in television – the top spot in the ratings for the mornings. We know you have many choices for news when you wake up – and we’re glad many of you have chosen us. For your friends that don’t watch us, tell them to give a try — just for one day. We promise we won’t bite.

Getting Away for Cheap Mini-Vacation
May 23, 2007

This started with a comment from a reader of this blog – let’s call her Denise. She says she hasn’t taken a vacation in a long time. Standing in her way — two things – time and money.

Well, Denise, you are not alone. Rarely do I have the time and despite what you have heard about us TV people, I like getting good deals as well. This weekend the Mrs and I decided to do something quick, easy and inexpensive – and it wound up being just the vacation break we needed.

Our friends at 7 Springs have this great deal. A round of golf for two and one night’s stay at the lodge — for $85 per person, double occupancy. Well, I love the 7 Springs course and we knew that there wouldn’t be much of a crowd this time of year. Plus, we could get into our favorite restaurant there – Helen’ – without waiting like we do during Winterfest. Here are some photos from the Springs:

The next day, we got up and continued our golfing excursion as Sharon and I headed back home. About 15 minutes down the road from the Springs is Donegal Highlands Golf Course a.k.a. “The Black Dog”. I think Sharon likes the name which is why we stopped by. Here’s Sharon posing with the black dog ( and no, it’s not a real dog ):

Then, we hit the course and take a look at our swings. It’s no wonder I’ve been told I have the best “practice swing” in Pittsburgh:

Finally, we stopped Sunday after the round at a little neighborhood restaurant called “Nino’s” in Mount Pleasant and enjoyed a leisurely brunch. In all, it wound up being an affordable weekend and we we’re gone from home less than 36 hours. Sometimes the best vacations are also the shortest vacations.

Kelly to the Rescue
May 22, 2007

So much for the best laid plans.

I have to admit that I always come to work prepared. I’ve got a casual outfit and jeans in my car if needed. I have an extra tie. I have an extra pair of shoes. But this morning, I found I had not planned for every contingent.

About 4:15am, while going through the scripts for the morning show, my eye started itching. I wear contacts so that’s nothing new. So I went into the washroom to clean and re-insert my contact — and that’s when disaster struck! I lost my contact lens.

If you have ever had contact lenses, you know the feeling when you can see out of only one eye. I searched and searched and panicking and freaked out. How was I going to do the show with just one good eye? My heart sank – and I was close to despondent believing I had let everyone down.

Of course, leave it to the folks on the morning team to bring a little perspective to the problem. Melanie plays the role of den mother beautifully and asked me what was wrong. Nick, our producer, came into the washroom to make sure I was not doing bodily harm to myself because of this latest disappointment.

But it was Kelly who came to the rescue ( not wearing a cape but it would have been appropriate ). She often wears contacts and she’s about as blind as I am. She always brings extra ( as most women tend to do and most men forget to do ) and gave me one of her lenses. Well, guess what — it was nearly perfect! At the least, it gave me enough vision in my right eye to be able to see.

Of course, there was one catch. Her contact had a blue tinge. In essence, leaving me with one blue eye and one brown eye. On camera, it was hardly noticeable — but Kelly’s new nickname for me? “Old Blue Eye”.

Do I Still Care?
May 21, 2007

I wanted to share with you some pics from the weekend, but we’re having technical difficulties getting those photos. So I will save that for tomorrow. Instead, it’s time to answer a bit of viewer mail.

Fair

From Jane – along with several other people who stop me on the street and ask me the same question: Andrew, do you miss sports?

Fair question. I have been asked since the day I got this assignment if I miss covering sports. The short answer is no. I was a sportscaster for more than 15 years ( hard to believe ) and I have seen just about everything and I have observed a few things in my time: Spring always means baseball, fall always means football and 18 year olds give you pretty much the same answers they gave you 15 years ago.

Little changes in sports aside from the outcome of the game and how the outcome is reached. You find that sports comes in one neat little pakage. The game starts at a certain time, ends at a certain time and it’s eay to dicpher the heroes from the villans. Covering news is hardly so simple.

A news story can last a few seconds or a few years and it’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s wrong. Plus, what is at stake can often involve life and death. Rarely does sports get to that level ( sorry Steeler fans, but missing the playoffs does not constitute a reason for killing one’s self ).

The truth is news is more compelling, more thought-provoking and more interesting that sports. The games I covered for 15 years were just that – games. Nothing more and nothing less. In this role, I am learning that first hand on a daily basis.

Maybe it’s just my schedule that has changed my feelings about the teams we watch. Let me give you an example. This past calendar year, I went to the following games as a fan: 2 Steeler games, 2 Pirates games and no Penguins Games. This after years of attending at least half the games for all these teams. When you get up as early as I do, you’re exposure to games can often be limited to getting up at 2am and catching the highlights on ESPN News.

There is one caveat to my feelings about the games I followed for so long. I miss high school sports – and going to football games on Friday night and watching Panthers games on Saturday afternoons. Maybe it’s because I have grown so close to both these programs over the years – or maybe it’s the fact it’s not the pros.

Jane and friends – thanks for asking — and keep those questions coming.






Cake Watch
May 17, 2007

Thanks to everyone who sent me such sweet birthday wishes. I got several e-mails from many lovely ladies out there wishing me nothing but the best on Wednesday. I got home and got a big birthday card from Sharon and Boobaloo. But the best birthday gift came this morning — from Kelly Frey.

Not knowing my birthday was yesterday, she whipped up a birthday cake for me today. If this blogging program was working, I would show you a photo of the cake — but we are having some technical problems ( you all know how that goes ).
It’s a yellow super moist cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles — and it was delicious — though it had the number “33” on the top of the cake. Kelly knows I’m 39 — but she says it’s the only numbered candles she had at home.
The cake was huge — and I had a piece and it was delicious. It was so good that I had to tell Robin during our live one-on-one with her at 6:25pm. That’s when our director, Lee Rapsky got creative. While we were talking cake on air, she took a shot from our newsroom camera of the cake — and caught someone taking a piece!

Soon – a new segment was born – “Cake Watch”. We had the image up on our monitors in the studio — and would cut back to it during our last half-hour. Kelly says just watching to see who would sneak a piece of ckae kept her going this morning. I have to admit, this has been a really cool birthday — and no doubt “Cake Watch” will be my lasting memory.

Another Year Older .. and Maybe Another Year Wiser
May 16, 2007

Yesterday, my blog turned 100 .. and today, I turn 39.

I’m not mentioning this so that I will receive birthday wishes from everyone ( although they are appreciated ). To be honest, I rarely celebrate the moment — for two reason. First, it’s May sweeps in TV news and I can never get away to enjoy the holiday. Second, who really celebrates their 39th birthday? At this point, you party for milestone birthdays like 35, 40, 45. Still, I remember when I was a kid and would celebrate those half birthdays ( Mommy, I’m 5 and one half years old ).

Am I sad about getting one year older? No, actually I’m bumming because my 30’s are almost over. The decade where I established my career, dated only two girls and married one and bought my first house. I’ve gotten involved in my community and I still have both of my parents living. For that, I am blessed. I just hope I’m not playing “the back nine” when it comes to my life span.

For the most part, I feel great. I’m the lightest I’ve been in ten years. While I have a few gray hairs I’m still outside doing something athletic nearly every day. I still act like a kid and live for the weekends. So for the most part, being 39 really doesn’t feel like 39. Then again, what is 39 supposed to feel like? According to our youth-obsessed culture, 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40 so I guess I’m 29.

I did get a few cards — from my brother, my folks and a couple of friends and even a sweet woman who reads my blog — and all but one had a golf theme. Makes me wonder if I am a bit bit obsessive about this sport.

Here’s to turning 39 — and hopefully, the final year of my 30’s will be my best. By the way, I’m celebrating by working, going to a couple of meeting for a charitable golf tournament I’m organizing, shopping for a couple pairs of pants and playing in my golf league.

BTW, this morning I received birthday wishes from the following: Melanie Taylor, Nicole Pettalides ( our business reporter ), Robin Roberts, Kelly Frey and Dana Brown ( our show producer ). Five beautiful women said “Happy Birthday” before my wife Sharon got the chance. Such is life when you start work at 5am.

Blogging Milestone: The Century Mark
May 15, 2007

Welcome to my milestone blogging — On the eve of turning 39, my blog has turned 100. This is my 100th entry.

When I was asked to do this about 10 months ago, I never thought I would find enough topics to fill up 10 blogs, let alone 100. But somehow, I have been able to find subjects and thoughts worth writing about. Recently, I have been able to do it almost daily and even more impressive, you have written me back with your thoughts.

Among the highlights and lowlights of my 100 blogs:
* My many discussions that have taken you behind the scenes and giving you the insights on the adventures of the morning show crew.
* Introducing you to my dog, Boobaloo.
* Correctly predicting Mike Tomlin would be hired as Steelers coach.
* My top ten lists
* The saga of the broken coffee pot
* My trip back to my 20th high school reunion
* The ex-girlfriend files
* My rants ranging from political correctness to adults gone wild to Don Imus

But the biggest highlight for me — has been you. All of you. Taking time to write me and tell me what you love, what you like and what you hate. Thanks. Because of your replies, I am inspired to write every day. I can only hope the pittsburgh channel allows me to continue into the future.

I did not want to wait until blog #101 to tell you about a unique event and a special group of people. Last night, I was the guest speaker and celebrity golfer at the Autism Speaks golf event at St. Clair Country Club.

It’s an event created by two families — the Zotters and the Fitzsimmons — and inspired by their children who suffer from Autism. They turned their love into a charitable walk seven years ago and into a golf tournament five years ago — an event that raised $500,000 for autism yesterday. These are people who have taken it upon themselves to make a difference and through their efforts, they are moving all of us ever closer to a cure for autism.

It was hard not to be emotional last night, but when you see the love of a community for their children, it does more than tug at your heart strings. Kudos to everyone who came out last night to help the Zotters, the Fitzsimmons and everyone who deals daily with the challenge of autism.

Race for the Cure
May 14, 2007

Hope you all had a great Mother’s Day weekend. I know 41,000 spent it with me at Schenley Park on Sunday morning at the 15th edition of the race for the cure. Check out the aerial photos from Sky 4 from Sunday.

You probably see us talking about it all the time on WTAE, but there are many unsure as to what the Race is all about. For the uninitiated, the Race for the Cure raises funds to fight breast cancer and aid in research. It also raises breast cancer awareness among the population. Finally, it celebrated those who have won their battles against this disease and honors those who have lost their fight.

It began with the efforts of three local woman 15 years ago in the rain at Schenley Park. Only 300 people showed up that Mother’s Day. Now, 40,000 plus come to the park to race, remember and raise over 2 million in the battle against breast cancer.

There is no other way I would spend Mother’s Day. For myself and my co-emcee, Michelle Wright, it has become a passion. Michelle has been with the race for 13 years and I came on board a decade ago. Together, we have witnessed the joy and pain of this battle. We have laughed and cried .. and hugged so many mothers that we have lost count.

Most of all, I am proud of our employer – WTAE – for being involved in this worthwhile cause. From producer Tammy Laughlin, who produced Race specials for many years – to the commitment of management to give up air time to run promotional spots supporting the race – to our station website which has become a source of information for those looking to learn more about breast cancer detection. While I am proud of what our station does day in and day out, nothing we do has a greater impact or has made more of a difference than out support of the race.

The hope is that – one day – we will no longer have to race for a cure .. and we are coming closer to that day. But until then, we will spend our mother’s day in Schenley Park. We will laugh and cry, remember and rejoice as we come together to Race for a Cure for breast cancer.

Thanks to all the volunteers and companies that supported us Sunday – and thanks to all 41,000 that came out.

Happy Mother’s Day
May 10, 2007

A happy Mom’s day to all the mothers out there. I hope your sons and daughters are celebrating with you this weekend by taking you out for brunch or buying you a special present.

Mother’s Day is one of the special days in my life because I love my mom so much. She is a quiet woman filled with inner strength and as the years have gone on, I think we have gotten much closer.

Each year, my mom and dad make the trek out to Pittsburgh from Chicago to join me at the Race for the cure. It’s become an annual event for our family. It’s a chance to be together, to celebrate life and help in the fight against one of the world’s most insidious diseases – breast cancer.

Already 36 thousand are signed up for the race – and there’s room for more as we try to break the all-time record of 38-thousand plus. If you have never been, I invite you to come. It’s an incredible way to spend the holiday with your mom or in memory of your mother.

Back to mom – and there is some video I want you to see. In 1999 ( eight years ago ) a few of our anchors sat down and talked about their mothers. It’s amazing not only to hear their stories, but also see how different some of our hairstyles look after eight years ( although everybody says I look the same). Here’s the link to that video — and please enjoy:

http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/video/13292216/index.html

Have a happy mother’s day — and to my mom — I’ll see you at the airport Friday!

Billboard Material
May 9, 2007

It’s amazing what gets people talking in the country. Exhibit A: Witness the latest billboard above the skyline in Chicago.

It’s not the photos of the scantily-clad models that have people in a huff. It’s the message between the photos: LIFE IS SHORT .. GET A DIVORCE.

While some Chicagoans are laughing, others are really upset such a message should be out in the open for everyone to see. They say it’s hurting the institute of marriage and makes light of such a serious decision as divorce.

Me? While I don’t agree with the message, I am hardly offended that someone is putting their opinion out there for all to see. Look, not everyone should be married – and marriage is not the be all-end all society makes it out to be. But bashing the institution is not right, either.

Listen, if you are comfortable and confident in your relationship, then this message should not make a difference. If not, then maybe you need to look into this possibility.

I know what you are thinking: What sort of sexist pig would use a picture of a woman in lingerie and it only focuses on her breasts. Some sex-crazed guy at some radio station trying to score and audience?


Would you believe the source of this scandal is a female attorney looking to drum up business? It would surprise me if her message hit home — and she manages to land new clients because of a campaign that is – at the very least – original.

My Special Friend in Greene County
May 8, 2007

I’m not available during the first Saturday morning in May. That date and time is taken – and will always be as long as I reside her in western Pennsylvania. During that date, you will always find me in Waynesburg, Greene County hosting the opening ceremonies for the Relay for Life. The cancer-awareness fundraiser brings the whole community together to celebrate life, make people aware of this illness and raise funds in the race for a cure. I got involved five years ago – and made a very special friend in the process.

She is now the reason I go back each and every year. I go back to see her smiling face and catch up on the past year. I go because she is a beacon of hope in the fight against cancer and a motivating force for me to live my life to the fullest.

Above Photo: Christina is right of me in this photo and next to her is her mom.

When I first met Christina Lahew, she was just eight years old – and a cancer survivor. There are some things young people should never have to experience — and cancer is one of those things. She not only beat the disease, she now offers hope as the ambassador for Greene County in the annual relay. Each year, we look forward to seeing each other and talking about what has happened in our lives – although I am much more interested in Christina.

She is now 13 – and taking part in track and field. While I have watched her grown, she still has that smile she had at age eight. Her parents have also become part of this annual reunion and they tell me she is so happy that she has become my friend. I feel the same way.

I hope we will always be close – and I hope someday she will understand what her courage has meant to me as well as those in her community who look to her for inspiration every May. That’s why I go back to Waynesburg every first Saturday morning in May. I have a picture of us, but this blogger program is not letting me load pictures into the blog today so I will show you some pictures tomorrow.

Same Blog, New Site
May 7, 2007

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Unfortunately, this is one of those busy days and I really don’t have time to write anything – but I will take time tomorrow to leave you some interesting thoughts and ideas.

I do want to mention that there is a new forum to find my blog. Pittsburgh bloggers is a site listing many local blogs in one place — and you can find my blog there as well. Here’s the address: http://pghbloggers.org/.

Thanks to Pittsburgh Bloggers for including me on their list of free thinkers. BTW, there is a Pittsburgh blogfest Thursday night at Finegan’s Wake on the North Shore – and I’m going to try and make it down to meet my blogging counterparts.

Take care everyone – and I promise to take the time to write tomorrow. Thanks for being there.

It’s One of the days …
May 4, 2007

Just proof that us folks in TV news are real people too.

Ever since I woke up, I have been having one of those days. From having to chase Boobaloo ( my dog ) halfway down the street at 2am in the morning to getting less than four hours of sleep last night to realizing that I have overbooked my calendar of volunteer work this weekend ( I don’t know if I have four free hours to play a round of golf, it’s just one of those days). All this – and my favorite watch is broke and the jewelry store is telling me the company that produced the watch is going to need nine weeks to fix it.

Even at work, it’s been a bad day – although I won’t go into detail as to why. I couldn’t even pick up the local papers without getting a bit bummed out. Two of our local publications ( not named the Tribune-Review ) were less than enamored with my report on “Better Sex” last week. I have shared with you my thoughts about the critics in the past – and I guess it’s better to be talked about than not talked about.

If all this wasn’t enough — Sharon is out of town for the weekend and it’s just me and the dog.

So what do you do when a bad day is breathing down your neck? It’s Friday – and that’s a good start. While I’m not one to wash away my sorrows with a night on the town, there are some foods that help me get through the hard times. I love sushi and ribs ( although not together ). Also, a night by the couch watching my favorite flicks. If all that doesn’t work – I like to call my friends from high school. They always make me fee better. Notice I did not mention golf. I don’t play when I’m in bad mood because I find I only play worse.

Enough sunshine from me. Have a great — and positive weekend!