Deranged Clown, Colossal Explosion…One Heck of a Week

Andy Dick dressed as a deranged bloody Ronald McDonald wielding a large plastic silver knife, a train derailment causing a colossal explosion turning the sky a vast ball of orange, receiving a hug from Johnny Depp (okay that had nothing to do with journalism, but had to throw it in there anyway ;) ), insane weather and another break down from Patti.

No one word could begin to describe this week. Maybe short of extreme-extreme, but far from just hunky-dory.

Monday: WMAQ. This day was all about learning video uploading, creating slideshows and digesting info about how the web reaches out to its audience.

To start I created a slideshow on Rod Blago on his performance in “Rod Blagovejich Superstar”.
Click here to see the slideshow on the left side of the page, first slideshow.

Next is when I learned about how to upload videos to the web. Something I’ve been wanting to learn since I first started.

Blogged an update about a missing girl:
Click here to read the update.

After a few other things, the other intern and I worked on a slide show about crazy internet hoaxes to put into a slide show. Click here to see the pretty tight slideshow on the left side of the page.
Click here to see the pretty tight slideshow on the left side of the page.

I feel like I also wrote at least one article this day, but I can’t recall which, and if so I forgot to put my byline in…

Tuesday: WMAQ. Intern meeting Wednesday. Learned about all the great sessions the interns will be having throughout our time here: tours of the station to take a look at the technical/digital of stations operations, learning about the news departments, and sales department.

My first article of the day required watching part of the show “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!” and to recap Patti Blago becoming buddy-buddy with retired NBA player John Salley.

Although I kind of feel bad for Patti for being picked on so much, I can’t feel that bad when she put herself out there like that… especially on a dumb reality television show. Most people think it’s for charity, which is definitely great (although her charity of choice refused to take her money after her husband is previously accused of withholding money from them if the CEO didn’t donate money to his campaign), but it’s also her way of trying to support her family (refer back to last article I wrote about Patti and “Mr Mom”).
Click here to read “Patti Tells BFF How Feds ‘Squeeze People’”

To end the day, I sat in on a conference call with Lora about web stuff. More deets to come on this at a later date…

Wednesday: WMAQ. For the most part on Wednesday, I choose which stories I wanted to write. I did start out with a story they gave me about on this guy who organized to send pizzas to Iraq for the soldiers who can’t be here for the fourth of July. This pizza party will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records. Click here to read “Pizza (and beer) on a Plane” (Snakes on a plane anyone??)

Had to talk to the coordinator because I was a little surprised they were sending beer over there, because well troops aren’t allowed alcohol overseas.

Went to a Digital Media Meeting that covered some more about how our site is doing.

After the meeting, Kristin and I walked out to the plaza to enjoy free pizza and ice cream for the NBC tower tenets appreciation lunch. Yuummm, free food.

Updated our local leads blog about a teen riding on the handlebars of a bike who shot off a man’s ear on the southside:
Click here to read the blog entry.

Saw the news on the Chicago Tribune for my next article.
Click here to read “Eddie Bauer Files Chapter 11”.

Finished off the day with a story I found important. Supposedly, in Cook County, it’s really hard to get a breast cancer screening.
Click here to read “Taking Care of “The Girls” Not Easy in This Town”.

Thursday: WMAQ. Thursday was Andy Dick protest at Rock “N” Roll Micky D’s day. I rode into Chicago a little later than usual so I could get to the McDonalds a little earlier than 1, when the protest started. I first talked to the protest coordinator and he explained that Andy and the vice president of PETA would be showing up soon. He gave me a DVD of chicken’s being killed, which I have yet to watch, in fear of my response that might follow, aka vomiting. A few protestors had gathered and so Kristin, the other intern, and I stated taking pictures and asking questions. It was great to be out in the field again, actually doing the reporting. Not long after, while standing across the street taking pics, we saw a semi-huge crowd running behind a man (Andy) impersonating Ronald McDonald, but with a little bit of blood and a Joker-like grin painted on his face, carrying a big plastic knife (also wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle, noticed this as I kneeled down to take a picture. I suspect he is on probation.) Kristin and I took more picture of the protesters, Andy Dick, and the vice president, and interviewed them.

When we got back to the station I called McDonalds to get their perspective on the whole situation, we put together the article, and created the slideshow.
Click here to check all that out in the article title "Andy Dick Not Lovin 'McCruelty'"

Friday: WREX. I didn’t quite expect the excitement that I got Friday. When I first got to the station I helped out by cutting a VO/SOT about the Rockford Sharefest and finished writing the script. Then I cut some cut some file video from a previous package about teen jail inmates and alternative programs.

All the while, the storms began brewing again outside, which would cause for craziness in the control one once the show started. Tornado warnings and flood warnings had been spotty throughout the day. I think during this newscast was the most I had learned so far about what the jobs of directors, producers, and the audio are. The director was extremely nice about letting me know what was going on and what he had to do. After the newscast (which was moved around due to the weather) I stayed in the control room to watch the action of cut-ins for the severe weather. I was able to sum it all up in one tweet: taraeg says crazy weather calls for crazy control room during newscast and continuous cut-ins during commercials.
Most definitely.

Around 8:00, another round of excitement and chaos started. “Train derailment” came over the scanner as I was writing a health story.

I feel that it’s always worth checking something that comes over the scanner that sounds remotely important. It’s better to get somewhere and find out it’s nothing than to have missed something huge.

So I climbed into the back of the livetruck with the reporter and weatherman, who was there to drive us to the scene. While driving on the highway we could see the smoke from about 12 miles away. The weather man, of course, told us that he was sure that clouds would not be that low on a day like this. We tried going down a certain road, but it had been flooded from all the rain. So we had to find an alternate route, and though it didn’t get us the best video, it was almost the best we could do without bottoming out the live truck.

When we got to a street corner, where we would set up, we first talked to a man who had been out near the train tracks and he told us what he saw. The photog then met up with us so the weatherman could get back to the station.

The photog was busy setting up the truck and asked if I could shot for him. Not really knowing how to shoot with a DVC pro I asked where the three main things were: the record button, the focus, and the zoom. I taped for a little bit for shots they would use during Saturday’s package on the fire.

We learned that a Canadian National train hauling 176 cars, 74 tankers with ethanol, 12 of the cars with ethanol had derailed causing a huge explosion. Over 26 units called in, 600 homes evacuated, and multiple injuries (we learned about the one death in the morning).

During the six hour night while we were there, I was a portable mic stand, holding the mic while the fire chief talked with us, helped set up the shots, and did various things to help out. Because all the other stations were out there, and there was a lot of standing around, I got to know some other people very well.

About halfway through the night, Bill said he was heading back to the station for a minute and asked if I wanted to go back so I didn’t have to be out there all night. I knew it wouldn’t have been a full experience if I hadn’t stayed the whole night… so I declined to going back to the station to go home. We ended up leaving the scene around 2 a.m., knowing we probably weren’t going get any new information until morning.

Saturday: WREX. After my late night Friday, I didn’t get into the station until the afternoon. As soon as I got there, I headed back out to the train derailment site where there was supposed to be a press conference held. This time, after having a little trouble getting past the police, I finally got to see the scene up close. They kept telling us the press conference would be held at different times and finally all the reporters/photogs there decided to get SOT’s from authorities they found and video instead of waiting for the conference at 8. I ran the tapes that Bill shot back to the station quickly, thinking I would head back out to the Rockford Airport to see Oprah sending out five jets full of her staff. But apparently this bit of information was not supposed to get out to the public or media. Oprah had rented out the airport and the security was tight, so there wasn’t really anything to shoot.

So instead I stayed at the station, cut the VO about a fundraiser Vintage baseball game and wrote a story on a NY man who is accused of dressing up as his dead mother to collect her social security and rent subsides.

Bill came back and asked if I would like to come out with him to a benefit dance for a man who fell in China severely injuring himself and who was still trying to pay off his $160,000 worth of medical bills.

His sister had organized “Prom 2009- Back to the Future” for her boyfriend of two years because he had never been to prom, and thought it would be a great benefit for her brother as well. It was interesting to talk to his sister, his dad, and finally the man (it was the first time he was able to make it to a benefit of his). I watched as Bill asked the man a few tough questions and it gave me a little insight on how to ask these types of questions to people who are on camera. I’ve had to do it many times for print, but never for the camera.

We ran back to the station, Bill cut the VO/SOT, and then we headed into watch the 10 newscast! A few minor problems during the newscast: before the B-block the anchor’s mic went out and she didn’t know she was on air, and the monitors also stopped working a minute before the newscast, so we had rearrange the sports guy to the wx wall and had to take out the BTS shots for the anchor.

From a producer and director standpoint I’m sure the newscast seemed horrible, but for the people watching at home I’m sure they didn’t notice the few mistakes. It was quite the way to wrap up a great week!

Video of the week:

The biggest news of the week is no doubt everything going on in Iran. For the video of the week, it's not from a newscast, but it's something that might hit you hard. Raw footage from near the protests. If you've been following along in the news, check this video out (it has blood in it, so don't watch it if you can't handle blood):


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