LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Every once in a while something happens that jars me into a little update on life in the television business, in particular as it contrasts to life outside the television business (also sometimes called "normal life") and life in my prior residence in print journalism.
The latest incident to jar loose such introspection came last Friday morning, and was delivered by a giant inflatable Early Times mint julep.
In the print business, we didn't get up at 6 in the morning to play football against a couple dozen mascots. But I figured if pro quarterbacks like Brian Brohm, Chris Redman and Stefan LeFors could do it, who was I to back down? Plus, there was free breakfast.
Now, it was suggested a while back after some silly commercial we taped before football season (I believe it was one that featured a paddle boat out on a pond) that I had succumbed to self-humiliation. Nah. What we were doing was having fun. There are serious issues in sports, and we write about them all the time. But come on. If you get a chance to lay out a Chick-Fil-A cow on a crossing route, do you not have to take it? I think you do. I think anyone would.
A little more than six months into my TV/web career shift, several changes are striking.
1. It's crowded. I know this isn't the case at most TV stations. Perhaps it isn't the case at any. But WDRB is growing. Last month it added 13 new staffers to a newsroom that already had been swelling, part of a push to roll out two new weekend morning news shows. That left the building bustling. Rick Bozich and I often take to various haunts around town that we dub "Satellite Offices" for writing purposes. They've started to deliver our mail to Quills on Bardstown Road, I think.
By the time we left the newspaper, with the shrinking numbers and the confiscation of our sports copy desk out to the newsroom just around the corner, we were starting to hatch a plan to put a ping-pong or pool table in the empty space in the sports department.
So being cramped, frankly, is a welcome thing. It's also, apparently, temporary. WDRB president and general manager Bill Lamb announced to the staff last week that building expansion will begin this year, with the building getting a new façade along both 7th Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd., adding space for sales, the newsroom, and a second studio.
The first newspaper I worked for full-time was an afternoon daily that went out of businesses on my last day. In my professional life, I've never known anything but belt-tightening, never known anything but shrinking "news hole."
So the tight quarters and new faces, frankly, have been fun.
2. In TV, you have to carry stuff. There are, so far as I have experienced, only a couple of down sides to this TV thing. One is wearing a tie. The other -- having to carry stuff. Adam Lefkoe over at WHAS got a big kick out of me toting a camera at a University of Louisville basketball game. I've done plenty of sports travel. These days, however, I find myself lugging tripods through airports.
Of course, print photogs are always lugging gear. But in print, reporters and photographers are less likely to travel to events together. In TV, we're definitely functioning more as a two-person team, which means we consult on what our post-game on-camera reports are going to look like, what game footage will be included and other things of that nature. It also means I'm not going to stand there like a jerk and let the other person tote around a bunch of heavy equipment without helping.
The column I write is, as it always was, pretty much whatever angle I want to pursue. But there definitely are more considerations now.
Postgame routine is this: Press conference, player interviews, on-camera stand-up or live report, write story. For my entire career, writing the story or column has been the focal point of everything. Little by little, I'm learning that at some point, every facet has its place, from video, to instant video shot in the locker room, to posting stats or other immediate info on social media, to on-camera analysis, to writing.
Coming to a point where each of those complements instead of competes with the other is process. I make plenty of mistakes. On camera analysis is a work in progress. I'm a lot less likely to be critical of those who do it, because it's an art to say a lot in a conversational setting in which you may have only 15 or 20 seconds to make the point.
Like everybody, I catch myself saying, "Did you hear what that idiot just said?" Unlike everybody, sometimes I find that the idiot is me.
3. Not everything gets written down. I'm writing more now, working in television, than I did as a columnist at the newspaper. But there's more than one way to weigh in. If I talk about something for five minutes on our weekly webcast (Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. here @WDRB.com), I don't necessarily feel the need to write 600 words on top of it. Same for news commentary on the web. For important subjects, all three are necessary. With recent developments on University of Louisville football coach Clint Hurtt, I wrote a couple of long columns, spoke about it with Tom Lane in a commentary "Sports Page" segment that ran on the 10 o'clock news and again in the morning, and discussed it with Rick Bozich on our weekly webcast, as well as giving a one-person "point of view" commentary on the subject. But I'm coming to the point where any one of those would be, to me, sufficient to deal with a given subject.
4). My true TV baptism came at the Sugar Bowl. The game ended after midnight Eastern. We were to go on the air live at 4 a.m., New Orleans time. There wasn't much point in sleeping. I wrote my game column on the biggest win in U of L football history, caught a nap in a satellite truck, then started a series of eight on-air "hits" with Tom Lane and Steve Andress. We'd take them two at a time, every 45 minutes or so, with the other guy catching some rest when he wasn't doing TV. When we finished, we were all fried. I've never seen a tape of those. Didn't want to. I started work on the Sugar Bowl with the 11 a.m. news on game day, and after 17 hours, I'm sure I wasn't much to look at. But it was fun to do, and a new challenge. I'm grateful that the approach in this place seems to be one of growing, trying new things, and of working together.
As always, this thing is going to be evolving. I hope to bring a bit more storytelling to the television side of things in the coming months, while continuing to do it in print.
But always, I want to know what's useful for you. We're reaching the point where more people are reading our WDRB.com columns on tablet or smartphone than on the website. Our apps make video reports available there too. But these can change the way you read, and may change the way we report. If you have thoughts, always feel free to share them.
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