Friday, February 19, 2010

This weeks Journalism post

Most people watch the Olympics for the action. Or to cheer on your country. Or even because you are compelled to for a class. All of the is important but I watch the Olympics for one person: Jimmy Roberts.

Roberts reports the most of the prime time features during NBC's coverage. He's sat in that chair for several Olympics.

If ever there was a dream job for me, that would be it.

Even though he sits next to Bob Costas as cool as the ice in Vancouver, you know there is a lot of work that went into pulling that package together.

Earlier in the games, Canada was hoping for its first Winter Olympics gold medal on home soil. The country's first opportunity came in the women's freestyle moguls.

Canadian Jennifer Heil was poised to make it happen. She had turned in an impressive 25.69 seconds run. She stood poised to raise the mapleleaf for her country. American Hanna Kearny changed that. In the last run of competition, Kearny bested Heil's time by almost a second.

Hours after the race, Roberts was sitting next to Costas with a feature story on that race. This piece--like most--stood out to me not because of the great writing but because you could see the amount of work that went into the piece even before the start beep sounded. It was if most of the piece was done even before the sun came broke over the mountains of Whistler.

This is one thing I can definitey take from Roberts in terms of long-form features for sports events. HE had the background video shot and probably most of the piece already edited before the final. In the Bahamas, we have several major sports events that the national TV station covers including the national boys basketball tournament, softball championships and track events. With some foresight and planning I could put together a piece of that caliber.

Going back to the writing, Roberts is either a master with words or has one of the best writers around.

He expertly weaves "threes" through his piece. "So Canada waits for the next time, the next chance, the next opportunity for gold," Roberts said in the piece.

This is something I try to get into every piece as well. Roberts shows just how powerful using the trinity can be.

So as I watch the Olympics, I wont be watching the twists, the turns or the tumbles. I'll be watching for Jimmy Roberts.

This weeks project

This week's video project was a rough one. But it taught me a few things.

My first story feel through because of credential issues. My second story fell through because of logistical issues. And my third story almost fell through because of phone issues.

I learned that even though you may have a great idea it takes a lot to execute that idea; and to be on the safe side HAVE PLANS B-SQUARED. That's because even plan B can fall through. So you need a backup to the backup.

I covered the traditional Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at the local episcopal church here in Columbia. The supper is a tradition in churches of the catholic heritage. In the old days, the season of Lent was strictly observed and little sugar, fat and even flour was used during those 40 days of fasting. People didn't want their supplied to go to waste and the best way to use them was to make pancakes.

I thought this one was different because it was the boy scout troupe that was organizing it. And it was because of this that I wanted to make the story a little more than just a pancake supper. I wanted to show the positive things that young people are doing in the world--especially young men. I found a young man who was willing to talk and had a good attitude about the event. Not only was he funny but also put a good face on the story.

I think I will try that more often--make the story not so much the event but really part of something larger.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Opening Ceromonies

Selected highlights from the start of the 2010 Games

Steve Nash takes part in final leg of Torch run
Wayne Gretzky leads flame lighting
Mechanical issues slow the lighting of the flame
Gretzky lights the main cauldron in the Vancouver city-scape

It would be very hard if not impossible to beat the opening ceremonies of the the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Vancouver is making a strong statement that the ceremonies don't have to be large to have an impact.

As the venues and dates of the previous games are announced to start the show, you are almost forced to remember that what we are seeing has been built on all the previous games.

Vancouver had to get the blessing of all the first inhabitants of Canada to even have the games. It seemed symbolic that representatives from all the tribes would welcome the athletes as they paraded into the stadium.

Greece in blue and white started the parade of athletes some of them with Canadian flags painted on their faces.

The parade is almost bitter-sweet for me. The Bahamas was attempting to have a competitor in the games in snowboarding. This would have been the first time. The snowboarder missed the cut but he still made the country proud just making a push. Maybe the next games in Sochi will be his breakout.

A sad moment during the parade of athletes got those packed in the stadium to their feet, even Governor-General of the Canada H.E. Michaƫlle Jean--the representative of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during a luge training run at the controversial Whistler Sliding Center just hours before the opening ceremony. The 21-year-old lost control of his sled near the end of the run. He was thrown off the track and crashed into unpadded steel near the finish. Emergency crews tried to revived him and NBC showed bloodied pictures of the attempt.

As the Georgian delegation entered the flag seemed to almost limp in the bearer's hands, almost as if it knew the weight on the hearts of the rest of the delegation.

A black ribbon was tied near the finial of their flag. Delegation members wore black scarfs and black armbands. Some looked as if it took everything to not cry.

It must have been the toughest walk for some of them. But they really are the embodiment of the Olympic oath from back in 1924: "We will take part in the Olympic Games in a spirit of chivalry, for the honour of our country and for the glory of sport."

The Olympics have not been kind to Georgia. If you remember, the delegation from Georgia stayed and competed at the 2008 Beijing Games even as when Russia invaded their country.

On another note. A new version of the iconic song "We are the world" was released to during the games to support relief efforts in Haiti. It was ironic that the Head of State for these opening ceremonies was H.E.
Michaƫlle Jean because of her Haitian decent. Canada is a part of the Commonwealth of Nations which has its head Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. She was invited but could not attend. There for Jean took her place.

Now on to the opening ceremonies and the presentation. But first from a journalism point of view the producers must have just finished reading Al Tompkins book "aim for the heart"--because they said wanted to tell the story of the whole by concentrating on one character. Interesting.

A between 30 and 40 million dollars was spent on the production and everyone was a part of the show. Everyone in the stadium had a little light and was a part of the background.

The iceberg in the stadium was breathtaking even if it was simply lights on the floor. But seeing what seemed to be whales gliding across the stadium floor was amazing as producers combined lights with fog and bursts of air to make it seem as if the whales were clearing their blowholes.
"Just another miracle, just another ordinary miracle day," sarah mcglacsi sang to end the firs egmen

the next segment was full of very folksy music--fiddles, tap dancing and clapping. Most of the dancers wore plaid and maple leaves fell from the sky.

The cultural diversity of Canada was apparent. Many of the dancers were black, Asian and Hispanic. The country's culturual tolerance as also evident with many of the participants displaying their tattoos, non-traditional piercing and grunge-styled clothing.

The third segment was called: "Who owns the wind?" The character for this segment was a little boy and through the marvel of technology had him running on the prairie and then taking off in the sky. He even did air cartwheels with Joni Mitchell's song "Both sides now" powering the action.

"Peaks of Endeavor" was the next segment and meant to honor the candian rockies. Snow boarders and skies suspenved in the air as streaks of lights seemed to be pulled around them by inline skaters who represented ice-skaters.

"And yes we say ZED instead of Z," belted by a Canadian poet to end this segment was another reminder of the country's diversity and genteelness.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Real Sports real to me

It’s rare that news people become the news. But when it happens it’s a powerful thing.

In a recent edition of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel this is exactly what happened.

Last year (2009), the temporary shelter at the Dallas Cowboys’ training facility in Valley Ranch collapsed paralyzing one member of the staff and injuring about a dozen more. This news hit home for me.

I interned at NBC-5 in Dallas back in 2006 and to covered the Dallas Cowboys a few times at the old stadium and at their Valley Ranch training facility where the incident occurred.

The WFAA photographer who captured the crash at the facility last year, Arnold Payne, I had meet several times. He was always helpful and even though I was an intern he took the time to help me out and push me in the right directions—even though we were at competing stations.

When I saw the breaking news back in May 2009, all of a sudden, the news became real for me. Hearing Arnold talk about what he was shooting was as if he was talking directly to me.

“I looked up and low and behold, the lights were swinging,” Payne told Real Sports. “The lights that are there to illuminate the practice facility were just swinging back and forth like on a swing.”

I thought to myself at the time that I was standing in the same spot while covering the Cowboys. It was scary.

“It was like a scene out Raiders of the Lost Ark man,” Payne said on the show. “I was running and I dare look behind me because that big ball was coming and stuff was falling.”

Seeing Arnold again on Real Sports was sobering. He seemed just as passionate as he did back in May 2009. Frank Deford from Sports Illustrated reported the piece that revisited the incident. This was a great example of follow-up and Deford is a great writer and interviewer and added a lot to the piece.

This is the type of journalism I hope to one day be a part of. Telling great stories no matter if they are in sports or news. And this piece—and the show in general—proves that good stories can be told just about anywhere.

Visiting the Central Missouri Humane Society

Next time I say or even THINK shooting video is easy, slam a tripod across the back of my head. Ideally I should be wearing headphones and not hear it coming and wont feel a thing.

As a reporter, it always seems easy to ask a photographer for a shot or a series or sound. But now it was all up to me. Talk about pressure.


After arriving at the Central Missouri Humane Society, I starting thinking through the shots that I wanted to set the scene. That took almost 20 minutes just setting up the tripod.

After we started the interview with Shelter Relations Coordinator Allison Toth, I started to feel better about the assignment. Shooting it, not the story.

With the interview out of the way, it was now time to visit with the dogs and cats. This is where I think I went over board. How can you not with dogs and cats? Each one of them seemed to want to tell a story about how they got there and how badly they wanted to get out and live with a happy family. Seeing them and thinking about my own pet back home made me even more determined to help tell a great story. And I found the young guy who could help me: Tanner.

Tanner was one of the oldest residents at the shelter and just seemed so docile and scared. Somehow though, he had a feeling about him that came through the camera.

One trap I think I got in during my visit was to over-shoot and over-think everything. But then how can you not knowing that you wanted to tell the animals’ stories.


Central Animal Hospital

Dog Jog from the Columbian Missourian