Welcome to the PIT List!

I'm a network field producer who also worked in local tv as a line producer and field producer. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to work with super people. Now I'd like to pass along what I know and rant a tad.

"Dear Maggie..." pitlist@gmail.com
I check it sporadically, but I love answering emails, so if you have an issue or difficult person you need help with, don't hesitate to shoot it my way.

Maggie L

Maggie L
One of the rare times I'm in the office

Monday, September 22, 2008

If a tree falls in the forest and there's no TV crew to document it, it is news?

The recurring complaint about media crews and Katrina is that all of us were so focused on New Orleans that we missed the devastation happening to other parts of the Gulf Coast. Consider the re-dux, obviously on a much smaller scale, with Gustav.

Just a few days after the third anniversary of Katrina, New Orleans found itself facing Gustav, which swirled out in the Gulf menacingly. A massive evacuation ensued. So did a massive influx of journalists into the city. When it was all over, Gustav seemed more bark than bite, the levees held, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. We all began to make our way home.

It was on my way home that I noticed something. Correspondent Kris Gutierrez and I had to drive to Baton Rouge to fly out since the New Orleans airport was still closed. We thought we’d make the couple hour drive, grab some lunch and be at the airport with plenty of time. Keep in mind that we never lost power at our hotel in New Orleans. And the night before we left, there were restaurants open in the Quarter. In fact, it was almost lively, what with all the news crews, police and rescue workers in town.

So you’ll imagine our surprise when we cruise in to Baton Rouge and not a thing is open. It seems the whole city is without power. The occasional grocery or drug store that is open has a line a mile long outside it. We drive around. We get lost. Huge old trees are downed everywhere in Baton Rouge’s old neighborhoods. We give up and make our way back to the airport. It’s on backup power and the temperature inside is something like 85 degrees. We feel lucky to get on our plane and fly home. Once home, I see that in the state of Louisiana, some two million are without power. Isn’t that a story?

My defense, albeit a poor one, is that with TV news, time marches on- and quickly. The minute we’re given to reflection on a story, we’re sent to the next one. Two million without power is a lot, but what about the upcoming Presidential election? What if Ike is lining up in the Gulf with Houston in its crosshairs? What about the financial crisis? It’s always something. Sometimes it’s the magician’s sleight of hand—we’re looking at something shiny while the real trick is being played out of sight. But more often, we’re more like a hyperactive teen. Too much news. Too little time. It’s easy to get distracted.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sorry no new posts lately

Sucked into our hurricane coverage. Any questions about it or tips you have from your storm coverage? Email me at pitlist@gmail.com

Preaching Twitter. Again

Here's an interesting article on how the Austin-Statesman used Twitter to cover Ike. Something any station could do.
Statesman team uses Twitter to cover Hurricane Ike

Posted using ShareThis

I also used Twitter during Gustav and Ike. I went to summize.com and found users in the New Orleans and Houston area. I followed them so I could get a sense of what they were experiencing and what was important to them. I also followed the local newspapers and tv stations in the area to make sure we weren't missing anything.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Handy Tip for Photogs in Hurricanes & other Heavy WX

This tip courtesy of Guy Hernandez, three time NPPA winner, and Guy Morton, former NBC photog who now freelances for everybody.

Ever seen those big Ziploc storage bags, the ones for sweaters, extra blankets etc.?

They're huge. They're also rain gear.

The "Guys" use them in hurricanes and say they work better than anything. Guy H. puts his regular rain gear over the camera, then one of these Ziploc bags over that. He pokes a hole in the the bag and then stretches it to fit the lens perfectly. Then he makes another hole for the viewfinder. 

Attached is a picture of Guy Morton, who's using the Ziploc sans other rain gear while covering flooding in Marble Falls, TX (Texas Hill country outside Austin). 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Weather Diversification

All this weather talk brings me to a common problem with big weather days. You assign several reporters to cover weather and they bring you essentially the same story from different locations.

As in...

Hi, I'm Reporter A and it is raining on the North side.

Hi, I'm Reporter B and it is raining on the Sorth side.

Hi, I'm Reporter C and it is raining on the West side.

You get the idea. Figure out a way to diversify your coverage so viewers aren't seeing the same thing over and over. So one might do... People impacted... Another reporter takes emergency response. Or someone takes nuts and bolts... Another takes color. Whatever. Just check in early and often to make sure you and your crews are on the same page.

Three Drunk Guys and a Hurricam

Ok, I ran across something fascinating while wasting time between overnight liveshots. Gustav was hours off, but there was a live web cam going in Houma Louisiana. Just like it sounds, three drunk guys and a "Hurricam." Three yahoos drinking out on their porch and acting stupid. Live. And I couldn't stop watching. I wasn't alone. About four thousand other people were watching. I bring this up not because I assume that you too will be fascinated by drunk guys and an approaching hurricane, but because I am trying to figure out an application for this in tv news. The web site that hosted the drunk guys is ustream.tv
Under the drunk guys cam was a box with instant messaging from people watching. They'd react to what the guys were doing. I think the guys even took a phone call from someone who was messaging them.

How could we use this in a show? Would be great for a controversial radio show that also has a web presence. Hosts could argue about something and get instant feedback. Maybe it is already being done. What else could you do?

Of Rain Gear and On Set Pieces

Sorry no posts for a while. Fresh back from Gustav. Which brings me to a point you might pass along to your reporters when they come back in from covering storms. For the love of God, please take off your rain jacket before you go on set. I watched affilate coverage of the storm and this one reporter wore her rain jacket not just for one set piece, but she was on again and again... Still wearing the jacket. If you really want to prove you were covering the storm, perhaps you should be live out in it. But if you are on set, lose the rain jacket!