Tuesday, May 27, 2008

9/11 .. and the other days that put our newsroom to the test ..

Four days and counting ...

I've begun reorganizing my desk to get ready for my transition back to a bureau operation versus the full-service newsroom we've been for the last seven years. I've found a lot of old stuff -- both personal and professional -- that I thought was long gone.

I've found some notes from 9/11, which happened just 90 days after PAX23 News debuted. By noon of that day, we'd made the decision to carry NBC programming on Channel 3 to shift all of our local news coverage to the PAX Channel. We brought quite a few folks into the Akron office that day for interviews; a few went live from the Akron anchor desk for interviews with Tim and Romona.

One of our interns that day had an aunt who worked in the Twin Towers. I remember the gasp she let our when we had her live on the Akron set watching the towers fall for the first time. She didn't know yet if her aunt had survived, but later learned that she was o-k.

For the next few nights, the newscasts went commercial free .. so instead of filling the usual 13 minutes of news (commercials, weather and sports fill the rest) ... we attempted to fill the entire 30 minutes with fresh content. I remember having Pastor Knute Larson from the Chapel as well as other local leaders on live to talk about the community trying to cope. I remember interviewing the folks at the North Hill flag shop as they ran out of American Flags. I remember how tired and exhausted we all were leaving the office each night that week. Just floored. Our producer and photographers just worked their butts off.

Ironically, a crew from PBS 45/49 just happened to be filming us behind-the-scenes on 9/11. They were here to get footage and interviews for a special on covering the Akron area called "24 Hours," which can still be found on-line. If you watch the special (which is really well done), just know that the video you see in our newsroom that day was shot on 9/11.

There have certainly been other days that pushed us to our limits. Quite a few times, we've taken the entire newscast live on the road, which is my favorite challenge.

In 2002, we went live from the Green tornado zone, so instead of anchoring behind the desk, I was walking in between destroyed houses while pitching from story to story. During one two-minute commercial, I was quickly driven up the street to a second location and a second camera to bring a different perspective. No other newscast in Cleveland came close to the show we did that night.

We've also done the entire broadcast live from First Night Akron, the Aeros season opener at Canal Park, and multiple times from Stark County during the Jessie Davis case. There's nothing like the energy you get from broadcasting live in the field. No prompter, no fancy lights, and no net to catch you.

Once, on election night, I was physically the only person in the newsroom during the broadcast. Our 10 p.m. producer and night photographer were still out gathering interviews as the votes were being counted, so I was the only one here.

Still, there's nothing like beating the clock (and the competition) on the big story, and the nights the Akron-Canton News did that were the nights we shined the brightest.

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