Phoners are Dead Jim

Dude, I hate phoners.

There is a great scene from Murphy Brown where Miles is on vacation and he’s a witness to some big news story. I don’t remember if it was a coup or a storm or whatever, but he was the newscast “eyewitness”.

They got him on the phone and was going live but no one had a recent photo. So they toss to him in the middle of nowhere and you see his picture on the tv screen, and it’s his high school or college graduation picture. He’s wearing a cap and gown while his voice reports what is going on wherever he was.

That was in 1989, and sadly, we’re still using phoners today.

Even when every living soul has a smartphone in their pocket or hands, viewers are stuck looking at a still photo and hearing a voice. That’s practically radio isn’t it?

And there’s no reason for it at all.

What once took hundreds or thousands of dollars for a sat truck, three man crew and booking satellite time, we can do it all for free. Yet some stations are still plastering a pre-produced graphic with some photo from years ago.

I’ve seen it several times this past week.

It’s bad television and our viewers deserve more. When their 9 year old kid can Skype mom and dad from grandpa’s house, a tv station can’t figure out how to put pictures on the air?

Are you serious?

I actually heard someone say their station needs to spend more money to cover breaking news. A new satellite truck or fix the old one. Stations are paying hundreds of dollars on backpacks that do exactly the same thing that a smartphone can do.

There are a number of ways to get pictures on the screen for free.

Skype is the first and probably the best in terms of quality and dependability. One station Skype account and others for each reporter and photographer in the shop. Skype to Skype video calls are free and there’s no delay, opposed to the 3 second delay from those expensive backpacks.

It makes no sense to not use Skype.

Or, Google+.

Google+ hangouts are great tools for local television stations covering breaking news.

On a hangout (or is it in a hangout?) up to 10 people (reporters) can be on one video call. All of the reporters will be at the bottom of the screen and whoever is doing the talking pops up full screen.

That’s without a director punching buttons.

Think of those nights when you have multiple reporters in the field to cover a storm. Instead of punching up multiple reporters from different locations, the station can log into one account, see all of those reporters on one page, and toss to each one. When they start talking, they come full screen while the other reporters remain at the bottom of the page.

Another is Facetime. I’ve had multiple times in the past year where I’ve needed to interview someone far from where I can go. I’ve asked if they can Skype and most of the time they can’t. Then I ask if they have an iPhone.

All but one had an iPhone and could do a Facetime interview. I even interviewed someone driving to town from Canada. They pulled into a convenience store parking lot and Facetimed with me for the on camera interview.

Our control room didn’t know what to do with any of this, so I’ve simply done the interview on my iPad with my camera pointed at the iPad’s screen. It looked fairly good on tv, but at least it wasn’t a voice over a graphic.

Dude, I hate phoners.

There’s no reason to do them now. Viewers know it, when are we going to catch up?


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This Thing Still On?

I Googled myself this morning and found something interesting. This blog comes up near the top of the search results.

That isn’t a good thing, seeing’s how I haven’t so much as posted or logged in here in 2 years. Who needs a blog when you have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+?

Anyway, that’s where you can find me now but I’m going to leave this blog up so I can occasionally look back.



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On Holiday

We’re off on holiday as the Brits like to say.

Loading up the truck and headed to LA (lower Alabama) for some sun and sand (and maybe some oysters).

What is it though about getting out the door and on the road? There’s so much yelling in our house this morning you’d think we’re going to church. “I don’t want to take a shower!” and “Dad, she’s not taking a shower!” is the hot topic right now.

I’m busy loading up. Not the suitcases and bags but the iPod and other electronics. It’s going to be a long drive and I need my own music and earbuds. That way Cameron can turn up Lady Gagag as loud as she wants. I’ve also loaded up 8 episodes of “This American Life” from NPR. The last time the kids and I took a long drive I introduced them to Ira Glass and they loved it. So last night I cherry-picked from my podcast downloads with children-friendly stories.

I did the man stuff too. Checked the oil, filled the tank, cleaned out the hiding places under the seat for extra legroom.

We’re staying in a condo instead of a hotel so we’re discovering things we need to take with us. Extra towels, tp, coffee filters etc.

The beach forecast couldn’t be any better: upper 80s during the day, 60s at night. I’m going to be blogging and posting some video as part of the Travelling’ Mama’s vacation prize package. They didn’t ask me too, but I want to send some traffic their way. Full disclosure, they’re picking up the tab for the whole condo stay.

Off we go

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I Cannot Wait for “The Amazing Race”

Check out this teaser for the upcoming season of The Amazing Race on CBS.

We’ve actually got the start date (September 26th) marked on a calendar

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Back To The Beach

“If we decide to go somewhere on your fall break, where would you choose?”

My kids stopped what they were doing. A Corn Pop dangling from his upper-lip, Trey was speechless for a full 9 seconds. “I’ll give you a choice” I said, “Gatlinburg or the beach”.

Now that’s quite a decision for my kids. The beach is a place we skipped out on this past summer because we (or I) didn’t want to spend a lot of money only to be close to a black oily mess.  My children associate Gatlinburg with shopping, mini-golf, go-carts and eating candy as we watch it being made.

So this was no easy decision.

First, some perspective: my children have never been to the beaches on the Florida panhandle.

I know, I know…but before you pick up the phone to call child protective services, let me explain. When we go to “the beach” we go to Southwest Florida. Every year or so we hop on a plane and fly to Fort Myers, then rent a car to drive to south to Marco Island. My wife grew up there, has family there, and in the summer months it’s off-season there.

My kids do love it but Marco Island has spoiled their idea of what a beach is like. The sand in Marco is hard and with lots of shell-fragments. Nothing like the mounds of snow-white sand I grew up visiting in Alabama and Northwest Florida.

Last year after leaving Marco Island, we had a serious discussion about shaking things up and going to Gulf Shores or Destin. I told them stories about vacations when I was their age and how different the sand and beaches are there. We talked about how much fun it might be to drive instead of fly, take the dog, talk their grandparents into going with us.

I sold them. June 2010 would be our first family vacation on the white beaches that I grew up visiting.

Then the oil.

We kept holding off on going anywhere. We waited to see what would happen, how far the oil would spread. And before we knew it, vacation was over and school started. We could have gone of course, I know that now.

“Gatlinburg or the beach?”

They both said Gatlinburg.

But remember, their idea of ‘the beach’ is limited to about a 200 yard span of sand in south Florida. Mom placed her vote for the ‘beach’ (she always chooses the beach by the way) so the final vote was mine.

I went to Destin, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Panama City, Pensacola, or Fort Walton every year as a kid. Some summers we’d go 2 or 3 times. Once I remember sitting around with a couple of buddies and someone said “Let’s go to the beach” and we went.

I thought every beach was as white and sandy as those beaches. My children think every beach is like the ones they’ve seen in Marco Island. This morning as I write this, my 12 year old looked at the picture and asked “Is that sand real?”

Yes it is and for the first time my kids are going to feel it between their toes.


Oh, I wrote this because we’re pretty excited about going to the beach in a few weeks, but I also write this as part of a contest and I need to include the following sentence.

“This post is part of the Tripapalooza Contest.”

Which, by the way, I found this morning while looking for vacation deals. If you love the beaches of Alabama and NW Florida, you’ll enjoy their website.


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This years #Emmys are gay. Are there any straight people working in Hollywood?

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The funniest man on tv just won an Emmy.

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