The news where I used to work: Unbelievable!

Most of you know I was a web producer for the Fox station in Philadelphia, but fewer of you know I haven’t worked there since last August.

Fox grade sized

The reasons are still to be discussed, and probably won’t be public.

However, I’ve come across some interesting and incorrect content from that station while working on my computer at home — material that would’ve caused me to be questioned, but not everyone there is treated the same.

For example, while I was still working there, a colleague was working on a story about “captured Georgia inmates” but used another picture — one of Bill Cosby, a police officer and a member of the fallen star’s entourage — by accident, instead. The mistake was caught by somebody at another Fox station and corrected. I don’t know how long it was up. The person who did that still works there.

cosby

At least in that case, somebody at another Fox station looked at the Philadelphia site better than the Philadelphia people themselves!

I’d love to have nothing to do with a place I used to work, but on Christmas, I accidentally hit Firefox on my home computer and the homepage for WTXF-Fox 29 came up. I never use Firefox and that was the home site for that particular browser.

Since I used to work on the website, I scrolled down to see what they would have on Christmas Day. Most was typical. The web team probably didn’t have its full staff in place on that Monday. (I know the guy who worked Christmas last year wasn’t there this year!)

be right back

Then, I got to the section on the homepage about their show The Q, starring Quincy Harris, and it was blank! It simply went from the title, to a link for “More Stories” on the bottom, with no links to the latest videos from his show in between. It looked bad for the station, the show, and the star. Didn’t anybody know?

Q 1st
fox29.com

Quincy may have been on vacation for some time since Thanksgiving, but that shouldn’t matter. The latest should have remained there. Instead, there was nothing — just blank space that was an obvious error.

Quincy is a great guy, like so many of my former co-workers, and also incredibly talented. It was just a few of the managers who made my life a living hell. The living hell part has been brought up and will be discussed ASAP.

talk to q
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

So I privately tweeted to Quincy and his team about the computer situation but if they told anyone, then nobody cared.

The next day, I was back on the computer and decided to check in again. Maybe a member of the station’s web team repaired Quincy’s section, which was probably a really quick fix. Still nothing.

I tweeted that publicly with a big circle where the missing links should’ve been. Maybe you saw it. I also supplied a link to Quincy’s page that contains his content. I hope it helped. Quincy shouldn’t have had to suffer.

q circled
twitter.com/feedbaylenny and fox29.com

Then, on Day 3, I was prepared to do something similar, like put a CBS3 logo in that area, but it didn’t come to that. Somebody, somewhere, changed the section to Entertainment. So the good news is, at least there’s content instead of blank space. The bad news is, there’s nothing special in that feed section that’s not on dozens of other websites and our local talent Quincy loses out, along with promotion for his show, weekdays at noon.

quincy w parents
November, 2016: Quincy with my parents

Let’s get something straight. I know it was the holidays but this is the fourth largest TV market in the country, based on the number of potential viewers in the area. It’s a TV station owned by one of the big four networks, a company that plans to sell off almost everything it owns (except for the network, TV stations, Fox News, and Fox Business) which makes its 28 stations in 17 cities an even more important part of the company. (And Fox may be buying more over the next few months, so watch out in places like Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, and who knows where else?)

Was there absolutely nobody at the station to fix it? Nobody who could’ve been called in to fix it? What about emergency procedures, where somebody from another of those 28 stations in 17 cities can get in there and see what’s happening?

Disgraceful. There’s no excuse. I doubt there were even consequences after this major error it seems nobody noticed but should’ve. Well, they can’t try to blame me for this!

So to the Fox 29 web team, which for some reason was moved to the creative services department from the news department, you have issues: planning, scheduling, knowledge, not noticing something big missing from your home page, and not calling for help.

But apparently that’s how your bosses want it. Once, I had to put six job postings on the proper page. Five of the six were either part time or per diem. Only one was full-time. That’s what they budgeted. What did they expect to get? What would the head of Fox Television Stations say? What would Rupert Murdoch say? (Looks like several full-timers left the station since then. Several others left when I did. Notice a trend?)

That’s the problem with many conglomerates. They can’t get anything done. When I was working in the Tri-Cities, we could do almost anything using somebody in the building or calling on one of our four sister stations. Just four.

wcyb flag
Casey would rather work there than here!

Too many TV station managers like I worked with talk about how important Facebook is, and say it gets people to the station website which can make money, but putting up crap and doing it badly won’t get people to click. It only destroys any credibility left, and that’s happening faster in the age of Trump.

What people have been seeing is something that does not relay trust and stability.

Let’s take this past Friday as an example. It was a weekday, not a holiday, and a big news and weather day as well — the type of day journalists have to step up to the plate and be at their best.

I follow the station on Twitter and it follows me. First, I found somebody never learned how to use an apostrophe. Honestly, that skill isn’t needed to go on-air, but it’s very important for TV and web producers. Eventually, they got my message and fixed it. Then, it got better! I realized the story underneath was very fitting.

The error couldn’t have happened to better people. It’s just sad for the people of the Philadelphia region and beyond what’s left of this news-gathering group for the web.

Look what else I found they posted that day while I was going through my Facebook feed.

purple drank
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Ever heard of purple drank? Probably not. Does this post tell you anything specific about it? No. Care to guess if the Arlington is in Virginia or Texas? I wouldn’t waste my time. There’s no Arlington around Philadelphia, and I’ll explain where this came from in a moment. Plus, WHOA should probably be followed by an exclamation point.

connecticut man
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

A Connecticut man? I think I’m seeing two. Unless one is from a different state. Am I supposed to guess? Does this post tell who the second guy is? No. Does it matter? No. Would I click? Not unless I’m into the gruesome. And what’s with the MORE and link at the end when someone can simply click like in the purple drank article? We called those MORON teases. A real tease would tell me at least one new thing I’d learn if I clicked.

police burglar

Here, it’s as if adding the word “police” somewhere near the top, even if it makes absolutely no sense, counts as attribution. Of course, the headline says he started out as a burglar. I don’t buy it. Probably an attempted burglar. Seems he was too busy to steal before he was caught! By the way, this was the only one of those three posts that did decently for the station. Viewers saw through the others.

None of these stories were exclusives, nor anything you’ll remember long-term. But you’ll find them on many of the other Fox-owned stations’ Facebook pages and websites because the stations share. I just looked at Los Angeles and Dallas. (LA mentioned the guy accused of breaking into the home happened in the Bay Area, and Dallas mentioned Arlington is theirs.)

kdfw drank
from Dallas
kttv connecticut
from Los Angeles
kdfw chickens
from Dallas
kttv burglar
from Los Angeles

The competition does, too, but there’s no verifying and the Fox stations that “borrowed” the article cannot change it, and that includes fixing mistakes. As for Facebook, the teases for those stories vary slightly but often not much. Too much trouble. Stations also repeat their posts, hoping they work better at a different time.

See for yourself. Click here for the Fox-owned stations website (rather than separately-owned affiliates around the country in places like Miami). Unfortunately, you may need to search by city name and the word Fox because the Fox Television Stations Group website doesn’t bother to list its stations nor their websites! (But you can complain, because there is press contact information listed: a phone number and email address!)

Then, go to their websites and Facebook pages. You won’t be overwhelmed by originality.

But there’s another issue at play here, and it’s a legal matter.

I seem to remember back on June 30, 2017, at 12:37pm, the senior web producer emailed:

Please be aware, new captioning guidelines go into effect tomorrow.  If anything appears on TV and is then cut for the web or social, it MUST have captions. Reporter packages, short clips, what have you. All must have captions. (From Lenny: For the record, the emailed version’s bold part was in bright red.)

There’s video, rather than just a picture, in this Facebook post, and I’m impressed they spelled San Bernardino correctly, with the R in the middle. Of course, they tagged the sheriff’s department’s Facebook site, which knows how to spell its own name.

bernardino
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Shouldn’t the video have been captioned, like this example from Sunday night?

Those of us old enough have known about closed-captioning since the 1980’s. It replaced a person using sign language for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. It’s nice to have during entertainment programming but necessary during news — whatever you define that as, these days — especially emergencies.

These days, stations offer real-time closed-captioning. That means there’s somebody listening live, probably in another city, and getting all the words on screen.

Closed-captioning means you can turn it off if you don’t want it, and open-captioning means it’s there and you have no choice. Back in the 1990s, some stations used captioning that wasn’t real-time. In other words, if it was in the newsroom computer, then it appeared, misspellings and all. Ad libbing and live shots were not captioned.

kttv bernardino
from Los Angeles

This video, from the Los Angeles area, certainly aired, but the version chosen to put on Facebook is slightly different. For example, it doesn’t have the lower thirds for locators and people who speak, nor the station logo and maybe the time and temperature that are put on live when you see them on TV.

However, you hear an anchor’s voice tossing to a reporter package and the video was clearly edited. In other words, everything here aired but not “100 percent exactly” as you see on Facebook.

But it still has to be captioned, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses TV stations, even though this is on the web rather than TV.

Click here for the FCC’s page on Captioning of Internet Video Programming. It says:

FCC rules require captioned programs shown on TV to be captioned when re-shown on the Internet.

Look at the word re-shown. One would think this video was not not re-shown since it lacks the lower thirds, station logo, and time and temperature.

That got me wondering whether using video that has everything except the bells and whistles that were put on live when the newscast aired is a legal trick to get out of having to caption.

However, click here for the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, which says:

Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 79—ACCESSIBILITY OF VIDEO PROGRAMMING
Subpart A—Video Programming Owners, Providers, and Distributors

  • 79.4   Closed captioning of video programming delivered using Internet protocol.

(a) Definitions. For purposes of this section the following definitions shall apply:

(1) Video programming. Programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, but not including consumer-generated media. (The underlining is mine.)

Leaving out bells and whistles that may help the TV viewer is definitely considered comparable to programming. Therefore, it seems to me stations including Fox’s in Philadelphia are putting up video without captioning.

Again, web producers were told anything that aired had to be captioned on the internet (website, Facebook page, etc.), per FCC rules.

Go ahead and look at Fox stations’ Facebook pages. I did on different browsers. Ignore pictures. Ignore raw video that didn’t air, like most long news conferences. Ignore viewer video of something cute that goes on and on.

fb example
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

Then, as you see above, put your cursor on the playing video and click the Captions button. Nothing? Then click More Settings, which is just below Captions. On this next screen, make sure your settings are correct.

caption choices

If you’re still having trouble, you may want to click here and go down to the section ‘Video Programming on Television and Other Equipment’ for details on filing a complaint.

Keep in mind, video with graphics like this are NOT captioned. They are put on by a central hub for all Fox-owned stations as decoration. The sound is NOT transcribed.

hub
facebook.com/fox29philadelphia

I suggest you do it, if not for yourself, then millions of other Americans. Besides, who knows what can happen to you one day?

President Trump has talked and talked about getting rid of regulations. His allies in the FCC already gutted net neutrality. It would be another shame if they decide to get rid of the captioning rules as well. It would be a shame for our hearing impaired neighbors, especially as the American population ages.

F caption grade sized

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Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?

matt lauer Wikipedia Commons
Matt Lauer, Wikipedia Commons

Today, it was Matt Lauer. Some of you want the newest, shocking details. The Miami Herald called the accusations against him “crude misconduct.”

Less known, it was a two-fer. Well-known Minnesota Public Radio host Garrison Keillor won’t be showing up for work anymore.

Last week, Charlie Rose went down, fired for alleged sexual harassment over the years.

The list of male journalists (and also politicians and some in the entertainment field) has grown since I last blogged about the subject, 20 days ago.

Don’t forget Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and the late Roger Ailes. And Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Jeremy Piven, Louis CK and, of course, Bill Cosby.

There are now Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers.

Plus, President George H.W. Bush was implicated. And, of course, current President Donald Trump himself has been named repeatedly.

Donald Trump

There are too many others to mention. My previous blog post mentions others.

I hate the story and wish it would go away. Deep, painful wounds are being opened.

Yes, it looks like justice is happening to a degree — and that’s good — but American newsmen (there’s a word from the past, when the behavior may have been looked upon as typical, or maybe even normal and accepted) are making Trump look right in his spat with them and their bosses.

I didn’t hear Trump say so or tweet it, but it really doesn’t help the non-journalist American men who are his base.

And we’re learning way too many other people, including executives, kept the sexual harassment they witnessed or heard about to themselves, afraid of powerful or popular colleagues.

Keep in mind, teachers and several other professionals can go to JAIL for not reporting any suspicion — suspicion — but that involves another of the most vulnerable around us: minors. In Florida, failure to stop what you’re doing and report is now a felony.

 

florida dcf reporting
In case you mistakenly thought I was kidding!

Young women, in or just out of school, are expected to fend for themselves against these wolves — kind of like dangerously going out on stories by themselves in bad neighborhoods at night. These so-called multi-media journalists, or MMJs, shoot, write, edit, and present the news live on TV — and forced to look over their shoulders, as if they don’t have enough to do — and unfortunately this is becoming more popular.

Recently, I’ve been wondering: Has anybody interviewed the mothers of the accused men? Yes, I know the accused tend to be older. Their once-proud mothers may not be around any longer. But several have to be.

older moms
Clip Art

I don’t care where these guys worked. Notice I left out network references, since journalists should be friendly competition to find out the truth and make society better. And most have worked in more than one place. (I did the same with politicians’ parties.)

Politically, I’m close to the middle, depending on the issue. Since the 2016 presidential election, political parties have meant less and less to me every day. It seems both sides have folks who are corrupt, and unworthy of trust and respect. (Kind of like the candidates!)

newt gingrich Wikiquote
Newt Gingrich, Wikiquotes

I’m not justifying Connie Chung’s 1995 interview with new Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s (Newtie’s) mother — and he has a whole lot to answer for, personally — but I’d like to hear some moms’ thoughts on their sons who are accused of sexual harassment these days.

In the Chung-Kathleen ‘Kit’ Gingrich “just between you and me” exchange below, the trusting 68-year-old admitted Newt told her that then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was a “bitch.” Mrs. Gingrich died in 2003 at the age of 77.

 

Have any of you heard from any of today’s moms?

Lenny with a Brian Williams poster while working at NBC affiliate WCYB. It’s long-gone for a different reason. I don’t remember a Matt Lauer poster. Maybe there was a Today show ensemble instead. I wonder where it is tonight.

Moving back to Philly!

be right back

Yes, you read correctly! I’m headed back after more than 12 years. I didn’t really think it was going to happen, especially considering the roller coaster my life has been over the past several years.

I left Philadelphia for family issues back in 2004. Got a good deal on my house. (But would’ve never expected real estate prices to skyrocket! That’s another story.)

unnamed (2)
May 2002: Not expecting this picture to be taken. The old KYW building was torn down for the National Museum of American Jewish History. I’ll be working a block away.

Several good things followed. I got to do the web full time and loved that. I tried and succeeded in a whole new teaching career, and still can’t believe that ever happened! I met several wonderful people I would’ve never met had I not returned to Florida, and worked for one who took a chance on me in a place I’d never heard of.

I was asked not to put this news on social media until well after it became official, but I can tell because it’s only days away. I’m going to be a web producer at WTXF-Fox 29 and work with people I’ve already worked with twice, and some I watched and admired all those years ago. (So please take a moment. Click here to like the Facebook page and click here to follow on Twitter. They’re already doing great! Click here for the news, just out today.)

I leave work in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday, pack and have everything taken on Wednesday, and make the move Thursday. Hopefully everything will be delivered Friday!

casey yeti
Casey and Yeti’s bye-bye

Garry and Yeti moved to New York over the weekend.

RebeccaPepin
Yeti REALLY made an impression in the Tri-Cities!

reb

The house I just got six months ago, and had so much work done on (see bathroom and kitchen), is up for sale. It’ll get a good much-needed cleaning right after I leave.

I’m going to downsize and rent a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, a block-and-a-half from where I used to live. I’m also going to put stuff in storage.

cae2b801-435d-43f4-bf87-c8920cfd2ff8
2001-2004: Lombard Street at 11th
4ccb1a18-34ae-412b-8b39-935f9c78495a
Open the gate…
unnamed (1)
walk down the stairs…
unnamed
and take a load off!

I really enjoyed working in the Tri-Cities, getting to run the digital operations at the number one station in the market. Changes will be coming to the desktop and mobile websites over the summer but I was the one who helped set up the migration to a new CMS.

I helped train new people out of school who know how to do SO much, took part in daily management meetings and was listened to, and learned the culture of a place that was very foreign to me.

But Philadelphia and the Tri-Cities are different places, and opportunities like this don’t come along often. It’s the only place I would ever consider moving and I have to do what’s best long-term.

last promo
My last promo for News 5 WCYB

So please wish me luck and I’ll let the Realtor know if you know anyone who wants to buy a house in far southwestern Virginia.

A better bedroom (and bigger blog)

I have to start off by saying this blog post is late. I warned you when I was finishing the last one.

It wasn’t entirely my fault. We got the bed for my brother and sister-in-law’s visit, and that took a while. We got it upstairs, but that took a while. And then we were too tired to get it ready, or having too much fun with the staple gun, so that took a while. (Details coming up.)

Then, there was a snowstorm. Then, Daniel and Jennifer visited, had a good time and left two days ago! Garry and I dropped them off at the airport in Asheville and finally bought kosher food at Trader Joe’s.

bristol cavernsI took Daniel and Jennifer to Bristol Motor Speedway. We couldn’t get inside. I fell on ice trying.

But we saw Bristol Caverns

a little bit around South Holston Dam (until the roads were closed)…south holston dam

and of course the newsroom. (Everyone gets that, but Jennifer actually asked!)

They saw Yeti and Casey, and also snow.

So that’s the background and this is the blog:

—–

My brother Daniel and his wife Jennifer are going to be visiting in a few weeks. It’s going to be nice seeing some familiar faces in town.holston mountain

It seems not many people visit the Tri-Cities. I don’t know why. We’re conveniently located off I-81, just north of I-26. We have mountains, a moderate climate with change of seasons, and a pretty low cost of living.

map Tri-Cities, TN/VA
from FallonGroup.com

Anyway, since I arrived 10 months ago, my parents visited once, and so did my cousins Barry and Ellen, on their drive from Florida to Boston. None of them saw the house. Hadn’t started looking for it yet.

Daniel and Jennifer are going to be here for a few days and also go skiing in North Carolina.

We’re going to set Casey’s room up as the guest bedroom. I started calling it Casey’s room right away because it has blue walls and checkered-flag curtains, and Casey is a boy.

casey

I know it’s old-fashioned. He doesn’t even spend much time there, except in the box with linens.

8

There are other places to sleep, like the futon in the office…

futon

… and the pull-out couch in the basement I’ve had almost 19 years. (I bought it in Connecticut and it looked a lot different before Casey stuck his fingernails into it repeatedly.)

9

But Casey’s room is going to be much more comfortable, and it’s close to the new and improved bathroom! (Let me know if you ever get locked out or kicked out of your own place.)

So we’re looking for a queen-size bed and Garry found someone advertising on Craigslist. The price sounded good, so we went to Johnson City to check it out.

Sunday (Jan. 10), we prepared with ratchet tie-downs (bungee cables to normal people) and drove the truck over to get it. (We had the truck at the time, but replaced it just before the snowstorm.) Easier said than done.

03

The cords weren’t long enough to secure both mattress and box spring…

04

… so we put the mattress inside, had the box spring on top and drove back extra slowly in a flurry or two.05

Saved $60 on delivery. The hard part was over, or so we thought. They had to go upstairs.

07

Neither Garry nor I expected a problem. The movers did a fine job getting a mattress and box spring of the same size up when we moved in.

09

I was at work and Garry didn’t know what those movers did, but there was no way the box spring was going to make it up!

08

You can see we tried.

14

We did everything we could. I even asked on social media, but the box spring wasn’t going up.

10

I knew it would have to be dismembered to some degree. Unfortunately, searches on the subject only dealt with repairing broken box springs.

11

We brought it down and Garry had the brilliant idea to take out the staples on one side so it would fold enough and make it upstairs. It worked!

12

Of course, we had to get the right nails to put the box spring back together, but that wasn’t such a big deal. (Remember, this is Lenny writing.)

13

Garry did the work. I’m not sure how much should be considered “work” when he was holding a staple gun. But he’s finally done.

garry on box spring

He relaxed and moved everything into place.

bed ready for daniel and jenniferSo, we looked forward to giving Daniel and Jennifer a comfortable place to stay. Everything worked out nicely. I just wish they didn’t leave my nephews at home!yeti missing them after

Now they’re back home, and Yeti misses having them around and protecting them. She has been spending more time upstairs, waiting for them by their room.

Until the next visitors…

We got snow!

Took long enough, until the second half of January, but it finally came.

Took long enough, but I’m actually writing about it!

Remember, in my field, snow means work rather than a day off. Also, I was getting ready for a visit from my brother and sister-in-law. More on that within a few hours. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, two posts in one day. And yes, the next one has been almost ready to go for a week.)

A few weeks ago, we had some flurries. Not really picture-worthy except for Yeti.

flurries

Then, there was a little snow, two Wednesdays ago (Jan. 20).

wide little snow
Just a dusting. Didn’t have to do much but look.
tight car little snow
New car. The windshield wipers did everything

But the big stuff came last Friday (Jan. 22).

snow in front of house
Pretty!

Yes, it’s still a big deal for me. I lived in Florida for about ten years. I hadn’t seen snow in about four years, since a cousin’s bat mitzvah in Pittsburgh. And the news makes such a big deal about it anyway. I have no apologies.

Yeti loved it! She hadn’t seen snow in years but remembered what to do and spent more time outside than usual.

yeti tight

yeti wideyeti facing wide

last1last2

I didn’t know there would be so much snow, so early in the morning, so I ended up working from home.

 

 

 

view outside friday morning
This would’ve been the better of the cars to drive.

 

biggest snow fri
You can’t tell there was a sidewalk and street under there, somewhere.

Luckily, Daniel and Jennifer would get to see it when they visit, and ski in fresh stuff in North Carolina.

One blogging year in review

It’s a big day in Cohen Country. I posted my first blog one year ago today.

A year ago, I was living in Florida, deciding what I wanted to do with my life (and not much else).

I wanted to go back to doing news on the web and had considered blogging. I hoped it could give me a better chance of breaking back in, considering I’d been out of the business for eight years. (And a lot of TV stations use WordPress.)

1st blog
January 11, 2015

What got me started was a wonderful picture someone (I forgot who) posted on Facebook.

The Charlie Hebdo attacks happened a few days earlier in France. Gunmen killed 12 people at the satirical magazine.

The next day, another extremist shot a policewoman dead and went on to kill four people at a Jewish supermarket.

France was the victim, like Israel all too often.

I wrote, “Perhaps the world should put the same demands on France as it does to Israel.” Fascinating thought! In the year since, the subject of Muslim immigrants and phrase “radical Islam” have been in the news a lot.

Also a year ago on this date, I wrote “Probably won’t be the last attack against a Western democracy. The world has to act & put an end to it, wherever it is.” Unfortunately, I was right in both Israel and France.

But it has been a good year personally. John hired me in the Tri-Cities and I started a whole new life, doing what I wanted at a whole new level. I got an actual house and rented out the condo in Miami. So I can’t complain.

Let’s not forget the home improvements. Thanks to Garry for a lot of that. And good times with Casey and Yeti.

The blog has been a work in progress, like so many other things. I learned more and actually like WordPress more than the web tool Lakana we use at work. And, I even incorporated more A.P.-style writing than I did, but still don’t completely like it.

There was a break for a few months. Work got in the way.

Eventually, this email: “At the end of the year, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

So there were 4,900 views through Dec. 31. There were 342 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 196 MB. That’s about 7 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was Feb. 25 with 287 views. Not surprisingly, the post that day was that I could reveal I got a job – and I’m moving!.

In 2015, I wrote 32 posts. My longest streak was 3 days in a row, March 15-17. They were about the move, work and the new city. On the other hand, there was a big break between June and November. And Sunday was my most popular day to post.

What shocked me most was that people read the blog in 48 countries! A close second was that Brazil and the United Kingdom were the countries that followed the U.S.

So… Thank you for reading and following along. I hope I’ve helped or humored in some way.

Getting into the season

It took way too long for Mother Nature, the holiday season and me, but it finally started feeling like winter.

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Monday, Jan. 4, was the first snowfall of the season. It wasn’t much, at least in Bristol. There was one burst for a few minutes. (You see the view from the newsroom. That’s the Bristol train station.) I didn’t run out like I’ve been known to do, but it was exciting. Joe, the assignment editor who sits next to me, actually put on long sleeves and went outside to shoot it. He never wears long sleeves.

Garry said Yeti liked it, too…

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…but many of you probably think Casey had the right idea.

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Since then, there hasn’t been more snow but it’s still cold.

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This was my car window, yesterday morning. Skip unless you live in Florida.

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Saturday night, we went to Speedway in Lights, which is a Bristol Motor Speedway fundraiser for children’s charities. (To be perfectly honest, I got the ticket because the station sponsors it.) It’s a big event around these here parts: lots of lights, most with holiday themes, also an American flag.

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You drive around the speedway and dragway property in your car and can even hear Christmas music on a special radio station. This was the last night. Garry got to drive on the actual track at the Bristol Motor Speedway!

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And I was just happy to see a menorah at the end.

menorah

Contrary to what I’d been told, they called it menorah and not candelabra. There was a separate candelabra earlier.

A great ‘day’ in Lenny’s ‘life’

Lenny and the castWhen you’ve watched a daily TV show on and off for 20 years, even very rarely recently because work gets in the way, it becomes part of your life. There’s no getting around that.

So when I found out several members of the Days of our Lives cast were going to be two hours away, and we were running crawls telling viewers about it, I knew I had to be there. Good thing I work for an NBC station. The other guys weren’t interested, for some reason like competition.

The 50th anniversary of Days of our Lives is coming up, November 8, and cast members were touring the country. For some reason, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee — not far from Dollywood, where I visited a few years ago — was chosen. That’s why you’ll see ship stuff in the background. See my preview article.

wcyb preview article

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Garry and I got press passes to cover the big event for the station, thanks to outgoing boss John. Garry was my crew, and talk about a big event!

We got there early, 9:30am, and my gosh, the crowd! Hundreds and hundreds of people! Too bad for them, they would have to wait awhile.

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crowd2crowd1We got into the Iceburg parking lot. (Gotta love that name at the Titanic Museum!) Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas, was in the car in front of us but we didn’t know it at the time. We parked next to him, to the right. Very cool! He had a Cooper Mini, probably rented, with a New Jersey license plate.

Then, we checked in. No problem. Showed my card and license, and they had my name. Waited with other media people for a little while. Finally, we went into a room with some contest winners. I think the NBC station in Knoxville held some sort of contest. They’re bigger than us and closer to Pigeon Forge. Anyway, there were three cast members there. They were all guys. I guess the women needed a little more time to prepare!

The contest winners did their thing — took pictures and got autographs in the new 50th anniversary book — while the media waited around. Garry shot everything with his cell phone. I had mine for backup. Amazing things you can do these days! (But still, I would’ve preferred something a little bigger, and a microphone with a mic flag to look more professional and get a better guarantee of good sound. The interview videos are on my Facebook page. Some are better than others.

Deirdre hall dressed for Halloweenyes were on tv lenny deirdreThe first person I really got to talk to was Deidre Hall, who, of course, plays Dr. Marlena Evans Brady. Maybe Black, if she married John. (I told you I haven’t watched in a while, but I still know the characters. That never goes away.) She had a little mask on because it’s Halloween.

 lenny made a funny w deirdre  2000 lenny marlene

I was most excited to see her because I just happened to have a picture of the two of us from 15 years ago when she visited one of the stations I worked at in Philadelphia. She had a little trouble seeing without her glasses. Luckily, we both look exactly the same! She was probably my most serious interview. I asked her why Days is still on the air after so many other soaps were canceled. (There are only four left.) And she’s just happy to be a part of the show after almost 40 years, even though she plays a great-grandmother.

bryan laugh after 1st question

bryan 2nd laughMy most personal talk was with Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas Roberts (now Horton). We’re just a few weeks apart, so I’ve always related to him. I started by telling him the room we were in, which looked like a hotel meeting room, reminded me of the room where he and Sami first hooked up (and their son Will was conceived)! Not surprising to those of you who really know me. Lots and lots of fun! We talked about him being a grandfather on the show, and he immediately brought up real life: his 15-year-old son and the ladies! Also, we talked about his character’s old drinking habit (he liked Kamikazes) and relationship with Alison Sweeney, who played Sami. He actually took her to her prom when he was 21 and she was 16, and questioned whether that’s legal in California. He also said he liked proving he can act seriously (he’s an actor and can do anything). He just hadn’t done it because the writers waited years before giving him the material.

showing theresa old brady family historytheresa signing sorry about the fireplace poker

My biggest surprise was Jen Lilley because she’s relatively new and I didn’t know her. Luckily, she came up to me and started talking!

john coma autographShe plays Theresa, who is one of those (misunderstood) characters you love to hate. She’s a Brady and also a Donovan, so there are lots of family relationships. She told me she gets her scripts about a week before shooting, but usually memorizes them the night before, kind of like cramming for a test. Whatever works! I can’t imagine how they memorize lines. Anyway, she signed my book with apologies to the character John, who she hit over the head with a fireplace poker, putting him in a coma. Somehow, I did watch that on TV when it aired (and I’m not a fan of the John character).

Then, there were Thaao Penghlis (Tony) and Lauren Koslow (Kate). Realize they’ve been through so many storylines and my head was way in the past, when I watched more religiously. She plays Lucas’ mother and I think she had a relationship with Tony’s father, Stefano.

starting tony & kate         kate describing chopping fish

Anyway, I brought up her first scene on the show (she replaced Deborah Adair, who had left about a year before), when she’d been held prisoner on a fishing boat. She demonstrated how they had her chopping fish with a real knife. As for him, he was a bad guy in the past, like his father, and was killed off. Now, I think he’s back as his cousin Andre and (in real life) said some wonderful things about what to expect on the show this month, including seeing something the show hadn’t done before.crowd3

By now, time was running out. The cast had to take pictures, and remember there were hundreds of people waiting outside in the cold, the whole time! See WBIR-Knoxville’s story.

lenny with the 3 guys

Peter Reckell (Bo), Stephen Nichols (Patch, and he only put it on before meeting the fans) and Andrew Masset (Larry Welch before my time, the bad guy who tried to marry Hope) who were talking amongst themselves.

lenny patch bo

Garry interrupted, like he did other times, and introduced me as if I was somebody they should know. We chatted briefly.

lenny & hopeKristian and Lenny

After that, Kristian Alfonso (Hope) signed my book while walking.

Then, Melissa Reeves appeared an hour late. She’d driven in from Nashville, which is in the Central Time Zone. (Maybe that’s the reason?) There wasn’t enough time and the picture didn’t look good, but I can prove she took the time to sign. I also mentioned her character’s name is Jennifer Rose Deveraux Horton and my sister-in-law is Jennifer Rose Walk Cohen.

reeves lenny       reeves autograph

While all this was going on, people were taking lots and lots of pictures, many of me interviewing the stars. I didn’t know anyone other than Garry, the cast, and the few women I talked to earlier wearing WBIR clothes. I wonder where those pics will turn up! (Please let me know if you see any.)autographs

So we left with a bunch of autographs that mostly look scribbled but I have memories, and pictures and videos too.

Thank you to John, who’s also a fan, for making the day happen for me. Also Garry my crew. Plus, Ed in Philadelphia who didn’t know about Days and didn’t care and let me meet Deidre Hall the first time around, in June 2000. And Jamie, who’s actually a news director in Knoxville but was morning executive producer at WSVN in Miami 20 years ago and let me mention Days‘ 30th anniversary in my newscast on November 8, 1995.

jen lenny 50 more yearsI appreciate longevity and 50 years is a heck of a long time to be on TV daily. Of course, not every storyline has been stellar. Things haven’t always worked out. But that’s life, we’re all human, and the show has a pretty good track record. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that, and make a living at it, too?

As Jen Lilley and I ended our conservation, here’s to 50 more years!

Lots of Lenny on the Web

I had a long and hard day, and accomplished a lot… including my second blog in 2 days! But don’t expect a daily dose of Lenny. Actually, you can (just not on this blog), and I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m getting my act together with this blog and realize not every post has to be a book. For now, little by little.

You may be a little surprised reading lots of Lenny on the Web. I don’t usually throw myself out there.

Today is exactly 3 months since I started at WCYB and things are slowly changing. We had a visit and some interesting lessons from the corporate Web guy. I was skeptical at first, but everything turned out fine. Seems we’re in the same situation as the other four Bonten stations.

The big news is: I got a byline! Not that I wanted one. For 2-and-a-half months, I was perfectly happy writing and posting stories anonymously. Nobody would know who I am or complain to me.

byline

But apparently stories without the writer’s name aren’t taken seriously and Google searches like them, so it really wasn’t my choice. Okay, the picture was (like the anchors and reporters have), but it’s not a tight shot. So when I say lots of Lenny, I mean my name and picture. When I say on the Web, I mean the desktop site, www.wcyb.com.

The fact is, I’ve been working too hard, too much, and need to manage more. No one can be responsible for writing news stories 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Same with teasing stories that are already on the site or just plain interesting on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

How is that going to happen? I don’t see myself getting an assistant. Assistants cost money and budgets have to be approved. So I will probably remain my department of one.

Lately, we’ve been asking reporters to write more and more often. They already race around the region, shooting, writing, and editing their stuff. It hasn’t been easy but I haven’t heard complaints. Now, they write their own stories for the Web, add the video, and post them to the station’s Facebook page. That seems to have worked so far.

The next step is spending time with the reporters to get them to write differently, and they’re not the only ones!

Telling a story on TV is definitely different than writing one in AP style, like for a newspaper. Everyone should know that. But I’ve been writing like for TV online and there hasn’t been a problem. (Although I was told it cost me a job in Jacksonville. Their loss. And this is a higher position.)

Turns out, AP style is supposed to be better for getting our work shown by search engines. We want to show up when you do a Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or any other search. That means more people will click on the stories, and it’s good for everyone and worth a try. (But I still don’t have to like it.)

So I have to change the way I’ve been writing for more than 20 years (and change others, as well)! There’s writing mostly past tense. Not easy getting used to that. (And I won’t on here. I’ll continue telling it like it is in my own voice.) I’m going to leave it there, but constantly making sure sentences are in the past tense is a biggie.

Then, speaking of trying new things, I’m taking a class through the Poynter Institute on how to write a headline. Truth be told, I wasn’t bad and don’t know how much the course is helping, because writing is so subjective. It’s online and runs two weeks, so it’s half over. The gist of it is to be specific, not vague. (Check!) Use strong words. (Check!) Use first and last names. (Interesting, because it’ll do better in searches.) And don’t be afraid to go longer and be more descriptive. (That’s new.)

One last thing: This week, I started boothing the news at noon until another line producer is hired. Haven’t done that in years. It’s only one block of real news. Then weather, the new Mr. Food, and 2 interviews. The anchor produces and takes care of everything, including the teleprompter with his foot. So it’s not bad, but I have a feeling he’s going to produce and I’m going to booth for a long time, since it’s working.

Anyway, you can see my work and name (and email address) on the WCYB mobile site and news app, but you have to go to the regular desktop site to see the picture (which was already posted here). Click the stories on the right side of this blog to see it more. Remember, we like your visits!

It’s Bristol (this weekend), baby!

ticketsThere are certain things in every town you have to do at least once, and that’s what I did yesterday in Bristol. It’s car racing weekend, one of two big events every year (as I’m told). The Food City 500 is being held. Food City is the local grocery store. You’ll be able to catch the big race this afternoon starting at 12:30 on Fox.

wcyb race site
The page I created at WCYB.com.

Hopefully it’ll go off without a hitch. Yesterday’s weather was much better than today’s. All morning, the radar at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS, the last great coliseum, the world’s fastest half-mile, etc.) has been green.bms radarwet conditions weather cam

Light rain has been falling for the past few hours and I put a special weather statement from the speedway’s general manager on a special page online. Ironically, the race used to be in March but was changed to April because of the uncertainty of March weather. (Click on pictures to make them bigger.)

no U-turns or left turns 2no U-turns or left turns 1 The first thing you notice as you approach the speedway is that no U-turns or left turns are allowed for miles on either side (kind of like New Jersey). Garry and I didn’t know any better, and still have no clue why. There was no traffic except for a little bit in front of the speedway. That’s mostly because police officers (or maintenance workers because they’re dressed the same) had to let the crowds cross the street.

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crowds walking 1crowds walking 2

I planned to dress in a Polo and jeans, since we were going to the TV station’s suite and there may be sales clients there, but it was 80 degrees out and Garry said to wear shorts. He was right. Casual is not the word to describe the attire of the crowd. It was a step or two below. I should’ve expected that. (Not in the suite, though. By the time we got there, the first race was over, and most of the excitement and people were gone.)map: home to Speedway

We saw signs about parking in makeshift lots. First $5, then $10 and $20. Again, Garry and I didn’t know any better. By the time we got past the speedway, we had to drive a few miles out of the way. Remember, no U-turns or left turns, and on Volunteer Parkway, there aren’t any alternate routes I know of because of Steele Creek Park. (Notice the red for traffic.)

There was a carnival atmosphere around the speedway. People selling everything related to NASCAR and all the foods I’d never eat. Even a “chapel on wheels.” (Remember where we are.) We drove around three times and somehow ended up parking right across the street from the speedway for free! Crowds were leaving the first race (qualifying for today’s?) and Garry asked the person who appeared to be in charge of the lot where to park. We did and they never asked for the $20. So we walked across the street to the speedway. Lots of other people walked huge distances.

atmosphere outside 1atmosphere outside 2atmosphere outside 3

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We planned to go upstairs, make an appearance, watch something (I wouldn’t call it “the race” because we really don’t know car racing, and anything would’ve been nice), and then go to work. I wanted to make sure the TV station’s 7pm special “It’s Bristol, Baby” (that’s how the speedway markets itself) live streamed on the Web site. There were about a dozen people in the station’s suite. I only knew two: Joe, the assignment manager who I sit next to, and Julie, one of the anchors, with her family.wcyb bms suite

The suite was nice. Of course, it was on the far side from where we entered. First, we had to climb up a steep hill. (That’s where we saw a drunk guy scream and fall on his rear end, giggling the whole time.) Then, we were led to special elevators and given directions to the top, then told to go down a flight and walk all the way around.

racing 1racing 2racing 3

Garry and I watched the second race, the Pitt Lite 125. Apparently, the earlier Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 was the bigger draw. Who knew? The best thing about being up there, besides the relaxed atmosphere, climate control, and food and drinks, was that we didn’t need earplugs.

Halftime show on the left, cocktails on the right!
Halftime show on the left, cocktails on the right!
I don't understand this whole "cars lined up" business.
I don’t understand this whole “cars lined up” business.

The actual racing was lost on me. Joe pointed out which lap they were on when we arrived. There seemed to be more pacing than racing. Pacing is when all the cars (except the one in trouble), line up and follow the pacing car. I was more interested in taking pictures. I don’t see myself returning, unless any of you come visit. As they say, it’s something to do once.

In the meantime, enjoy the race. I hope your driver wins!