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Eve of the Launch

And the pressure is on. Everyone is feeling it in some way or another. The Launch was pushed back to 6pm Thursday night - tomorrow night, that is. Originally it was supposed to be on a 10am show, but for some reason they decided 6pm was a better idea. So the pressure is on us now instead of the morning shift. I don't happen to be on that crew (I'll be on NBC shows tomorrow night), but I can tell you they relish the challenge. They'll rise to the occasion and navigate our maiden voyage to high success. They're all professionals, from the front of the camera all the way to the back. I'm happy to be working with such a great group of people. I'd have it no other way.

I learned a couple of things today however, that I found rather unsettling. First of all, I heard that all the hard work of the production assistant grunts went virtually unnoticed at today's quarterly staff meeting. I don't know how the early meeting went, I only know about the 3pm one. The GM praised Bob, Jeff, and Sam for all the long hours and hard work they put in - and Lord knows, they deserve more than a pat on the back, I think they all worked for a solid month without a day off, and long hours at that. They met challenges along the way and made solutions. They kept the project on task come hell or high water. They most certainly do deserve to be recognized for that.

What bothers me is that the grunt work, made possible by my comrades and co-workers, got no more than, "...and the other people who helped out..." ... helped out??? Are you kidding me?!?? That's it?????? I seriously doubt any one of us who pitched in on building and painting and cleaning that new set was expecting anything more than some recognition at that all-important quarterly meeting. I stayed away from the meeting, partly because I had things to do to prepare for the 4pm show, but also because I felt humbled and I didn't want to be embarrassed by the accolades that I was pretty sure our department would be getting due to all the gritty, nasty, hard work and long hours we also put in. Granted, it was not one person all the time like Bob or Jeff or Sam; we worked in shifts.

But we were always there working!!! That's what's so incredible to me ... and so disappointing. I was so proud of our department, and I thought, this is going to change how they view us. This will put us on the map. --> Wrong again. Then again I wonder if our GM was ever in the studio when the crew was in there. Come to think of it, maybe he wasn't, and maybe that's why he thought the part we played was so minimal. If that's the case, then why the hell didn't our supervisers who DID see us speak up on our behalf???

Maybe they did. I was not at the meeting, I can only report hearsay. But I know if the GM had given us the recognition we deserve - not for designing the graphics package, not for the big ideas, just for doing our jobs - I would have heard about it, and I would have seen the pride in my co-workers' faces for having been recognized. No, we don't want a $25 gift certificate; we don't want our faces plastered on the cover of some magazine. We just want our General Manager to tell the world what a great job we did because ultimately, the majority of us live for that recognition more than anything else, no matter what we might say to each other.


As if that weren't enough, on the set itself is a big glaring example of our boss's decision to not listen to our recommendations, one of us in particular. Several months ago, when my boss was telling my friend and colleague Jen about the plans for the new set, he mentioned something about a rear projection monitor for purposes of the weather forecast. Jen warned him against that idea, and showed him concrete examples from a place she used to work at as to why it's a bad idea: it doesn't look good on-air. (It's worth mentioning here a small anecdote about the importance of weather as part of our jobs. A while back Jen and I missed a couple weather cues, which generated a sarcastic and thankless email which said in boldface, all capital letters: "WEATHER IS THE REASON VIEWERS WATCH US." Not once but twice in the email did it say that in bold capital letters. That came from our boss, the same one who made the mistake that follows...)

So would someone please explain to me why one would spend $14,000 on a system that makes our weather forecast look so bad on air??? It looks horrible. Horrible. Dreadful. So bad that the decision was made today, in the zero-hour so to speak, to use this $14,000 rear projection as a ... chroma key instead.

Which, by the way, is precisely what Jen was warning Bob would happen. She used to work at the #1 news station in Philly. Philly is market number 4. She was making more than twice what she's making now. The whole reason her old station in Philly invested in a rear projection monitor is because the meteorologist there was used to doing things a certain way, and could not adapt to a chroma key setup. So rather than prod their chief meteorologist to learn a new trick they spent big bucks to accomodate him, at the expense of their on-air product. Her point to Bob was, even at that level of newscasting, even at the number one station in market 4 with virtually unlimited amounts of money to spend, they still could not get a rear projection system to look good.

But Jen's warnings went unheeded and now on the eve of the Launch, Bob's mistake is not only glaring, it is also expensive. We now have a $14,000 chroma key - that could have been avoided. There is a very jarring transition going from talent-in-front-of-rear-projection-turned-chroma-key to weather graphics full-screen to the 3-shot chat camera view. And it looks horrible. With a chroma key setup talent walks out of the shot and you take graphics full-screen seamlessly. All that requires is an even coat of paint on the wall! But what do we know, we just work there. (I don't expect Bob to be perfect. I just wish they would take our feedback more seriously.)

So I have mixed feelings about this launch. On the one hand, the other parts of the new set, and the new graphics and music package are a significant step up from what we're used to. Not to mention, as a TD it sure is nice to have a little more to do at the switcher now than your basic TD-101 that is a normal ABC newscast for us. The shows now will be more like what I got used to up in Grand Rapids - fast-paced and jam-packed with stuff for the TD to do. This I will be able to sink my teeth into!

At least until we get to weather, which should have been streamlined, but now is a royal pain in the ass for everyone involved. It is a LOT more work than it should be (there are other steps involved that I left out for the sake of readability). And it looks bad.

Well, off to bed. I've got one big day ahead of me tomorrow...

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