Thursday, August 27, 2009

DAY 20

They smell like goat, but they bahhh like sheep...and I'm in Penrose surrounded by them!

Another day short staffed, and even shorter on story ideas has landed me in the tiny town of Penrose, Colorado. After a quick stop at Happy Apple Farms, I'm now surrounded by dozens of Jacob's sheep... which I must admit, look a lot more like goats then sheep.

So I'm out of my element, and a little on edge... which began as soon as the road went from pavement to dirt. I've pulled in to a compound of houses and out-buildings that are holding animals I've never heard of, let alone seen. A plump woman wearing a mickey mouse shirt is waving exictedly in my direction. A quick breath of stale car air later and I'm inhaling the sweet smell of country.

I climb out of the truck, grab my gear...and of course, put a smile on my face. Yvonne is friendly, excited, and a bit eccentric. She has pictures to show me, bags full of sheep wool, and wool blankets straight off the press. I don't have time to cringe at the skull she has had bleached that is sitting in the front seat of her car because my hand is already being plunged into the bag of wool...and no, it hasnt been cleaned. We haven't even started the interview, and I'm already ready to wash my hands and call it a day!

I sheepishly (haha, get it!) follow her back toward the pens and can't help but stare at the odd configuration of horns on these animals. It is definitely a sight to see. Some have two, others four...but the most interesting have six horns situated oddly on their tiny head. They are bahhing like it's their job...and chewing like they've got nothing else to do. I mic up Yvonne and start fumbling my way through questions. Interviews are always hard when you know absolutely nothing about the topic that you are covering. How do you ask insightful questions about an animal when you can't even tell what it is? Luckily my interview is eager to share her vast knowledge on the topic of sheep...and I don't have to do much work. I'm sure I should have been a bit embaressed about some of the things that came out of my mouth...but I was so cluelessly uneducated on the topic that I didn't even know if I should be sticking my foot in my mouth.

After my interview I'm blessed with an individual tour of the pens... not fun! First of all, it smells...bad. Like sheep. Secondly they don't stand still. They are so obnoxiously scared of every movement that either they are running around like a chicken with their head cut off, or standing facing the corner of the pen avoiding all types of eye contact. I can't stand these things! I'm done shooting video after the first pen, but Yvonne insists on not only showing me the pen of babies, but also the large pen where the females are kept. She has names for all of them...Blue, Mickey... the list goes on and on. I don't think that I would even name my children if I had that many, but hey, to each their own! She talks to them like babies, coaxing them out of the corner, and trying her best to stay in control. I hang in the corner... trying not to smirk. I am so obviously a city girl.

I get over my initial fear of the obnoxiously large horns and eventually find myself petting one female that has lodged herself in the corner between me and the fence. That's when Yvonne informs me that she bottle fed that particular sheep...and thinks the sheep likes people better then her own kin. Once again, the smirk is swallowed.

Thankfully my extended tour eventually ends, and I lead the way back to my car. It's hard to hide my excitement about the possibility of entering urban society once again. I smell like farm, and sweat. My hands are oily from the wool and my camera dirty from the...well, the dirt. As I pull out of the driveway I lift my hand for a brief wave through the rearview mirror... so long Penrose!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 19

The newsroom feels empty today. It is eerily quiet. While I would normally enjoy such a serene work environment, I know that it is only a facade... hiding the inevitable chaos that is sure to crash down on us later this afternoon. We have more desk people then reporters... more scanners then photographers... more managers then cameras on the street. Something is wrong here people.

In the last week we've lost two of our own. One has moved on to a bigger market, the other out of the business completely. While Denver is only a few miles up the road, it is a jump not many have been able to make. I'm happy for him, really I am... what I'm not happy about is the hole that he has left behind.

News organizations are like school sports teams. While we may practice together day after day, inevitably at the end of every year somebody graduates (one day it will probably be me!). After they are gone the team is altered, for better or worse, and must rebuild. I can speak for personal experience, the rebuilding isn't always pleasant. I don't like it. It is different, harder. It means filling gaps by doing the job of two, sometimes three. It means no lunch breaks, live shots in every show, and a doubled story count. No, I don't like it.

With furloughs and vacation on top of the inevitable summer cold that is cirrulating the newsroom right now... we are bare bones. While I could sit here complaining about the current state of our news organization, I'd rather focus on the potential good that may come out of this. I must admit that part of me is excited to step into new shoes and fulfill new roles. My brain has felt a bit underutilized lately, so this may mean new challenges for me to conquer.

I've been told my fate today is another nat pkg, but one only needs to glance up from the computer to know that won't last long. I predict it changes before noon. The good news, I guess the powers that be liked my last one about a group of elderly women who have picked up the game of volleyball.

Click here to watch it:

The story today is about service dogs. Colorado Springs is the home of the first peanut sensing allergy dog. His name is Rock-O and he is quite the pup.

A few months ago he was given to an 8 year old named Riley, who up until now has lived her life in constant fear. She couldn't go to the park, eat at many restaurants, or even attend a public school. Now she can. She can slide down a slide without worrying that a peanut shell is waiting for her at the bottom. She can eat with a group of friends, without wondering if something in their lunch box could kill her. Rock-O has changed her life... and now her mom wants dogs (like Rock-O) to change the life of other children with deathly, but hidden, allergies.

It's 10:30 am, time for a change. The nat pkg idea has been pulled, not enough people... go figure. I'm now attached at the hip to our only reporter for the day. I predict a hectic afternoon. Luckily he has two photographer working with him, so I'm off the hook for some of the work. But my grand plan of telling a great visual story about training allergy dogs has pretty much dissipated. Added on to my list now, a school bus safety story... boring!!!

I shoot the dog story quickly, managing to sneak in a few belly rubs while I'm at it. After that it's Subway in the car on my way to the bus barn. Oh, August. Why is it that when you are out of school, you still get stuck dealing with it? I thought I was done with buses, school supplies and homework... no such luck! Now I'm talking about bus safety, preventing the flu, and not speeding in school zones. I swear it never ends.

By 4 pm I've finished everything but my liveshot... the daily lightning storm is building in the mountains, so that may be canceled anyways. No breaking news has hit... Nothing has crashed... Suprisingly we've squeaked by. The funny thing is, our average viewer probably won't even noticed the difference. That's what's so interesting about this business. There are days when four reporters isn't enough.... when there is so much news that we are in a constant rush to finish everything in time for air. Then there are days, like today, when one person doesn't even have enough to do.

I love the fact that when you walk in the door you don't know why type of day it will be... which way the pendulm will swing. There is no predicting one hour from the next, let alone one day from the next. You constantly have to be on your toes, ready to react, ready to run. I love the calm before the storm. The quiet newsroom that suddenly errupts into a chaotic, well oiled engine, with a simple call on the scanner. It is unpredictable. It is quiet. It is calm. It is sometimes boring. But then, as if offended by the silence, it rapidly deteriorates into an all out riot. There is no other way to describe it. It is news and there is nothing like it.