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Friday, August 28, 2015

The Anatomy of a News Family

In watching the coverage of the recent shooting of two news professionals in Roanoke, VA-- I've noticed something.
Many people have commented on the News Team at WDBJ7 and how they're reacting to the loss of two of their co-workers-- specifically, how the station has bonded together to support each other.
For those of you reading this blog who don't know-- I used to work at a local TV Station in Roanoke, Virginia. (Two... if you want to get technical) And although I have been out of the "news business" for 3 years now, I still hold those years, those memories, and those people very close to my heart.

a night in Downtown Roanoke. Never disappointed.

Working in a Newsroom is a different type of work environment than most people are used to.
I think the easiest way to describe it is... a 24/7 Pressure Cooker.
People don't clock in and out. They don't show up at 9am and leave at 5pm. Weekends don't normally include Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes "Weekends" aren't even 2 days long. Holidays? Whats a Holiday? You can work 8 days in a row. 9 days in a row. 14 days in a row. And sometimes you barely have enough time to go home and shower before your next "work day" begins.
Being in the News Business is tough (Tougher than I could handle) but its the people you work with that make it so rewarding.
someone's Birthday dinner. We're cute!

Lets just put it this way; When I first set foot in a newsroom I had no clue what to expect.
But they basically throw a bunch of strangers in a room together-- some who know what they're doing, and some who don't-- and they expect you to work together as a team while under the most immense and intense pressure ALL DAY EVERY DAY.
Obviously the pot is going to boil over every now and again-- but what can you expect?

a goodbye party for one of the producers-- I was definitely the "newbie"

Since Wednesday's Shooting- I've been pretty sentimental; looking back on old photos and memories.
And in doing so I think I may have uncovered some reasons why Newsrooms are so unique and the relationships forged there are so deep.

- You experience the good -- the bad-- and the UGLY together.

at a food/supply drive Sponsored by the station
People say that they feel like the News is always full of doom and gloom. And you're right. But the amount of Doom & Gloom you saw on my newscast every night... was only a FRACTION of the Doom & Gloom that came across my desk that day. When you are constantly barraged with emails and videos and stories about some of the worst disasters happening around the world-- you can easily get jaded. 
You experience the most stressful of situations with these people: breaking news, weather, live shots, shootings, protests, car accidents... You are literally witnessing some of the worst things you've ever seen. But you've experience those things together. That is why I consider them family.
 the control room can be scary.. for many reasons...

- You laugh together to get through the tough days. 

I can't even TELL you how many rough days in the Newsroom ended with tears... and then everyone grabbing a drink at the Bar down the street. We fought, we cried, we screamed at each other, we pulled our hair out and held our breath ALL DAY... but we chose to end our days together. Supporting each other. And laughing. We had some of the best laughs. Tremendous laughs. Tears streaming down my face. 
always taking things waaaaaay too seriously. 
When every single day is about the Doom & Gloom... its nice to be able to laugh with the people who experienced it all with you. That is why I consider them family.
random text message to let me know he's "watching me"

- You Screw Up Together.

News is fast paced. So fast paced that many times things get lost in the shuffle... or it all becomes too much and starts to fall apart. 
I failed. Hard. Multiple Times. (probably more times than I can even remember because I've blocked it out) But when you fall on your face in a job as PUBLIC as TV News-- it hurts. BAD! And in the heat of the moment-- everyone is looking for someone else to blame. But when it is all said and done-- after my worst failures, my friends/coworkers/teammates would pat me on the back, tell me tomorrow is a new day, and offer me words of encouragement. That is why I consider them family.
Now, don't get me wrong: not everyone in a newsroom is supportive. Some of them place blame and point fingers. Some of them aren't willing to take responsibility for their own actions in those situations. But those are NOT the people I'm talking about.

- Even though you see each other every SINGLE day... you still CHOOSE to spend your free time with them.

Every. Single. Day. I literally saw the same 15-20 people pretty much every day. So you'd think that in my "free time" away from the station-- however long that was-- you'd think I would want to spend time with ANYONE ELSE! Nope. You're wrong. 
I chose to go to lunch with my co-workers before my shift. I chose to go get mani/pedis with my co-workers on our days off. We lounged by the pool. We went Downtown for drinks & dancing. We had game nights in our apartments. Why? Because they were not just co-workers-- they were friends. Family. I didn't want to spend my time with anyone else because no one else truly understood. No one else wanted to bitch about work for HOURS. No one else knew how stressed out I was about an upcoming segment or show. That is why I consider them family.
Nascar themed Bar Crawl. Enough said.

wedding festivities. If you couldn't tell-- we were REALLY hot. (like sweating...)

I've been out of news for a few years now, and admittedly have lost touch with many of my newsroom friends. (mostly my own fault)
But I will always hold the memories dear to my heart;
Even the time my reporter yelled at me for interrupting her Hibachi dinner to drive to Lynchburg for a possible explosion...
Even the time we ate cold Cracker Barrel for "Thanksgiving Dinner"...
Even the time the camera battery died as we threw to a Live Shot at the Greenbrier...
Even though the Super Bowl show of 2012 will ALWAYS give me nightmares...
Even that time one of my anchors wanted me to get kidnapped while in Jamaica...
Even the COUNTLESS HOURS I spent (mindlessly) marking the scripts so we could re-cycle the paper...
Even the times our Web Producer would yell out "Has anyone updated the Website?" a thousand times during his 30-minute show...
And the time the Weekend Team made me cupcakes when I got engaged...
And the time my deskmate and I drank too many 5-hour energy drinks when I was training her for the morning show...
And the Dance Parties I would have on nightside after everyone else left with my "Foxy Lady"/Partner in Crime...
And the times my morning anchor would always "suggest" that my then-boyfriend bring everyone Bojangles for breakfast...
And when I would write "Happy Friday" and/or "Happy Payday!" on the scripts at the end of the week...
Jeff ate all my pizza.

but mostly I will remember the laughs. Those deep down laughs that forge deep down friendships.

With Love, 

my deepest love and condolences go out to my friend, Karen, who is a member of the WDBJ7 family.
All of our hearts are broken for this loss. 
Once a Newsie, Always a Newsie

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hometown Tragedy: 28 Hours Later

(Let me start with this. I process my thoughts and feelings through words. That is why I started this Blog. Yesterday I was at a loss for words. All day. And in a moment of calm today-- I began to write.)

28 hours have passed.
28 hours ago two innocent lives were taken and the national spotlight found itself fixated on my hometown.
Yesterday was terrible.
I was scared to find out about an active shooter situation just minutes from my house...
Uneasy to find out that my child's daycare was on lockdown...
Then devastated to learn that two young, talented news professionals had lost their lives...
And that the person responsible was still on the run.

My drive to work was full of tears as I listened to the details unfold over the airwaves of a local radio station. They cut in after every song to let listeners know the latest developments. They even picked up the live announcement audio from WDBJ7 when they confirmed that they had lost two of their own. This was happening to all of us.
The world stopped in Roanoke, Virginia. Nothing moved.

The news traveled fast and wide and suddenly the place I have called home for 26 years was flooded with attention... Good, Bad, National, International...
The National Spotlight burns hard and fast...
To see your hometown trending on every social media outlet... is not a good thing. The feeling isn't that of pride. It's shame.
Shame that this awful event took two innocent lives ... Tore apart two families... Broke countless hearts... And devastated countless people around the world.
But it just so happened to be at your back door. And it all becomes that much more real.

Why chose to broadcast such a heinous crime on live television? Why force those friends and family to re-live their loves ones horrific last moments? We will never know the answers to these questions. The families will never see justice done.
This isn't a game. This isn't a TV show. This is real life.. Real people... Real lives. Lost.
But they are right. Those videos are not to be taken lightly. Those videos are horrific.
That is someone's daughter. Someone's son. Someone's best friend. The love of someone's life.

The National Spotlight burns hard and fast... and burns out quickly.
It has been 28 hours. My beloved hometown has been the focus of every news outlet around the world for the last 28 hours. Reporters and Journalists that I have respected and adored for years are outside of WDBJ7 & the Bridgewater Marina updating the world on the latest developments.
But what's next?
... in 24 more hours the satellite trucks will pack up and move out.
... the news cycle will hit "refresh", the reporters will go home and our community will become quiet again.
From that point on-- as each day passes-- the feelings will fade.
The world will continue to turn and we will continue to go about our lives.
Just as Columbine did. And Newtown. And Virginia Tech.
We will mourn for the lives lost forever. And we will celebrate their accomplishments and potential.
But, what is next?
When will enough be enough?
Who else has to die for the country-- the world-- to realize that gun violence is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously.
No more stonewalling. No more petty arguments. People are dying.
I beg the leaders of this country to come together and think of the countless lives lost to gun violence and act!
I don't have the answers. I never claimed to.
But what else needs to happen?
Who else needs to die?
This country is in pain and we are begging someone to speak up and solve the problem.
My hometown is in pain and I want to make sure that no one else has to watch these events unfold as they get their kids ready for school in the morning.
No one else should get the phone call that Adam & Alison's family got that morning. No one else.

It is so easy to forget how real these tragic events are.
If you don't live in Columbine....
If you didn't lose anyone in the Newtown school shooting. But they still hurt. 
This area knows this feeling a little too well.
It was only 8 years ago that so many beautiful lives were lost on the Virginia Tech campus. A tragedy all too similar. We had the same gut wrenching feeling watching videos that day as the shots rang out. 
We cried. We fought back. We stood strong and we moved forward. 
And the same will happen at WDBJ7 and in Roanoke, Virginia.
We mourn these beautiful lives. Pray for the victim fighting for her life. Pray for peace for all of the family and loved ones affected. 
But the tears will dry. And life will move forward. No one will ever forget.
But my hope is that Alison & Adam will be remembered beyond this tragedy.

It is my hope that the memories of Adam & Alison...
and the 32 people killed at Virginia Tech...
and the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary..
and the 13 people killed at Columbine High School...
and the 9 people killed in Charleston, SC...
and the 12 people killed in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater...
and the 12 people killed in the Washington Navy Yard...
and the 13 people killed at Fort Hood...
and the countless others lost to gun violence across the country and around the world... every day.

It is my hope that their deaths will not be in vain. And that one day we can celebrate their lives and their impact on this world when a solution is found and the world puts and end to gun violence.
It will be in their honor. And on that day I will know that these people all made a lasting impact on my life... our lives... the country... the world... and the future.
They lost the opportunity to have a future of their own... but it is my hope that their stories will create a better future for us all.

Sending all of my love to Alison Parker & Adam Ward. Two young, talented professionals that I did not have the honor to know but I know that the two of you were truly loved by everyone you met.
Sending thoughts & prayers to their families and loved ones. We are so very sorry for your loss.
And to everyone at WDBJ7-- my heart goes out to you as you lose two special friends & teammates. I used to work as a producer at a competitor station and I speak for everyone who has EVER worked in a newsroom when I say: we are with you. Our hearts pour out to you. And every time you go on-air and manage to hold yourselves together under the most unbelievable of circumstances-- my respect for each of you grows and I am touched at your compassion and professionalism throughout this trying ordeal. Stay Strong. #RoanokeStrong 

With Love,