Security for News People, A Reunion is a Reunion and Gum Chewers as a Backdrop.

The recent attack and death of a news anchor/reporter in Little Rock prompted me to think about security and the lack thereof in some cases for news people.  For those not up to speed on the death of 26 year old Anne Pressly , here’s a link to a news report.  While it appears that this attack may have been a random event, there are crazies out there who find that the local anchor on TV is the closest thing to a celebrity that they can get.  (Unfortunately there are anchors and reporters who think they are celebrities too but that topic is for another post).   So these viewers send things and do things to get the attention of those news people.  I was told that one female anchor at WREG used to receive photographs from men who happened to be incarcerated at the time.  Those photos ususally involved the sender’s “private” parts.  Sometimes it was a letter just asking for a date although it was not unusual for men to send letters extolling THEIR virtues and how they could “accommodate” the ladies, if you get my drift.  While female anchors and reporters seem to get more attention than the men but the men get their fair share as well from both the male and female viewers.  Since the last eleven years of my broadcasting career involved working the early morning news, security was always on my mind when I went to work.  My biggest concern was that some “ner-do-well” would be sitting in the unsecured parking lot at the station DOTR waiting for someone to show up.  More than once I had an encounter with someone as I got out of my vehicle and made my way to the security door to the newsroom.  A couple of times we called police to escort someone off the property early in the morning.   And then there was what I always considered to be the lack of security in the lobby at WREG.  I’m sure it has been rectified since I left and if it has, please update me.  But if you go to the station on Highland or the one on Union, you have to get buzzed in or get past a security person to access the newsroom.  That was not the case DOTR.  People could walk in the lobby, make a sharp turn and be in the studio/newsroom in less than a minute.  Concerns were raised and we were told it was too expensive and not feasible to create a secure area.  I always figured that if someone strolled in off the street and into the studio during a live newscast that money would suddenly be found.   Nuff said.

I attended the visitation last week for Charles Riales, the chief engineer from WREG.  I’ve always found funerals and visitations to be tough.  But I also know (after having lost my father) that in time of sorrow and grief that hearing from friends and acquaintances is a comfort.  After speaking to the family, I started making my way toward the lobby and it suddenly became a brief reunion for me.  I ran into some former co-workers and other folks I hadn’t seen in the almost four years since I left WREG.

I’m concerned that my wife is about a week away from going into withdrawal.  As a political junkie she’s been able to get her presidential political “fix” on a daily basis.  She listens to POTUS on XM radio when she isn’t in the office.  Since she has the TV blaring away with political coverage on the cable channels, I’m exposed to it as well which brings me to this point.  WHAT THE HELL ARE THE HANDLERS FOR THE CANDIDATES THINKING WHEN THEY PUT THE PEOPLE THEY CHOOSE AS A BACKDROP FOR THE SPEAKERS!!  I know they want diverse BVAs in the background.   BVAs is a marketing term I first heard about 20-years ago.   It stands for Bright, Verbal, Attractive.  That’s what looks good on the Tube.  The problem is, I think the handlers should step back and look at the overall picture.  How many times have I seen the candidates speaking and they’ve got some person, usually a BVA type and usually a young female chewing a wad of gum that would choke a horse.  I have nothing against chewing gum.  But apparently these people missed the “chew gum with your mouth closed” training session.  So there they are, masticating away like a cow chewing a cud.  It’s distracting to say the least.

And finally, I need someone to weigh in with a technical answer to my technical type question.  I’ve noticed while watching Saturday Night Live and the Thursday version of SNL that the graphics on their newscast go off both sides of my screen.  Granted, I do not have HD but I did convert the TV picture on my set from 4:3 to 16:9 to see if that changed things and it did not.  Maybe it’s just me and no one else has an issue with this.  I’ve got satellite TV and maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I just need to forget about it and move on.  But if anyone has an explanation or also has an issue with this, please let me know.

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13 Comments on “Security for News People, A Reunion is a Reunion and Gum Chewers as a Backdrop.”

  1. Brad Says:

    I noticed the same issue with my television while watching Weekend Update on SNL last Saturday. I have cable, so I don’t think that satellite is your problem. I only noticed it during the Weekend Update portion, however.

  2. Pam Crittendon Roberson Says:

    Joe, on the topic of security. That anchorwoman with the XXX rated mail you mention is probably me. Strange, it seemed that every time I got one of those types of letters, all the guys in the newsroom would waste no time to relieve me of them! They were all so considerate.

    Seriously though, I don’t know how many of your readers remember former weatherwoman Sharon Crews, who was actually confronted by a knife-wielding fan outside of NC3 one evening. She also used to talk about how she got away from another over-zealous admirer with a karate kick to the solar plexis.

    Luckily, I never had to deal with those types of close encounters.

  3. the tall tv guy Says:

    Joe,
    I agree, going to a funeral or visitation can be very difficult. Many years ago, a former co-worker passed away, and I left that employer less than a year later. Several people came over to talk and catch up with me before I left, bothering my successor, who’s favorite pastime was finding ways to cut costs or impress the owners.

    Later, a supervisor lost a relative unexpectedly. As I started to speak to him, he gave me a big bear hug. Surprised at first, I whispered to him, “Hug me all you want, if that will help you.” Sometimes you don’t know what to say. Since I’ve lost some loved ones, it’s not what’s said, but that you came by.

    I’m trying to figure out what the news shows will talk about after January 20, especially the cable outfits. It seems this campaign a month or two after the last one ended.

  4. joelarkins Says:

    Pam, you busted me. Yes, it was you that I was writing about. By the way, I’m curious. Who were the folks who wasted no time in taking those photos off your hands? No names, just initials.
    Regards

  5. anon Says:

    Joe, it was one of his last projects, Charles Riales finished a security upgrade at 3 just a couple of weeks ago, that pretty much sealed off the Lobby/Restroom/Canteen area from the rest of the building. Let it be known, that in a very classy act, channel 5 sent over a large display of flowers with condolences. That was very nice. To everyone that took time to stop, share, reflect, thank you.

  6. joelarkins Says:

    Glad to know that the station DOTR is now “secure”. More than once we had people wander into the studio and during some kind of promotional wackiniess, some folks from a local radio station just walked in and pulled some sort of hijinx and shenanigans in the weather center. I guess some sort of hilarity ensued.
    And for all of the rivalry on the streets and on the air, the broadcast community is still close and I’m not surprised at all that WMC did what they did.
    Regards

  7. Chris in Brazil Says:

    As an intern at WMC, “Wendy” walked into the lobby. This was back when Wendy’s did the “Where’s the Beef?” campaign. She was with some promo guy and they thought they could just walk into the lobby and into the newsroom. Well, they did. Not sure what they wanted because I was given the nod and told to “take care of that!” I don’t remember any security. Tag! I was it. To this day, I have no idea. They had no hamburgers, no flyers, didn’t say anything.
    But even at the time I thought how odd it was that anyone could walk in off the street and bust in on the newsroom. The studios were down the hall and we were not live on the air at the time. They weren’t wanting trouble but they got noticed!

  8. Pam Crittendon Roberson Says:

    Joe, regarding your request for names – suffice it to say just about every man in the newsroom from editors, photogs, reporters, producers – you name it. The ringleader was, of course, EF.

  9. joelarkins Says:

    Nuff said there. I will mention it to him at first opportunity.

  10. Doug Johnson Says:

    I hesitated replying to this post. Our good friend and former colleague Jerry Tate, tells me that based on my posts here, I might just too much time on my hands.

    But, since I’m home sick, and my conference call is over, I’ll make brief remarks (no questions, please).

    Since returning to Memphis, weddings & funerals have turned into the best opportunities for me to see former co-workers (which is happy and sad). That, and working at FedEx, which seems to be a major next step for NC3ers (that doesn’t mean that any of you should start calling about jobs – I’m not aware of any openings right now!).

    The only other thing I’ll add is that I’m dismayed about the entire trend of using people as scenery for political speeches. What a candidate has to say should be important and valuable enough to make that person the singular focus of the audience. No one should be using party faithful or a row of U.S. flags to provide the “right” backdrop for a speech. Candidates: say what you’ve got to say, without the distractions – let us focus on the content, not the decorations.

    (remarks end here)

  11. Willie Says:

    Joe, regarding SNL running off your screen, it might be your satellite provider. Even if you don’t have HD, SNL should be “letterboxed” on your 4:3 screen. SNL is shot in 16:9 HD, and they don’t lop off the sides for non-HD viewers; they letterbox it instead. (Same goes for Conan O’Brien and some other shows.) Anyway, if SNL fills your 4:3 screen top-to-bottom, the satellite company is probably taking WMC’s digital feed and “zooming” to the center. That works fine for shows shot in 4:3, but letterboxed shows end up getting “clipped” on your screen. It’s complicated, and the satellite company would serve you better by just taking WMC’s standard-definition feed, but that’s the state of broadcasting during this transitional period.

  12. joelarkins Says:

    Well, that could explain a lot. I noticed during the SNL Presidential Bash that both sides of the screen were again lopped off. It’s quite annoying.
    Thanks for checking in.
    Regards


  13. Hi, Joe. This is Sharon Crews. Please allow me to clarify a couple of aforementioned incidents while I was a reporter/weather anchor at Channel 3.

    While I was walking back from the convention center that was adjacent to WREG, a man approached me. Since I was alone and it was dark, I asked him kindly to maintain his distance. He ignored my request and violated my safety zone. That’s when I asserted my influence. It was never my intention to crack one of his ribs. My goal was to only kick the wind out of him. Out of courtesy, I offered to provide him with medical assistance. He turned it down. The only other time I’ve utilized my skills as a karateka was during filming of the movie, “Street Fighter,” which co-starred Jean-Claude Van Damme and my current husband, Grand L. Bush.

    Also while I was a reporter/weather anchor at WREG, I had a man who stalked me for three years. One night, police found him in the bushes outside the station waiting for me to leave. He had already slashed all of my tires and had attempted to gain access to the newsroom. In his car, investigators discovered a suitcase that contained neatly-cut leather straps, knives and many Polaroid photos he had taken of me on his TV screen. I had become the star of my own horror movie. This man was tried and convicted; he served 3 years in prison. Former sports anchor Larry Enis provided me a lot of moral and emotional support; he even attended trial with me. During the remainder of my tenure at Channel 3, a police escort followed me home. It became very difficult for me to do my on-air job effectively, so I quit. I got a 9-5 job on Beale Street and thought I was over this creep until I walked to my car and found all the tires of my car again slashed in a manner that became his signature. I finally moved out of the state.


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