What do you do at CBS News?
I am a senior producer for the "CBS Evening News" based in Washington, D.C. I am the only senior producer not in New York because there are so many "Evening News" reporters and producers based in this bureau. It is my job to listen to the story pitches from the 10 reporters and 10 producers so I can decide which ones should be considered for that evening's broadcast. I consider myself their advocate. I try to explain to the executive producer, Rome Hartman (the boss,) why their story is interesting enough or newsy enough to be included in the broadcast. Throughout the day I keep New York aware of how the stories are turning out. And late in the day I edit each reporter's script before the video tape editor puts their story together.What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
Teenagers. We really have no idea what their lives are like. They are usually the ones who start the change in the way we communicate, dress, think, eat. Often we are only talking about them when one of them has picked up a gun or abused some substance. I would like to do more stories on them making their way through this complex society. I think the pressures on them -- whether they are minorities or upper-class kids -- are so under the radar when it comes to our reporting.Give us a great behind the scenes story.
I was in Japan covering the first President Bush attending the funeral of the Emperor. It was a week-long assignment of 20-hour days. After consuming an adult beverage or two with my colleagues to celebrate our successful week of broadcasts, I went to my room to pack. The White House press corps would be following the president to China the next morning. It was long after midnight when I dragged my suitcase to the White House baggage handlers. They took my bag and threw it on a truck with the rest of the press luggage which they eventually drove to the press plane. Returning to my room I grabbed two hours of sleep. When I got up ... I looked around the room for my clothes. It slowly dawned on me that I had never left a change of clothes out when I was packing my bag. I arrived in Beijing wearing sweatpants, sneakers and a T-shirt.
Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
I have never been assigned a story I "objected" to. As a producer I have worked on stories I didn't think were worthy of being on the broadcast. But there is a chain of command. And after giving my assessment of the story ... if the executive producer still wanted it ... I would do my package and make it look as good as possible.If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
I think I would be in the restaurant business. I like to cook. It's a business that has days that start slowly and build to a crazy pace and there is a deadline at the end of the day. It's just like the "Evening News" day.
Do you read blogs? If so, which ones? If not, what do you read on the Internet?
Rarely. I read TV Newser because it has news about the people in this business. (I check it in the morning to make sure I haven't been fired.) Mostly, I read the newspaper Web pages during the day. If I am reading a blogger, it's because one of the younger producers has pointed something out to me as something I need to see.What's the last really great book or movie you found?
I am reading "A Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby. It is not his best. "High Fidelity" and "About A Boy" were terrific. His male characters are not very likeable but all too recognizable … and very funny.What is your first memory of TV news?
I was 11 years old. I was in my room pretending to do my homework when my mother opened the door and told me to come downstairs. I followed her through the living room. "I thought we couldn't watch TV on a school night," I said. She answered, "This maybe the last time you see television." When we got to the TV President Kennedy was explaining to the country that the Soviets had placed missiles in Cuba that were pointed at the United States. (Mom sure came up with a good quote.)If you could change one thing about the profession of journalism, what would it be?
I would like to erase all evidence that we did any O.J. Simpson stories ... all copies of "Runaway Bride" stories -- and any mention of the Bobbitt stories. So when people look back a hundred years from now ... they aren't saying, "With all the things happening in the world, why were they wasting their time on that?"Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
I covered the White House when Reagan was president and again when President Clinton was in the oval office. But I found the most fascinating people when I was covering the Pentagon. I meet a double amputee from the first gulf war struggling to get back into civilian life. I met a woman who was both a single mom and navy flight instructor. She taught male pilots how to fly their F-14's ... but the Navy wouldn't let her fly in combat because she was a woman. And I traveled on an attack sub under the Artic ice. Those guys spent months away from their families ready to respond if a nuclear war started. My admiration for military families is without end.Finally, a question from jlh10, posted in comments: Have you ever endured physical hardship while covering a story? If so, what was it like and how did you cope?
Last summer I was in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina with 20 of my closest CBS friends to cover the storm. Katrina destroyed our hotel. We took to living on the streets in 95 plus degree heat. At night we slept in the cars or on the sidewalk. Our food supply was beef jerky (which I never ate before and am now addicted to,) crackers, tuna fish and peanut butter. I think we went six days without showers. Our water supply that we carried in the cars got very low. I took all the water and soda from my hotel before evacuating the building. We spent one night on the highway overpass near the Superdome because we had been warned the rest of the city was going to flood. After eight days we were all looking pretty scruffy. Two guardsmen came up to me and Perry Jones, the satellite truck operator, and tried to put us on a bus thinking we were city residents in need of rescue.