Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Work Days Are Just Better Than Others!

I've been writing and producing and managing news budgets for 25 years, and on most days, if we're lucky, we find one or two good stories to lead our newscasts, with the rest of the stories kind of filling up the news block. But every once in a while, you hit the mother lode, and you get a veritable cornucopia of stories that are so interesting and so compelling that you can't wait to get your newscast on the air! Today was one of those days...

Now, mind you - when I say "good stories", I don't necessarily mean "good news" news stories. In fact, it's fair to say that, from a story-telling perspective, really good stories usually constitute "BAD news". Michael Phelps is a very good "good news" story, but when I'm writing a newscast, I'll take a good compelling bizarre BAD news story any day of the week!

Here are some of the compelling stories I had the pleasure of writing today...

  • We had the guy in the Baltimore County jail who was found tied up in his cell with the word "rat" scratched onto his back, a towel stuffed in his mouth and a spoon with a note attached to it shoved up his rectum. The victim had recently been caught wearing a wire in the jail, but corrections officials won't tell us why he was wearing a wire.

  • We found out that the guy who drowned his three children in a Baltimore hotel room last spring had told investigators after his arrest that he is evil and should be put to death. We also found out that he had timed his children's drownings with a stopwatch.

  • We had an actress from HBO's "The Wire" being arrested for marijuana possession at her home in Baltimore. The cops forced themselves into the woman's home and found a bunch of pot, including two blunts. They were under court order to drag the woman to court to be a hostile witness in a murder trial.

  • We had Tropical Storm Fay, which is now measuring its rainfall on Florida in feet instead of inches after 4 days of drifting over the Sunshine State.

  • We had Barack Obama playing peek-a-boo with the media over his choice for Vice President.

  • We had the guy in Western Maryland who is holed up with his pregnant girlfriend in a motel room. He's wanted for theft and burglary in four states and he's kept the cops at bay for two days now. The cops used a police robot to try and deliver a pizza to the guy last night... but the guy just threatened to shoot the robot.

  • We also had a landlord in Carroll County who shot at, and then pistol-whipped, one of his tenants when the tenant showed up to pay his rent.

  • We also had the federal government cancelling a program that was set up to encourage illegal immigrants facing deportation to turn themselves in. The Feds dumped the program when only 8 people out of an estimated 30,000 illegals in the test area signed up for the deal. The feds say their program of surprise raids on illegals while they sleep works better... uh, DUH!

Interestingly enough, with news like this, today was the first time in two weeks we did NOT do a single story on Michael Phelps... The newsroom I've been working in has not, to my knowledge, received a single e-mail raising or criticizing our coverage of the Phelps story... But in a period of two hours this morning, we received about 5 complaint emails on the stories I've listed above! This tells me that these stories - for better or worse - generate passion and capture the imagination of our audience. We are creating word pictures that our radio listeners can actually see... And what they see disturbs some of them. That's OK... Some of these stories were very disturbing. Disturbing and memorable. And they made for great radio!

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