Today, I’m reminded of the space shuttle Columbia disaster several years ago thanks to all the news reports. Why is this such a big deal? Well, it happened during my stint working in local broadcast news. I was required to get all too familiar with it.
Before I tell you my story, I have a rant. Local news in smaller markets doesn’t know how to generate content anymore. Used to all reporters were taught how to generate content and make their contribution to a newscast meaningful. Journalism was an industry I aspired to get in to because I like telling stories. Now they don’t tell stories, they just report what happened without any true underlying content. There’s no intrinsic value. Perfect example is with the Columbia. My newsroom was required to report basically only on that story for about a month. Or how about 9/11? We were required to report on that story for approximately six months. I had a problem with it because the stories were forced. Original ideas dried up much sooner, while new news was happening locally that we ignored. Ok. Rant over.
So this Saturday was a typical Saturday for me. I was still working the morning shows, so my weekend was always off.
My Saturday mornings, once I did wake up, consisted of watching entertainment programming. My usual channel was either TNT or TBS. After a few hours of sitting there, it was getting around lunch time, and I started getting bored. So I started channel surfing. When I came across CNN, I started to see the news about the shuttle. That sucked for them. It was a surprise to me about what happened. I sat there and watched coverage for a couple of hours (amongst eating lunch).
So my weekend ends, Sunday night comes around, and I go in to work. My boss comes in the next morning. We talk about the shuttle stuff for a little bit. He asks me “Why didn’t you come in and help? Everyone else was here.”
As condition of my employment, I wore a text pager. If anything was ever needed of me, they paged me.
My response to my boss? ”You never paged me.”
I wasn’t about to choose to give up my weekend. Are you kidding me? But if they had paged me, I would have come in post haste. I try to be a good employee. But I’m not a mind-reader.
I have another pager story for you. This one pissed me off.
After awhile, I moved on to a dayside shift. I was responsible for the noon news and one of the six pm newscasts. But I still filled in on mornings at times when the person who took my place took some days off. At the point this story happened, the lady anchoring the morning and noon news was someone who had been an anchor in the Miami market at one point. She thought she was all that AND a bag of chips WITH the cherry on top. From what I understand, she moved to this town because she had to come take care of her mother. But not too long after she moved here, the trouble with her mother was over, which made this lady be very resentful for being stuck in what she perceived as BFE. She took all of this out on people at work. For her attitude she displayed, she earned the name Ice Queen.
The new morning producer took a cue from what I often did and took a Friday and Monday off for a long weekend. So when I was asked to fill in, that meant on Thursday I had to come work my normal time, which went until about 6:45 in the evening. Then I was supposed to be back by midnight. My best friend was working master control on the overnight shifts, so I asked him to check in with me to make sure I got to work ok. Well, he called me plenty. But I was out of it. I fell asleep on the floor in front of my television. I didn’t wake up until after 2am. I didn’t get to the TV station until about 3am.
I was worried I wasn’t going to get everything finished on time. I was also worried about whether or not I had missed anything on the scanners or not. The only conditions I ever had working overnights was to 1) don’t miss anything on the scanners, and 2) get your work done on time.
As to the first one? I got lucky, and it was a quiet night in our little faux metropolis. As to the second one? I was done by 4:30. It was a record. It was just in time for when the Ice Queen came in to work. She asked me how I was when she walked in. I told her I was really good considering I had got there at three.
So while she did her thing and I could take a breather, I reverted back to an old tradition I had on a Friday and bought me three different movie tickets online. (I always picked the not quite as interesting movie in the middle, because that was likely the one I would doze off in.) I always got to keep up on my movies that way, and it was a great way to try and keep my weekend on a normal person schedule.
Later, about 10 minutes before I left the station for the morning, Ice Queen asked me if I was going to make up the time I was late. My response?
That’s what came out of my mouth. In my mind, that thought continued.
“No, bitch! That’s why they pay me a flat rate. I earn my pay for the job I do, not how long I spend doing it.”
Ten minutes later I was off to the movie theatre. I get there, get in, get my snacks, and sit down for my first movie. My pager vibrates while we’re still in the previews. It’s a message from Ice Queen.
“You better be there on time Monday.”