The Internship

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It is summer and that means there are some fresh faces in our newsroom. These are the intern months. College students willing to slog through the Atlanta heat with our reporters just to get some “experience” in a career that I hate to tell them will likely be obsolete in its current form within 15 years. They are impossibly young and eager and earnest. I was once an intern myself. Rewind to 1992 and the NBC affiliate in Yakima, Washington. I had moved to this “armpit” of the state because my boyfriend had his first job there and it was time I put my degree to work. While I love children and grew up in daycare centers because my mother ran one for years, my job as chief diaper changer in the baby room at a center in a posh suburb of Seattle wasn’t going to get me on TV. I knew I needed some reporting experience to go with my Edward R. Murrow College of Communication seal of approval. You know how people have those stories as they begin their careers of someone in a position of authority telling them they will never make it or they are terrible or to give it up? I had the opposite thing happen. It, however, produced the same result. My first stop on the “I have to get a job interview tour of ’92” was a small radio station. I had done radio reporting in college for both the university station KWSU and NPR. My voice had been used for commercials and announcements as well so I felt confident I might land an entry level job there. Five minutes into the interview and the news director said ‘you belong on television.’ He suggested my next stops should be the three television affiliates in town. Bouyed by his encouraging words I jumped over the radio portion of my search and headed to the NBC station, KNDO. It was and probabaly most likely still is, a dump. 22 years ago it was the last place station in the market, which by the way was market 123 out of 200-something at the time. Time and the death of brain cells on my part has erased the particulars of how I convinced them to sign me up as an intern but I can recall vividly how I worked my butt off for three months to convince them to hire me. I logged tape. I cleaned the newsroom and the news cars. I ran errands. Yes, I went out with reporters. All but one of which were around my age. I watched them, filing away tips to use and ones to avoid. I re-voiced their work. I wrote my own. I carried gear and learn to shoot and edit and assign stories and make beat calls and type copy and run teleprompter and navigate newsroom politics. There was no salary, no benefits, no perks. I worked every shift, answered every breaking news call, sat through countless stuffy council meetings, rifled through piles of dusty police files for information, and researched stories for the anchor. I learned. EVERYTHING. Nothing prepared me more for my career than those crappy few months. To this day I use stuff I learned all those years ago. I rely on instincts I honed as a young reporter. I always keep her close to remind me why I chose this business and I why I continue to choose it every contract cycle. To the interns here whose time with us I would guess is winding down I would offer this advice:

Open your eyes and ears and shut your mouth.
Don’t worry about being on TV. Most of the work happens when the cameras are off.
Learn to do everything. You don’t have to master it all just understand and appreciate how ‘the sausage is made.’
Seek out the person in the newsroom whose job you want and interview them.
Take note of things you want to emulate and things you don’t.
Be polite and respectful of everyone. This is a small business. You will likely work with or for these people in the future.
Practice. Take newscast scripts home and read them aloud into a mirror. Take an article in the newspaper and write a TV news story out of it. Fine tune your articulation, your interviewing skills, your writing pace.
Be curious. Read and watch news.
Know what’s going on in the world.
And lastly, stay open to suggestion, criticism, compliments, guidance.

You may face an employer one day who says “you belong on television.”

Oh, by the way, KNDO did hire me as a morning anchor/reporter at the end of said internship. The workload didn’t subside, the paltry paycheck left me working nights and weekends at KFC, and my stepdad gave me a gun because the town was so crime-ridden. Don’t let anyone tell you TV isn’t glamorous.

StephanieFisherWYFFTV

It takes a village

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When you’re young and thinking about getting married and having babies you never dream it will be difficult to do. You figure when you decide to have children, you’ll just, BOOM, get pregnant and start your family. Yes, this does happen. But for many couples it is not as easy as hopping into bed. The world of fertility and infertility treatment has exploded in the last 20 years. Couples today have many options if regular old sex won’t get the job done. The problem is, most of these options are expensive and the grandaddy of them all, in vitro fertilization (IVF), costs the most. Insurance typically does not cover IVF and it often takes multiple cycles to result in a pregnancy. At $6000 to $15,000 a round, IVF can quickly bankrupt a couple. Worrying about how to pay for IVF can add another layer of stress on an already unbelievably stressful time, when you are supposed to be convincing your body and mind they are ready to conceive. I interviewed two couples this month. One is trying IVF for the first time. The other is preparing for round 3. Both were a joy to get to know. They are warm, funny, supportive of their partners, honest, and heartbreakingly unfulfilled right now. They both are struggling to pay for IVF. Now to the reason they invited me into their homes. I’m sharing their stories because they are using the internet and the kindness of strangers to bankroll their baby dreams. Maybe you are familiar with online crowdfunding sites such as Go Fund Me or Kickstarter. You enroll on the site, set up a profile as detailed as you wish, and ask for help with your project, your small business, your independent film, your fertility treatment. Both husbands in the couples I spoke to were reluctant at first to put their “business” out there for everyone to read but have come around after seeing the incredible outpouring of support, both financial and emotional, they’ve received from all over the country, from people they don’t know. The couples have raised thousands of dollars between them and will most certainly be able to afford a round of IVF. When I asked them what they would say to those who have given one dollar, a thousand dollars, a kind word, all said through tears they would simply say ‘thank you for allowing us our dream of having a family.’

They say it takes a village to raise a child. In this case, it takes a village to conceive one.

My story on IVF crowdfunding airs Wednesday, June 18th at 11. Then look for it online at http://www.cbs46.com under health.

#YesAllWomen

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The hashtag #YesAllWomen has been trending on Twitter since a mass shooting on the campus of UC Santa Barbara Friday night. Elliott Rodger began his killing spree by stabbing to death his three male roommates. He then went to the Alpha Phi sorority house and shot three young woman, two of them died. Afterwards he drove into a neighborhood in Isla Vista, California and fired indiscriminately into groups of people. In the end, seven people were killed (including Rodger who shot himself in the head), and 13 others were injured, some by bullets, others who were hit by Rodger’s car. This troubled college student left behind a lengthy manifesto and video detailing his motive – being rejected by women. In a 141 page letter he outlines his violent plan for a “war on women” where he would “punish women and girls for starving him of sex.” This particularly disturbing motive has exposed an ugly reality that some men expect certain things from women. That women are here only for the benefit of men. The hashtag I mentioned a moment ago is significant in that it has laid bare, at least online, the fears, concerns, and realities all women face during their lives when it comes to how men perceive and ultimately treat us. The posts on Twitter range from women angry that “rape” is still used as a punchline to the suggestion that their short skirt means they’re “asking for it” to men patronizing women as if they are inferior. Sprinkled among the more powerful posts are, unfortunately, misogynistic comments from some men who feel as if they can’t let this moment pass without making fun of a woman or belittling her or calling her fat or ugly. In my 45 years, I have not experienced anything violent, criminal, or morally questionable involving a man. Thank God. I have, however, been made to feel insignificant or unworthy or even just silly, by a man. A group of men in college once walked by me and a friend outside a party and commented that if I’d “just lose 10 pounds” maybe he’d give me a look. Another college boy who after agreeing to go to a dance with me changed his mind I guess and instead of telling me the truth, making up a ridiculous excuse that I could hear his buddies laughing about in the background as he broke the news to me over the phone. I recall another man I worked with saying to me “you’re funny, for a woman.” My sorority pitted us as freshman against pledges from other sororities to win the title of ‘Miss so-and-so” of different fraternities with the instruction that “this house likes blondes” or “those guys really like girls who have athletic bodies.” I have had salespeople suggest to me that an item “runs small” and “not to feel bad if it doesn’t fit.” I have heard whistles and catcalls and lewd comments said under men’s breath. I’ve been groped as I walked from one end of a crowded bar to another as a young college student. I gamely played along as male writers on the college comedy show I was a part of relegated me to the “ditzy girl” roles or bit parts because I couldn’t possible be as funny as the men. I still remember the sting as a prominent businessman in my hometown told me I wasn’t as skinny as he’d like but I guess I’d be an okay model for his ski wear. These events on their own and at the time didn’t necessarily move the needle too much but taken together they certainly show a pattern of people, primarily men, basing my value on my weight, my appearance, my blonde hair, my not being a man. That I am to be treated as an object to touch against my objection, to harass for their humor, to erode my confidence. The words YesAllWomen refers to the fact that all women have suffered a form of these indignities, with varying degrees of course, at some point in our lives. Fortunately my mother raised a smart girl who turned into a strong woman and I promptly filed these moments away in the “I don’t really care what you think” bin. That’s not to say I forgot them because obviously, as evidenced above, I have not. But I will not allow anyone, man or woman, to make me feel insignificant or inferior because I don’t weigh a certain amount or act a certain way or behave according to their set of standards. I work everyday to instill this in the young woman my husband and I are raising right now. And that brings me to my favorite of the #YesAllWomen posts that I retweeted tonight.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” #YesAllWomen

Banned words

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General Motors today released a list of words it forbids its employees to use when discussing the recent recall of millions of cars. Some favorites among them, and words which frankly I can’t imagine were being used to talk about car accidents in the corporate world anyway, include ‘deathtrap’ ‘widow-maker’ and ‘Kevorkian-esque.’ With this list in mind, I’ve come up with a list of words I’d like to see banned from news coverage.

BLAZE – It’s a fire. I would rather be repetitive and say fire 100 times than utter this word that no one in the history of conversations has ever used to talk about a fire.

RESIDENTS – They are people. Whether they live in a nursing home, a neighborhood, or under a bridge. They are people.

CLOSURE – Anyone who’s suffered a great loss knows there’s no such thing.

MAKESHIFT MEMORIAL – In addition to being the name of my uber-cool fictional news crew band, it is beyond a cliche at this point. I don’t care if it’s one teddy bear or acres of flowers, it’s just a memorial to someone or some event.

ROADWAYS – They are roads.

MOTORISTS – They are drivers.

DEATH TOLL – This many people are now dead.

ALLEGEDLY – Attribute what you need to say to a source. This word doesn’t protect you and it bogs down a sentence.

LISTEN UP – It’s rude.

YOU’LL BE SHOCKED TO SEE/LEARN/KNOW – It’s presumptious. How do I know what may shock someone.

YOUNG CHILD – Children are young. Use their age if you need to be specific.

FOUR MONTH OLD BABY – As opposed to? Use their sex if you need a qualifier or just write a four month old.

AREA MAN/WOMAN – This one is so overused the online satirical news magazine “The Onion” sells t-shirts reading AREA MAN or AREA WOMAN. Say where they’re from. Better yet, say it how you’d tell a friend, “She’s from here.”

DREAM/NIGHTMARE – The cliche to end them all. Can we please come up with a more creative way to describe something going from good to bad? And don’t ever call something a “parent’s worst nightmare.” I have several, thank you.

THE WHITE STUFF – It’s snow. (see: BLAZE)

HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Really? It’s the airport.

TRAGIC/TRAGEDY- If not banned, the use of these words needs to be scaled back. Everything is not a tragedy nor every accident tragic. Let’s reserve use of these big boys for events that are unparalelled, say 9-11.

Feels good to get that off my chest, and out of my scripts.

Finding the fakes

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I don’t remember exactly when I started to love high end purses. My dear husband bought me my first, a black suede Prada with an incredibly cool hook style clasp. He has also bought me all of my subsequent expensive bags with the exception of one we got together while vacationing in Rome. I have bags designed by by Prada, Michael Kors, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, and Valentino. I know this because of the iconic branding on the purses, the card of authenticity in the inner pocket, the logo’d dust bag it came in, and the fact they were all bought either at the actual store bearing the designer’s name or at a reputable dealer, such as Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s. That last requirement is the one that matters most as I’ve come to find out in a special report of mine airing tonight on counterfeit goods. Purses are the most counterfeited items in the world. Shoes, clothing, and other accesories, men’s too, are a close second. Every designer brand is a target but the ones that show up most often are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, and Nike. And good counterfeiters will copy it all; logo, authenticity card, dust bag, everything, so they can get your money. Most purses and shoes have a date and country code showing when it was made and where. Reputable dealers will know how to spot a fake code immediately. That may be harder for you and I but we can learn to pay attention to the other details that will tip you off that your Gucci is a “gotcha!” First, fakes will usually have plastic around the handles. Real designer bags will not. Look for sloppy or inconsistent lettering on the logo. Did you know the letter O in Louis Vuitton is a perfect circle, not an oval? Or that the left side of the M on Jimmy Choo is slimmer than the right? Also, how does the bag feel, look, even smell? A $1000 – $5000 leather purse is going to smell wonderful, feel buttery soft and the hardware on the handles, zipper, and pockets will be impeccable. You can use the same checklist on designer shoes. The iconic red sole of a Christian Louboutin will round off perfectly into the leather of the shoe, will be shiny and have a crisp imprinted logo with the country of origin below it. The list works for menswear and luggage. Zippers that don’t line up, a Louis Vuitton duffel bag with Italy as country of origin (it should always read France). Always make sure to buy designer items from the actual designer’s store or an authorized dealer. Chanel being sold on the street corner should be a big red flag. Louboutins in a box in someone’s trunk, probably not legit. When it comes to spotting counterfeits, trust your gut, know the tip offs, and protect your money. And then enjoy your purchase. Because a real designer item will last you a lifetime.

Valentino

My all time favorite purse hubs and I got in Italy at Valentino. The suede on mine is worn, there are now pen marks inside, and the large bow makes the clasp completely impractical, but I LOVE carrying it. It’s beautiful, never fails to get a compliment, and as a bonus, reminds me of our wonderful trip to Rome and Florence.

To my daughter on Mother’s Day

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When our only child does something crazy my husband turns to me and says “What have you birthed?” It never fails to make me, and her, laugh. The answer to this depends on what she’s done because she has bits of our personalities within hers. She shows mannerisms and traits not just of me and her dad but of both of our families. I realize all of us do and that we are equal parts nature and nurture. On car trips or in our bed on Sunday mornings the three of us have been known to play the “What do you get from Dad?” “Who do you look like?” “What traits do you share with Mom?” game. She is all of us and yet, still her own person and a wonderful one at that. So, on this occasion of celebrating mothers I want to give thanks for my daughter who posesses the best of all who have come before her.

My sweet Lucy, you have:

The big heart of Grandpa Ray.

The wit of Nana Nancy.

The brains of Papa Bill.

Lucy, you love cooking and food – like your Uncle Joel.

You are compassionate like Nana Kris.

Protective of those you love like Papa Dick.

Sensitive to others like Aunt Bonnie.

And playful like Uncle Terry.

My sweetie, you are fiercely loyal like your namesake Mama Cille.

And reflective like Uncle Bob.

All the things about your Dad that made be fall in love with him, reside in you. Wicked sense of humor, intelligence, gentle, honest, a love of animals, even that stubborn streak.

As for me, the woman lucky enough to have “birthed you” – I swell with pride whenever anyone says “Lucy looks just like you.”

For you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

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I’m thankful every day I’m your mother.

Time to ditch the dinner

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I think journalists should be in the field or behind the news desk, not on the red carpet. There, I said it. I do not understand the fascination with the White House Correspondent’s Dinner held in Washington every spring. If you are not familiar with this event, consider yourself among the millions who could care less, no, seriously it is a dinner/”open mic” night with tables full of politicans, news people and execs, and celebrities. A host, typically a comedian, roasts the President of the United States and everyone in the room. The unfortunate target this year was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his weight. Really? Predictable and offensive. Then, the President proceeds to tell jokes, clearly written for him, skewering all the big news outlets, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, et al. I have a sense of humor. I appreciate people, even the President, who don’t take themselves too seriously. But how has a dinner I assume originated as a way to bring journalists who report from the White House together so they can swap stories with politicos they cover to a Kardashian-filled, borderline offensive, news personality-as-celebrity ego stroke? Former NBC Nightly News anchor and one time White House correspondent himself Tom Brokaw said it best “What kind of image do we present to the rest of the country? Are we doing their business, or are we just a group of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles?” Maybe it’s time to scale this one back to a non-televised small dinner that leaves Lindsay Lohan off the guest list. Network news people should not be elevated to movie stardom. They are recognizable, they are often attractive and charismatic, they are paid well. But they are charged with covering the very people sitting to their left and right, of maintaining a balance between serving the public and it’s need to know and serving that always hungry beast, ratings. I’ve written on here about my discomfort of actors, particularly those portraying news people, showing up on newscasts in character to essentially mock our line of work or of news people appearing in movies as news people. I’m sure there are enough starving young actors who would jump at the role of news anchor or reporter in order to put food on the table.

Being on television or being pointed out at the local mall does not make you Lupita Nyong’o. As journalists we have a responsibility to those who pay the bills to make sure we remember that when the cameras are rolling.