CBS46

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I will fully admit my station has an identity crisis. And has since I walked in the door in March, 2003. It will find it’s footing for two, maybe three years, and then it will trip over itself. The problem lies not with its people or the talent of them. It lies not with the managers, each has worked to provide an identity, only to have it changed by the next one. Change, as you’ve heard me talk about many times here, is as much a part of broadcasting as working microphones. But too much change in too short a time span can make for confusing viewing. When I was a kid, there were 3 stations. You knew what your TV news options were and they had a STRONG brand, look, mission statement. As I aged and cable entered our lives we were for the first time presented with choices. Choice, in some instances, will make an existing brand stronger. In others however, it creates the need to reinvent to grab the viewer’s attention. The CBS station I have spent half of my career at now is the Madonna of stations. Reinvention is our brand. Each incarnation of the brand has been good. Some better than others but most were solid. Their lack of success was not for a lack of quality, but committment. In the constantly changing landscape of television news, you cannot expect something to gain traction in a few years. People have countless things vying for their attention every time they turn on the set. Hundreds upon hundreds of channels, a barrage of images, a myriad of noises, so much to process. It’s any wonder anything can cut through it. A brand must be a brand for a looooong time for most people to even begin to recognize it, let alone indentify with it. This brings me to our latest and in my opinion best brand yet. After being Clear News, Atlanta’s News Channel, CBS 46, & CBS Atlanta, we are returning to our roots and becoming once again CBS46 on Tuesday. We have a beautiful new set with a breathtaking view of Atlanta behind the news desk displayed on what has to be one of the largest monitors on air at any local TV station. There is a really cool weather center that’s not only fully functional for forecasting and making graphics but fun for the meteorologists to use. There is a kitchen area, interview set, morning set, and several in studio locations boasting large monitors and tables. It is the nicest studio I’ve not only ever worked in but ever seen. Our focus as a station is on money – protecting, saving, helping spend wisely – so our viewers can grow to trust us in this uncertain economy. Our mission is “Working for a Better Atlanta.” We have streamlined our image, hired energetic new talent and re-positioned our exisiting newsroom leaders. We have fine tuned our purpose to focus on what’s happening right now. May sound like a ‘no duh, isn’t that what news is’ but you’d be surprised how easy it is to drift from that simple philosophy. Having seen and survived 11 years of changes here, I was skeptical of this latest round, frankly, I didn’t know if I had another one in me and I allowed the failure of the previous tries to creep into my conciousness. But here we are. Weeks after cramming into a tiny, hot temporary studio (which was something to behold after 24 hours of solid weather coverage), night after night of skipping dinner to rehearse in our new digs, emails, meetings, hours of lighting and image consulting, and its time to do what we’ve always done in the reliable way we’ve always done it, just with this new look. I like what I see. I hope you will too.

Anchor desk
newstudio

Weather Center
weathercenter

My view
cameras

Atlanta seen in one of the many smaller monitors in studio
skyline10

Super monitor behind anchor desk
megamonitor

Our new live trucks
live truck

Round 2

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It’s saying something that the most extensive winter weather coverage I’ve ever done has been during my years living in a southern state. Here in Atlanta we are on the tail end of our second winter storm in two weeks. The first, you’ll remember, involved an eight hour commute into work, two hours of sleep on the floor of my cubcicle, and national attention for having made a list of the worst traffic jams in world history. This one, 20 hours of continuous coverage, two nights in a downtown hotel that may have been new during the Olympics in ’96, and more processed food eaten while anchoring than can possibly be healthy. Throw in an ice storm in 2011, historic flooding after days of rain in 2009, and a tornado that struck downtown Atlanta in 2008 and well, you may understand why when our meteorologists say “this storm will be catastropic” you pay attention. It was not a catastrophe. It was a massive and unfortunately deadly storm. As I type this, hundreds of thousands remain without power, the temperatures are dropping, freezing slush and melted snow on our roads, and Atlantans are suffering from winter fatigue. I feel you. As I was leaving my home Tuesday morning (because I’ll be damned if I was going to get caught in traffic for half a day again!) my daughter was bemoaning the fact that I would be away for a few days covering the storm. Her father, who has weathered all of these events right along with me, said ‘This is when your mom is needed most. This is her job to keep people safe and informed.’ And our viewers agree, for the most part. There are always a few who have heard and seen enough and want their soap opera back on or those who cuss me out because they don’t think school should be cancelled or businesses closed and my favorite complaint this go ’round which was a man who didn’t like my professional, sensible navy blue Ralph Lauren dress I wore yesterday because I “wasn’t dressed appropriately for the weather.” I gently reminded him I was working indoors and thanked him for watching. The point is you cannot possibly please everyone. But I can, and must, inform them. This one was big. It had snow, then freezing rain, then snow, then high winds. The Governor and Mayor of Atlanta reacted swiftly and efficiently this time. Schools were closed, roads were sanded, warnings were issued. The good people of this city stayed home, turned on their sets, and asked me to reassure them. I did my best. Although there is one request I can’t fulfill – “Stephany, we love your station and what you’re doing to help us through this. Can you start spring already?”

No, but I can promise you we’ll get there together.

View from my hotel of a deserted downtown connector in Atlanta
snow city

On set with Tracye during our coverage
me and tracye

Our chief meteorologist shows what’s coming
Markina

Ready for the long haul
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Progress on day 3
progress

Storm stories

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Some interesting reading from the interwebs on this week’s snowstorm and gridlock in Atlanta.

traffic

A dubious honor indeed

http://www.politico.com/magazine/gallery/2014/01/the-10-worst-traffic-jams-ever/001595-022777.html

A primer on how we got into this mess

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/atlanta-snow-storm-102839.html

My favorite storm story

http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/24591831/dad-walks-6-miles-to-reunite-with-daughter-stranded-at-school

A big thanks from our station to the good people of our city

http://www.cbsatlanta.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9789869

Have a warm, restful weekend.

The imperfect storm

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Imagine 5 million or so people deciding to get in their cars and head home at exactly the same time. Now add an inch or two of wet snow and temperatures in the teens. It happened today in Atlanta. I left my home 30 miles north of the city at Noon to get into the station and begin our winter weather coverage. I arrived at 8 at night. I have lived in this notoriously lousy traffic city for 11 years now and this is the worst traffic I have ever seen. The definition of gridlock. I ran the full gamut of emotions behind the wheel from panic over being late to work to what in this car can I pee in? As I sit here at my desk after being awake for nearly 24 hours I am astounded that some drivers who were with me on the icy interstates are STILL THERE. Among them, buses of children released from the schools when the flakes starting falling. Elementary school kids on a bus with no food, water, toilet, or cell phone with which to call mom and dad for 12 or more hours. I fielded more than a few calls from terrified parents. School districts in Metro Atlanta should not have had classes today. The city of Atlanta, the entire state of Georgia really, should not have been caught off guard again. We have been talking about this storm since Sunday night. And since I’ve lived in the state we have seen several snow and ice events so I think it’s time we stop acting like Georgia doesn’t get this type of weather. Bottom line, we do. Invest in proper road equipment, have a solid plan, and stop throwing your hands up and blaming local weather people when the city grinds to a halt. With all the technology we have at our disposal, with all the different ways to communicate with each other, with the tax money we all pay, it is inexcusable that the city in which we live can’t adequately anticipate a major weather event and help it’s people through it.

gridlock

Lessons learned in 45 years

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Tuesday is my 45th birthday. I’ve done much in those years and much of nothing at all, too. I have learned a few things though, at least when it came to my life.

Nothing is more important than your health. If that goes, the rest soon follows.

So much can be accomplished with kindness and compromise. That more people don’t realize this astounds me almost daily.

People remember how you make them feel. And we all want to feel good.

Make yourself invaluable at work. There is always someone younger, better, and willing to work cheaper.

Choosing the right partner in life is the most important decision you will make.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s green where you water it. Tend to the people and things in your life constantly and with care.

Laugh at yourself and situations often. Never trust a person without a sense of humor.

Read. For pleasure. For knowledge.

There will always be those who have more than us. There will be those who have less. Don’t envy the former or pity the latter.

Give your children your time. You don’t have to be super parent. Just be present.

Tell those you love that you love them. Leave no doubt.

Organize. Simplify. There is freedom in traveling light.

Know that relationships evolve. Not every person is meant to be in our lives forever.

Always look like you know what you’re doing. Few will question if you do.

There isn’t much a wagging tail and wet nose kiss can’t fix.

Respect other’s beliefs, customs, ideas, time and they will respect yours.

Know it all. But don’t act like one.

If it tastes good, eat it. If it catches your eye, buy it. If it makes you feel, do it. What if you don’t get that chance again?

Regret is an understandable feeling, but useless. Like we say after a bad newscast, “It’s on its way to Jupiter now. Let it go.”

Appreciate the everyday things for those are what combine to make up your entire life.

To the next 45….

The Globes

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Take aways from my favorite awards show last night – The Golden Globes.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler rock. They are beautiful, smart and so funny. Way to go ladies on striking a balance between poking fun at the Hollywood elite, making your audience laugh, and not offending.

amy and tina

Don’t these people realize there is at least A CHANCE they may win. Seems like every other person who won went on and on about how they didn’t expect to win so they hadn’t prepared anything and wow, they were surprised. C’mon, you didn’t think of one thing you might say? You are a professional entertainer, wing it.

winners

They seriously need to make it easier for winners to get to the stage. Even those in the ‘bigger stars’ seating close to the stage had difficulty. Clear a path, people.

The orchestra had an itchy trigger finger. They let Jaqueline Bisset ramble but tried to play off Amy Adams. Some people had just gotten a few words out and the music starting swelling.

The men’s hairdos were more elaborate than the women’s. Jared Leto does a better messy bun than I do.

leto

Fashion was eh. With the notable exception of Lupita Nyong’o who was stunning in Ralph Lauren.

Lupita

Now I’ve got some movies to see before the Oscars..

To Bonnie and Tiffany

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I come from a small family. For all intents and purposes I grew up an only child, my brother coming along when I was 15. My mother is an only child. My father and his parents have died. If I’m being honest, the dogs outnumber the humans when my family gets together. As the mother of an only child our home is not typically filled with lots of children. Ours is not the house where the neighborhood comes to play. This is not to paint an unflattering picture of our home or my upbringing. Both were and are warm, filled with love, stable. This is, however, to illustrate how I have become more of a solitary person. I’m content to be alone with a book, empty rooms, my thoughts. This Christmas I stepped outside of that comfort zone to host my husband’s entire family. His parents, uncle, brother and his wife and daughter, and sister and her two daughters. People I have known for a long time now, people I dearly love and consider of course to be my family as well. And while my mother-in-law makes sheltering and feeding and gifting this many people look easy on the years we travel to her home in Spokane, I can assure you it is not. The hubby, daughter, and I began preparing for everyone’s visit months in advance. Menus were planned, beds were bought, rooms re-purposed, garland hung, gifts ordered, dogs groomed, nothing left undone. And wouldn’t you know it, LIFE, decided to intervene. I will not get into the specifics of the curve ball we were thrown, just suffice it to say it was serious enough to turn letters to Santa into pleas for a family member’s recovery and jolt this serial organizer right out of her rigid ways. It simply didn’t go as planned. I had to work through much of the visit, leaving every afternoon and returning only after everyone was in bed. Everyone but 2. My sisters-in-law. They would wait up, physically and emotionally exhausted, to fill me in on the day, share a laugh, enjoy a nightcap. They cooked and cleaned and baked and handled things and let dogs out and soothed hurt teenage feelings and changed people’s itineraries and set up appointments that became necessary and still had gifts under the tree for all of us, thoughtful, and in some cases, homemade, personal gifts. They helped me immeasurably. I’ve known one of them half my life. Met my husband’s sister in college, a next door neighbor and fellow sorority President. Months may pass between our conversations but we always pick right up and care deeply for one another and each other’s children. The other is my husband’s brother’s wife. Young, quick to laugh, generous, and patient mother to a special needs little girl. I’m not as patient as these women, I’m not as skilled in the kitchen as these women, I’m not as understanding as these women. I want them both to know how much I appreciate them, cherish them, and love them for helping me and our entire family through a difficult time. For making the best of every situation. For standing in my kitchen in the middle of the night, eating Rice Krispies treats and sipping Drambuie, making my house feel full of life and family. For catching that damn curve ball that was thrown this Christmas.

cousins

All of our angels in their Christmas Eve pj’s – Bonnie’s daughters, Courtney and Syrah on either side of Lucy and Tiffany’s daughter Jordyn in front