Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Whoopie Pies

I've seen whoopie pies gaining popularity and I've been dying to try them.  I finally found a recipe for peanut butter banana whoopie pies that I couldn't wait to try.

Banana Whoopie Pie 
adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup sour cream, room temp.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temp.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350 F.

Mix the banana and sour cream together in one bowl (I used a big measuring cup).  Combine the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt in another container.  Whip the butter and both sugars together until light and creamy.  Then add egg and vanilla extract.  When it's well incorporated, alternately mix in the dry ingredients and the banana mixture, ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix only until it's together.

Put the batter in a pastry bag and pipe it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in 1 1/4" circles.  Try to make them even.  Bake 9 - 12 minutes, until the ends are golden brown.  Take them out, transfer to cooling rack, and put more in the oven!

**The one thing I'd change in this part is more banana!  I think that flavor can get overpowered by the peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling
adapted from same site as pies

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temp.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup smooth peanut butter

Whip it all together until smooth!  Put it in the pastry bag and generously pipe onto the flat side of one of the pie circles.  Leave some space on the edge so when you squeeze the second pie on top, the frosting doesn't flow over the edges.  Squeeze on the second pie!  Makes about 40 whoopie pies.

Try not to each all the frosting before you get the whoopie pies together!  I'm using my extra filling as a dip for Oreos! Hmmmm... my favorite snack!

Key Lime Pie

Last weekend's experiment? Key Lime Pie! I've only had it once before so it was kind of a gamble!  I found Emeril's recipe and used it as a base.
Best idea of the day
 The recipe calls for 1 cup of key lime juice.  I started squeezing the first one and the pulp and seeds kept popping into the juice.  Putting a mesh strainer over the measuring cup turned into my best idea of the day!  By the time I was done, I had a large collection of seeds that I didn't have to fish out - which saved me time too!

When I was done with the pie and it had cooled, I topped it with a sour cream and confectioner's sugar frosting.  The sweetness of that paired well with the tart pie.  Next time, I'll probably make the frosting sweeter.  Using a spoon to spread the frosting around gave me control and put a nice pattern on top (not shown very well in this photo)!

It disappeared well at work the next day!

Question of the day: How many key limes did it take to get 1 cup of juice?
Answer: 33

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pearl Farmer's Market

My farmer's market purchases
I took my first trip to the Pearl Farmer's Market this past weekend - and I'll go back many times.  I love farmer's markets because it's local and fresh produce.  Also, it's usually cheaper than the grocery store!

Here's what I picked up on Saturday:
Loaf of bread: $4
Basil plant: $4
Peach jam: $5
3 Roma tomatoes: $1
16 Peaches: $2
2 zucchinis, 1 squash: $1
Eggplant: $2
2 Peppers: $1
Total: $20

Vendors I Visited: Oak Hill Farm, Sol y Luna Baking Company, Marrs Gardens, Braune Farms, and HGD Foods.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Heresy by S.J. Parris

I don't read many thriller or mystery books but I really enjoyed Heresy, by S.J. Parris.

The Italian Inquisition is after Dr. Bruno, a monk, for reading a banned book but he escapes to France.  When there, he gains the favor of the French Court and the king sends him to England, where most of the story takes place.  Bruno gets drafted as a spy into the service of the English court.  His personal quest to find a book thought to be lost leads him to Oxford, where the English court wants him to discover hidden papists.  It's in Oxford that Dr. Bruno takes on a third title, detective, to solve a few murders.

Just when you think you've got the plot figured out, a wrench is thrown into your imagined plan and you have to keep turning the pages to create a new plan.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hidden Tomato Smoothie

Fresh strawberries and cantaloupe were super cheap at the grocery store tonight so I thought I'd make a super fruity smoothie!  I already had blackberries, oranges and peach yogurt at home.  I made a meatball-stuffed tomato for dinner so I had the insides of the tomato too.  I hadn't ever put a tomato in a smoothie but thought I'd give it a try!  It turns out you can't even taste the tomato - hence the name!  Someone who doesn't like tomatoes could drink this, have no idea tomatoes are in it but still get the vitamins from the fruit!

Look at the color of this smoothie!
Here's what I had in my smoothie:

1 peach yogurt
1 orange
1 big handful of blackberries
4 strawberries
splash of orange juice
1/2 cantaloupe
1 tomato (whole or the insides)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of honey

Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe or ingredient combo?  I'd love to know what it is!  Smoothies are one of my favorite parts about summer!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Millennials Celebrated

September 11, 2001.  I was in Mrs. Kiser's 7th grade English class when I found out what terrorists and the Twin Towers were and that the Towers had fallen.  And, I was 12 years old.  Osama Bin Laden instantly became "The Bad Guy."  Soon after, Saddam Hussein was "The Other Bad Guy."

Jump forward to May 1, 2011.  My classmates and I have grown up with two wars, the death of The Other Bad Guy, and the ongoing search for The Bad Guy.  We learned about our grandparents' bad guys (The Axis Powers) in history books.  We heard about our parents' bad guys (Cuba, USSR and Communism) from their stories (and the occasional textbook).  Our grandparents had big celebrations on VE Day and VJ Day.  Our parents celebrated the fall of the Iron Curtain.  When word came that Bin Laden was killed, my generation celebrated because now The Bad Guy had joined The Other Bad Guy.  We know the wars aren't over, but this is a major victory, for our country, for our military, and for the world.  America's big-name enemies from our lifetime have been defeated, giving us a reason to celebrate.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Future: Decided!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be joining the KENS 5 news team in San Antonio in June!  I visited the station earlier this week and accepted the 6 p.m. producer position on Friday!  I'm looking forward to heading back to Texas and getting to know the San Antonio area and audience!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Convenience of the Kindle

Santa brought me a Kindle for Christmas and I've been reading on it since then.  I didn't realize how spoiled it made me until I started to read Cutting for Stone, which is thick in paperback.  It's nice to go back to a real book, but at the same time, it's bulkier and heavier than the Kindle.  And I didn't realize how much I had come to rely on the instant dictionary!  I found myself wanting to know what a word meant and looking for the arrow to navigate to the word for the dictionary.  But, I had to pull the word up on my iPhone dictionary app and wait for it to load.  It took so much time compared to the Kindle dictionary that I eventually gave up and used context clues to find the definition.  To say the least, I'll be sticking with the Kindle for a long time!

That spontaneous roadtrip I mentioned?  It happened!  Three of my puppy-crazed friends and I headed to Texas and spent the weekend playing with Cowboy (the puppy's name).  I'm sure that puppy was always being held or being pet!  We also lucked out and had beautiful weather so we played on the lake too! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Google A Day

Have you played agoogleaday?  It's Google's new interactive trivia game released this week.  The question gives a few sentences that serve as clues.  The player uses the first sentence's clues as Google Search keywords and explores the links to find the answers.  Each answer helps figure out the next sentence's search words, until the player finds the answer to the entire trivia question.  I think this is a fun way to learn random facts.  The first one I tried was about Robert and Rohan and their musician father.  In the end, I learned that Bob Marley had a ton of kids.  The creators are smart because they include links to let people share the question on Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, and email and to follow the question on Facebook and Twitter.  This allows them to stay in contact with the users who might forget to keep playing after their first try.

But, this game leaves me with questions about Google's motives.  Are they trying to increase their site hits or is it a way for them to interact with users?  Will they eventually give in to the pull of more profit and let the trivia question be sponsored (publicly or secretly) so that the answer ends up promoting a product, company, event, or person?  I'm sure that over time Google's motives will become clear and only time will tell if this becomes a popular game or not.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fulfilling Week

This week, I gave myself the goal to keep the live recap in my 5 p.m. show.  In the past, my reporter either forgot to write it or the show got heavy enough to drop it, so I've never had the live recap in my 5 p.m. show.  I was determined to keep it!  I went into my show 27 seconds light, and dropped only four items.  I was so excited when I finished the show with the live recap that I was shaking when I walked out of the control room!

Tuesday's 10 p.m. show was the first election coverage I'd ever produced.  I was nervous at the beginning of my shift because I wasn't sure how our station planned on covering it (special reporters or graphics, etc).  As the day went on, I worked with my executive producer and we figured out how we were going to get the election coverage into the show.  What you don't see when you watch the show is all the manpower that was in the newsroom.  We had a team of people calling cities in the surrounding areas for the outcome or progress of their elections and the news director and another girl putting the graphics together. So much effort went into making our election coverage great.

A new addition was added to my family today.  Meet Cowboy Boots (he'll go by Cowboy).  He's an 8 week old yellow Labrador Retriever.  I haven't even met this puppy yet, but thanks to technology I feel like I'm getting to know him.  My dad and brother have been sending me pictures and videos all afternoon - but it still doesn't fill my desire to hold and pet this puppy!  Maybe a spontaneous roadtrip is in place?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quest for the Best

I'm constantly looking for the best tasting pain au chocolat - or chocolate croissants!  Every time I see one, I can't resist getting one - it doesn't matter if I'm not hungry, in an airport, or in a rush.  The best ones I've had by far have been from Europe.  But, over spring break in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, those European croissants got a run for their money.  A local bakery, Chocolate Soup, makes a chocolate croissant that's light but chewy.  The flavors were well-balanced between butter and chocolate.  Don't they just look beautiful too?  I was sad to find this treat on the last day, otherwise I would have been there every morning before hitting the slopes.  Leave a comment if you have a recommendation for other chocolate croissants I should try!

Overall, it was a good senior year spring break spent skiing and road tripping across the Midwest.  Along the way, I added 4 states (Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa) to my list of visited U.S. states, giving me a grand total of 30!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

8 Goes Green, Trendsmap and O&CO

On the journalism side of life

 This week, my classmate Nan Wu and I worked on a blogpost for KOMU's 8 Goes Green project.   It aims to be "a guide for greening up."  With Spring arriving, our post was about keeping lawn products, like fertilizers and pesticides, out of our local watershed.  We also provided an alternative to chemicals - composting - and how to learn to make it.

One cool site to watch this week has been Trendsmap.  It provides a real-time look at the most used words and hashtags on Twitter around the world.  If you spend some time on the website, you can watch the words and hashtags grow/shrink and move around on the map.  Clicking on the links allows you see the tweets that mention the word or hashtag you clicked on.  I watched the word "anderson" - as in Mizzou's old men's head basketball coach and Arkansas's new head coach - move from being over the mid-Missouri area to being above Fayetteville, Ark., thanks to his decision to switch teams.

I also think it's interesting to look at where on the world map there's blank spots.  The three most prominent spots - besides Antarctica - are Eastern Africa, most of the Asian continent including Russia, China and Mongolia, and Northwestern Australia.  I believe it says something about how that area has adapted to technology, which says something about the economy.  But, I don't believe China fits into that assumption.  We know they use technology profusely and that the Chinese government tends to restrict access to certain internet sites.  The last reports I've seen show that China has blocked Twitter, which is reflected on the Trendsmap.

On the personal side of life

Last weekend, my family and I visited New York City.  We took a food tour of Greenwich Village with Foods of New York.  We visited a variety of places including a pizza joint, cheese shop, bakery, and Cuban restaurant.  My favorite spot was OLIVIERS & CO., better known as O&CO.  Their main product is olive oil made with hand-picked olives grown by family farmers mostly in the Mediterranean.  The olives are cold-pressed to keep their rich flavor, not hot-pressed like industrial growers.  We tasted basil olive oil on a toasted baguette slice with sea salt and I knew I had to have some for my own kitchen!

It had a rich olive flavor with the light, crispness of basil.  My bottle arrived Thursday and my Friday afternoon snack was exactly what we had in NYC.  I can't wait to try it on pasta and see how else I can work it into my cooking!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The World's Focus

We are trained as journalists to write and present information in a way that everyone can understand.  We don't cater to a specific industry so we don't write in lingo.  But with some stories, lingo is the only way to go.

I believe that the nuclear crisis in Japan is an example of when lingo is the language that works.  There's no way to explain in layman's terms what it means for a nuclear reactor that creates energy to melt down.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the time to explain the unfamiliar terminology.  Present it as a sidebar, web extra, or graphic, like the New York Times did below.

Although the world has become increasingly concerned with the nuclear reactor meltdowns in Japan, most people outside of the nuclear science community don't understand what that means.  This interactive graphic goes through the process of a meltdown step by step, with an explanation at each turn.  This is important so that viewers understand the significance and global impact of a nuclear meltdown.  A little extra time makes the world of difference to viewers.  This should be a lesson to journalists when they find themselves talking in lingo - explain it.

A week ago, the biggest news story was the revolution in Libya.  Since last Friday, this critical story has been eclipsed by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.  But that doesn't mean Libya isn't a big story with global impact.  It shouldn't be placed in the backseat, because it, too, affects many people around the world.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Computer Assisted Reporting

Excel: Pivot Tables.
Access: SQL.
You name it, I got it.

"It" being the tools to do investigative journalism.  I finished my Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) course today and my journalism toolbox is expanded.

In this course, I learned how to analyze data in Excel.  This includes cleaning the data, using Pivot Tables, and sorting it.  Then I took those skills and applied them to using Microsoft Access as a database management system.  

 In Access, I learned how to write SQL, compare databases to find matching data, and clean data using queries (trust me, it's very different than cleaning data in Excel).  Part of my coursework involved placing an open records request, which was a new and interesting experience.  I did not end up getting the data from the City of Columbia because they wanted $365 for it.  I now know how to place a request so next time it won't be so intimidating (the City doesn't bite... they just charge).

I really enjoyed learning these skills and will be on the lookout for a story where I'll be able to do some CAR!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ridin' Solo and a Break from the Norm

On the journalism side of life:
This week, I produced my shows totally on my own!  The way we learn producing at the Missouri School of Journalism is by taking the Advanced Producing class.  A person who has already taken that class is our TA.  Over the course of 6-7 weeks, the TA goes from producing most of the show to giving the student producer all the responsibility for the show.  Last week, my TA only stepped in at the end when I didn't have no-live scripts written for my live-shot and I was busy with other things.  This week, my TA didn't show up for any of my shows and I'm proud to say the shows went off without a hitch!  Yesterday, I produced the 5 p.m. show and another student did the 6 p.m.  We chose this as the song of the day: "Ridin' Solo".

On the personal side of life:

Last week my mom had a big birthday and she didn't want a party.  Well, we didn't listen.  Dad and I planned a surprise party back in Dallas.  I flew in from Mizzou, my uncle came from Chicago, and my little brother Casey (well, he's not so little) drove up from Texas A&M.  We gathered at Fearing's Restaurant  downtown with some close family friends,  my brother Kevin and my aunt and uncle and yelled a loud 'SURPRISE' when she walked in.  And we all won the big bet: she started crying as soon as she realized what was going on!  It was the perfect surprise and for how sneaky she is, Mom didn't know a thing about it!

I love to cook and bake, but with my schedule, I don't get to do it that often.  But last weekend, when I returned home from my Texas trip, I made time to try a new recipe.  I'd never tried to make fortune cookies before but I found a recipe from Martha Stewart on a link the Cooking Channel tweeted that looked doable.

This is what they looked like in the oven.  The recipe says they're meant to be large fortune cookies, and they spread out even further and thinner in the oven.  You can only bake a few at a time, because when you pull them out of the oven, you have to shape them quickly before they harden!

When they're done, the edges might look burnt, but they're not.  The cookie has a sweet almond flavor that's not overpowering with a satisfying crunch.  They looked nice (while they lasted) and would be great for a party!

Cooking and baking, especially baking, is a stress-reliever for me, but bad for my waist-line.  So I've decided to work out (which my friends know is a big deal for me) a couple times a week, and reward myself with time to bake.  So far this semester it's worked... we'll see if I keep it up.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beluga Review

I've been hearing whispering about Beluga - a new application for phones and on the Internet that's similar to Twitter but lets the user only send the message to a specific group of people, called a "pod."  I decided to give it a try.

Six of my sorority sisters and I text constantly.  And we always send the messages to the other six.  When the iPhones could do group messaging, I got that set up.  But only five of us had AT&T iPhones, so we couldn't see the sassy responses from the two non-iPhoners.  Then one got the Verizon iPhone, which surprisingly and frustratingly doesn't connect with AT&T group messaging!  And the last dumb-phoner is getting an Android next month so we definitely wouldn't be able to see her messages.  My solution: a trial run of Beluga.

Beluga has an application that works on all smart phone platforms and the Internet.  I set up our pod and invited the girls.  By that afternoon, we had everyone on Beluga and we were seeing everyone's messages!  Here's how Beluga works on an iPhone::

On the homepage, the user can see all the pods they're in and people they might know.  It's possible to change the pod's image, which we've changed to a sorority symbol.  When some of the girls were trying to change their profile image, they ended up changing the pod image.  It was a quick fix and funny after more than one girl made that mistake!  Also, the pod can be named.  Yes, my pod's name looks funny, but it's all of our first initials and I wasn't feeling creative when I made it!

When the user selects their pod, this is what shows up.  The name of the pod is at the top and the comments are listed with the most recent one first.  This is an example of the chat and what it looks like when someone's added to the pod.

To send a message, the user taps where it says, "Send a message."  The user then has the option to turn on their geolocator, attach a photo, or just send text.  When the geolocator is used, an extra icon shows up next to the time stamp (exampled above in my messages).  Tapping on that links to a Google map with the location the person was when they sent the message.

It's possible to set up a push notification with Beluga.  I have it set so that it shows up like a text message (above) but doesn't buzz or make a sound.  It's the only push notification I have on my phone so I always see it.  I also like that it tells me which pod the message is from because I have a feeling I'll be in more pods soon!  My friend has push notifications for almost every app under the sun so sometimes she misses that there's a new message.  But, the app shows up with the red circled #1 that indicates there a message - even if there's 8 messages!
There's another feature of Beluga that I haven't tested yet.  It's an event planner within a pod, and I'm looking forward to using it soon!

 The website is just as easy as the app to use.  Nothing difficult to decode here and it lets your dumb-phone friends join in on the conversation!  It's sending my friend who still has a dumb phone text messages and letting her text back in response.

Potential Use in the Newsroom
I see two uses for this in the newsroom: intra-newsroom communications and community communications.  Beluga would be helpful for intra-newsroom communication during breaking news because everyone who was working on the story could see the information at the same time, instead of having to relay it.  It could also be used for teams, like the investigative team, to brainstorm stories or new leads to follow when they aren't able to get together for a meeting.  As with breaking news, it could keep the team in the loop during an investigation.

A community pod would be an interesting way to converse with your viewers.  Creating pods for weather spotters or other topics that create conversation within the community would be helpful in gathering information and photos from all over the viewing area.  It would still allow the newsroom to guide the conversation while the community talks within itself.

Overall, this app is working better than I expected it to.  It's solved a problem for me and actually increased my communications with my friends.  And it's worked well on every phone!  I plan to continuing using this and possibly joining or creating more pods - even within the newsroom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Generational Differences

Last fall, I got a text message from my dad asking, "What do you consider the end of the day?"

"11:59:59,"I typed back.

"Ha! That's what the speaker said you'd say!"

Nancy Barry was speaking to my dad's company, explaining to them differences between their generation and mine and how they should be prepared to deal with new hires out of college. My dad's company was using me as a guinea pig to see if she was right - apparently I proved her point, which was that my generation considers the end of the day to literally be the end of the day due to the current digital world. My dad was so impressed with her that he bought a signed copy of her book for me: When Reality Hits: What Employers Want Recent College Graduates to Know. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting in my stocking at Christmas - I'm not one for reading self-help books in my spare time, I prefer historical fiction or chick literature (proven by the list of books on my Kindle) - but I feel like I'm getting something from reading her book.

One of her main points is that someone right out of college looking for a job needs more than a good resume. She insists that "soft skills" will help set you apart from everyone else being considered. Out of a list of eight soft skills, I feel these two are ones I'm learning at KOMU while producing:

#6: "Demonstrated ability to work independently and be a team player."
As a producer, I assemble a newscast on my own but also take input from my executive producer. I work with reporters for stories for the rundown, graphic artists for over the shoulder images (OTSs) and maps, and directors to get the show on-air. Those are just a few of the people who act as a team to put together a newscast. In class, we were discussing that making everyone feel like a team is one of the most important parts of the newscast. It motivates the members to do their best so the newscast ends up being the best it can be.

#7: "Ability to work in a high-volume, face-paced environment; to multitask; and to meet deadlines."
I think anyone who works in a newsroom would agree that it's a face-paced environment. There are days when not a lot of news is going on. Other days, there's so many stories, you have to cut things out of the rundown to be anywhere near on-time before going into the show. Multitasking is part of a producer's job: you write stories for the newscast while juggling reporters and their questions and putting the details into the rundown (anchor reads, cameras, OTSs, etc.). And a producer has a daily deadline - the time the show airs! "The show must go on" and you have to be ready for it.

I'm about one-third of the way through the book. It's interesting reading about HR and managers perspectives on hiring 20-somethings and seeing the generational differences between growing up in the digital age and growing up in the age of a single computer that takes up an entire room (according to my dad).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing Truth v. Fiction

When you're in elementary school, you learn to write a book report: read and spit the facts back out.

When you're in middle school, you write research papers: find the facts and organize them.

High school brings essays where you learn the facts, organize and analyze them.

Those essays just get longer and more in-depth when you get to college....

Unless you become a broadcast journalism major. When that's your emphasis of study, you learn to rely on video to show the scene while using your words to add additional information to the pictures. It's stressed to "write to the video." You only tell the truth and don't exaggerate. This is how I've been writing for the last two years.

To finish my English minor, I needed one more English class. I wanted something different from the typical read-and-analyze-the-deeper-meaning English class. I decided to take Introduction to Creative Writing. The only creative writing I've done is to pretend to be my boyfriend's dog and blog from her perspective about the puppies she had in November (link). It's much more difficult to switch between truth-telling and concise broadcast writing and fiction writing than I imagined. But I couldn't quite put my finger on why it was difficult until I ran into this quote in my Creative Writing textbook:

In fiction writing, the author gives details to show how people feel. I've learned that to get the point across you have to let the reader interpret for themselves, so you show them what's happening instead of telling them. It's the details that make the story good. In broadcast writing, the details are shown in the video so the reporter or producer only has to tell what happened. The audience isn't supposed to use their imagination. Since I've figured this out, it's been easier to switch between the two forms, but still a challenge. I'm enjoying the fiction writing so I'm looking forward to seeing what else I learn this semester. Maybe by then I'll be better able to define a difference between writing for fiction and writing for television.

This is another quote from my Creative Writing book. I believe it applies to both fiction and broadcast writing. The choice of words can be the difference in bringing a story to life or leaving it on the page.

Friday, February 4, 2011

#KOMUcampout aka a Producing Marathon

#snowlycow I can't believe I survived "Winter Storm 2011" as it came to be called at KOMU. We had a massive winter storm this week: Monday brought ice, Tuesday dropped 17.5 inches of snow, and Wednesday and Thursday blew winds and negative temperatures. During this time, I had 4 shifts at KOMU (3 producing shifts, 1 web shift). People with shifts during that time decided it was better to sleep at the station than try to drive in white-out conditions, and so came to be the Twitter hashtag #komucampout.

I arrived to KOMU around 10:30 p.m. Monday night to produce Tuesday's morning show. During this shift, I wasn't just a producer. Here's the list of the jobs I completed (I probably looked like a chicken running around with my head cut off.):

1. Producer of the rundown and writing stories.
2. Phone Answer-er for people with questions about the storm.
3. Phone Caller to St. Louis and Kansas City for how they prepared for the storm and what it looked like there.
4. Google Map operator to get our live reporter to an apartment fire.
5. Social Media Guru getting the news of the fire on Twitter.
6. Skype Coordinator with our five Skype reporter teams in five locations around mid-Missouri.
7. Website poster putting up important information before the storm hit at 6 a.m.

When we were .26 seconds from being off-air (after a 2.5 hour long show), we got a text message from the news director to keep going for two more hours! We took a 15 minute breather to gather more information and give everyone a quick break. Our five Skype reporter teams went inside to warm up, our two live reporters and their truck operators got in the truck to warm up, and the anchors took a bathroom and snack break.

When we went back on air, we did a regular block with news stories but ditched that format at the next commercial break. We decided that viewers were staying tuned to our channel to hear about the storm and how different parts of Missouri were being hit. They might care about what was happening in Egypt right then, but they were mostly concerned with the storm. For the next two hours, we pitched between the weathermen, the live reporters, the Skype teams, and the anchors who shared information we were getting from viewers on Facebook and Twitter. It was a marathon producing session and we flew most of that time by the seat of our pants, but at the end, everyone who was working on that show felt that we had come through for the viewers and given them what they wanted.

Finally, at 9 a.m. the show was over. I checked in with the Skype reporter teams and crashed on an air mattress in the conference room for three hours.

When I awoke, I received the news that my dog, Bo (1999-2011), had died that morning. It was the roughest news I could have gotten during this stressful time at the station. He'll forever be remembered as the dog who loved to be pet for hours, who would slip and slide on the wood floor while chasing a tennis ball much to the dismay of Mom, and who was a diver for rocks in the Allegheny River.

I had to keep working so that I wouldn't break down crying (although it was occasionally inevitable). I was supposed to produce the 10 p.m. news on Tuesday. On a daily basis, we have two live reporters to manage. But, this time, we had two live reporters and our five Skype teams. The teams had iPhones or computers with Skype (a video-conferencing program) on them. I started a Skype video chat with the team (either one or two people) that was going on-air next and the director would broadcast the computer screen. The Skype teams would report the road conditions of the town they were in (Fulton, Jefferson City, Lake Ozark, Boonville, or Moberly) and what kind of precipitation they were getting. By adding these five teams, it was way too much for one producer to handle. So my TA produced the 10 p.m. while I managed the Skype reporter teams for the two newscasts from 5-6:30 p.m. and the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. I was coordinating who was going when, testing out the wireless signal at the new locations they went to for every show, and getting them set up to go on-air. I ended up charging my iPhone between every show. By the end of the day, I had 'produced' almost eight hours of Skype calls. After the 10 p.m. show, I had to pass on my Skype Coordinator responsibilities to the two student producers of Wednesday's morning show. I strangely felt like I was giving up on "my teams" because I had been working with them all day. But I needed to sleep and slept like a rock for eight hours in the conference room.

Wednesday, I produced the 5 p.m. show. My TA, Maggie, was on the Fulton Skype team so she was more tired than I was because she had to be awake for hits during the morning show! I had the most independence producing this show that I've had so far. Maggie let me produce until 4 p.m. when she stepped in to help me tie up the loose ends I was missing. I boothed the show for the first time, which was exhilarating. I backtimed the show and discussed which stories to drop with Maggie and she either agreed with me or pointed me in a new direction. The show ended on time and with no major issues! It was a great way to end #komucampout.

I had to get out of the station after all that craziness. I slept in my own bed Wednesday night and returned to the station Thursday morning for my web shift. I created and added to four different web slideshows of pictures our viewers sent in. I added to Blizzard Kids, and created Blizzard Animals, Snow Drifts, and Neighbors Helping Neighbors. I posted these slideshows on our website and on our Facebook page. During the storm and our coverage of it, we got 170,000 hits on our Facebook page and more than 1,000 new friends. These new friends will allow us to increase our viewer base because they will have our stories show up on their news feed.

Bo and I playing fetch with the tennis ball during the February 2010 snow in Texas.

It was hard to make the Blizzard Animals slideshows because a lot of the photos were people playing with their dogs in the snow. All I could keep thinking about was how last winter it snowed at home in Texas, and Bo loved to chase the snowballs. He also was color blind, which we only figured out when he couldn't find his tennis ball in the snow!

Video of Bo trying to find the tennis ball in the snow.

While it was a difficult time to be at the station when all I wanted was to be home with my family, it was an intense growing period. I learned how many roles I could fulfill and still stay calm (although highly caffeinated). I learned that I am almost ready to take over the job of producing a show on my own (which I will be doing in the next few weeks). I also learned how well a bunch of people can come together to get the best information possible to viewers - it was amazing to see the teamwork. Overall, I'm glad I got to attend #komucampout as it was a unique experience I'll never be able to replicate.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Southern Girl's Lessons from a Snow Storm

Let's start this off with two basic facts that are important to this story:
1. I'm from Texas where winter temperatures rarely go below 50 degrees.
2. 2009-2010 is the first winter I've lived off campus.

Last week, Columbia received a winter storm that dumped 9 inches of snow overnight. My producing professor said it's the third largest snow he's seen in the 10 years he's lived here. It started Wednesday night when I was producing a newscast. I have never driven in snow so I was taking anyone and everyone's advice; I made it home okay.

This is what the car looked like after my preliminary brush-away from the bottom of the car.

The next morning was quite an adventure: it was the first time in my life I've had to dig my car out of the snow. The plow had pushed a pile of snow as tall as my bumper against the back of my Honda Accord Coupe. My roommates and I weren't prepared for this snow storm so we didn't have a snow shovel! I improvised with a broom. I needed almost two hours digging and a nice neighbor's push to get the car out. But I made it where I was going and managed to not drive the rest of the weekend!

The red stripe is the car roof. This is the most snow I've ever cleared off my car!

One side effect of not driving over the weekend that I didn't expect was ice in my wheel-wells! I noticed the tires were making a strange noise when I turned so I got out and found the ice. I got my ice scraper out and went to town! After many minutes of chipping, my wheels could move without being blocked by the ice.

From these new snow experiences, I've learned many lessons:
1. When you drive a front wheel drive car, it's a good idea to back into a parking spot. Then you can pull yourself out over the ice, instead of trying to pushing your back wheels over the ice.

2. Buy a snow shovel at Walmart when there's no threat of a big snow storm. If you go after the storm, they'll be out of stock!

3. Have two pairs of snow boots: one to wear while digging out your car and a dry pair for when you finally get out and on your way.

4. The boys next door will shovel all the snow off your front walkway and steps for two beers each.

5. Finally, don't roll down your windows thinking it's a good way to get the snow off them - all the snow will end up in your lap!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Semester, New Role

As the semester begins next week, I'm looking forward to my new role in the newsroom: producer. Last semester, I was a reporter for the first nine weeks. I spent the end of the semester "sidekicking" a producer to begin learning that role. By the end of the semester, the producer had me putting the show together and they helped fine tune it. This was a stress-free way to be introduced to all the details that are involved in running a newscast.

This blog fell a bit to the wayside toward the end of last semester because I started a new blog. My boyfriend's dog had puppies and I started a blog that's written from her perspective. The goal with the blog was to ultimately help sell the puppies, but also to let puppy-lovers see puppies at a very young age (my first puppy post was within hours of their birth). I'm glad to say that the blog is living up to both those goals. The new families have told me they've loved seeing videos of the pups as they've gotten older and friends who can't own a puppy now have loved keeping up with the pups' adventures. The puppies will be going to their new families on Jan. 19th and I'm not sure if I'll keep the blog updated with pictures and videos from the families or just post a farewell message. I'll definitely be posting until all the puppies have new homes but, after that, I guess we'll just see how it goes!

This semester, I will be producing three shows during the week: Tuesday's morning show, Tuesday's 10pm newscast, and Wednesday's 5pm newscast. I'm excited to learn how each show is different and expand my producing knowledge. I hope to post here what I learn during the week so I can track how my skills are evolving.