Monday, November 2, 2015

Reporting in Sarasota, I'm Azure O'Neil for SNN, the Suncoast News Network.

I've loved reading Roel's blogs and think he may have to do a little more of the blogging when we get back on the road :clap but now it's my turn to tell you guys a little about what I've been up to lately:

I used to love watching CSI: Miami. There was something about the rose colored filter they shot the show through that inherently held some sort of serotonin releasing properties.

I felt like I was flying into an episode of CSI: Miami as my plane circled Fort Lauderdale’s runway and I watched the pools, manicured lawns and jet black highways get larger and larger as I got closer and closer to home. My Mom was waiting for me with a picnic dinner in a cooler in the back seat of the car. She brought me two kinds of salads, sushi and blueberries for dessert. It was heaven sitting in the parking garage at FLL, watching the sun set, sharing laughter with my best friend. And bingeing on salad. (After having only two salads in a sixth month period and fried food for nearly every meal for the previous two weeks in Colombia, lettuce was a delicacy.)

[​IMG] Airport garage picnics are the best!
We headed home and I spent the first hour hugging our dog. I crawled into my bed and spent the next 3 days, assessing my Mom’s health, making adjustments to her diet and making a plan for my time in Florida.

[​IMG] My best gal: Roxie
[​IMG] Sigrid and Carlos from Guatemala came over to Sarasota from Miami for a quick visit

Beyond getting her healthy and attending friend’s weddings, I needed a job.

My wonderful mother, ever eager to have me close by, had been telling everyone she knew I would be home for 3 months and needed a job. She does a weekly Art Gallery Guide spot on a local TV station, and also mentioned my need of a job to the station’s news director, Craig. On the 4th day I was in Sarasota, I volunteered for a Dick Vitale telethon raising money for kids with cancer, which was aired on said TV station. Two of their reporters had just left, suddenly, and having read our blog and seen some of our videos and photos, Craig had a proposal: “We’ll train Azure for a week on videography and writing for TV news. She’ll have a one week sink or swim trial period. If after that we like her and she doesn’t run away screaming, she can have a job as a reporter for the duration of her stay in Sarasota.”

I doggie paddled and I didn’t run away screaming, so I became the newest addition to the Suncoast News Network’s 5pm lineup of reporters.

[​IMG] A story I did at Mote Marine about Turtle Strikes:

Becoming a reporter was one of the most challenging things I have ever done… for a variety of reasons:

1. High-stress like I didn’t know existed outside of working in a life-saving profession. The daily, ever-looming 4:30pm deadline. Learning to use a complex editing program in a week (I’ve never even used Photoshop). Live TV. Live TV bloopers. (Yes, I had a couple.)

2. Self-promotion is not my thing. (Read: I do not enjoy being on camera. Kind of an issue if part of “building your brand” and lending credibility to your stories is your face telling part of the story.) Eventually, I got over it.

3. Writing for news is VERY different. Craig suffered through editing some pretty ill-written scripts before I finally got the hang of it.

4. I haven’t worn high heels, let alone had to carry 35lbs of equipment while doing so in 5+ years. Never mind the dresses. Erm, there were a few Marilyn Monroe moments that may or may not have been caught on camera.

5. People work really hard to get into the news business. They attend school for broadcast journalism. They spend a lot of time and money working on their “look.” And here is this chick who got off of a motorcycle and in a matter of two weeks was reporting. While most people at the station were friendly, and eventually encouraging and helpful, there were a couple people who seemed to make it their business to be personally offended by my presence. I consider myself an empathetic person, but after just having ridden through countries where everyone, including children, did whatever it took to get food into their mouths, I found it nearly impossible to empathize with people who would begrudge someone else the opportunity to prove herself and work.

Anyway, I was learning a ton. Earning a paycheck for the first time in 6 months. And most importantly, getting to spend time with my family.

Helping my Mom hang her gallery (Thanks for the pic, Mirald)

Now, anyone reading this who knows me personally is probably having a good laugh, knowing how I feel about the media.

Yea, that was difficult to get over, but there were no “lies” and inflation of stories hardly ever happened. I wasn’t assigned to too much “ambulance chasing” but I did have to laugh when on I was sent to cover a car chase that had ended with the car crashing into a yard and the perp escaping on foot during my second week on the job. I was standing there getting footage of the crash scene, wondering where the suspect was lurking, if he was armed and how long it would take the police to find him. I sent a photo to my dad (who constantly talks about how unsafe the places we travel are and how he wishes I would just come home, get a job and settle down). I asked him how he felt now about me being home and having found a job that had me on a scene like this. hahahah. Couldn’t help myself.

The only other thing I absolutely abhorred was following up on an accident that took place on the 4th of July. A young man had been injured in a spearfishing accident. I was sent to interview his parents. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I just barely held it together while interviewing the parents. And their reason for giving the interview became the only reason I could stomach putting together the story: to educate people in an effort to make sure this type of accident never happens again.

So this is the silver lining of this story.

When I was asked to follow-up with the first responders to the accident the next day, I truly hated this job. And my news director knew that. But I think he felt that I needed to be able to put aside my own emotions and biases about the media and what I consider appropriate or sensitive and do the job I was hired to do. In a way, he was right.

Once I got used to the constant level of stress, I decided that reporting is actually a pretty good job fit for someone who is used to having a change of scenery every day. Nearly every day, I learned something new: whether it was about the solar energy issues in the state of Florida or how to keep my cool when a Planned Parenthood protester I was about to ask for an interview got in my face to tell me she could “help me find a place to have a free sonogram and meet people who would teach me how to take care of my baby” (“Thanks, but I’m not pregnant, but tell me: how do you feel about Jeb Bush’s stance on abortion?”). I got to interview people who are doing wonderful things, like training guide dogs for disabled veterans and working to improve the lives of children with Autism spectrum disorders, like Matt Bruback, the creator of the ‘Miracle Belt.

One of my favorite stories:

[​IMG] Front row 'seats' for filming the 4th of July Fireworks over Sarasota Bay (Photo Credit: Allen Marszalek) [​IMG]
[​IMG] Interviewing school therapists about the use of the 'Miracle Belt' (Photo credit: Matt Bruback) [​IMG] Talking about infrastructure in Sarasota

On the whole, it’s been a fascinating experience and definitely not something I ever imagined myself doing to support myself after leaving Washington, DC.

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing such an amazing journey. Sharyn