I promised an update on my diet…er…investigative report. Just to fill you in, I spent the last ten years or so packing on an extra 40 pounds just because that’s the kind of dedicated journalist I am. If I’m going to “pose” as a dieter I have to look the part…and boy do I look the part.

Anyway, I began my undercover research with a diet that arrived on my doorstep about two weeks ago in a shoe box. The box contained dozens of packets of a substance that is allegedly food but actually tastes only slightly better than the shoe box itself…and believe me I’ve tried them both! But after my two week weigh-in I was startled to learn that I had lost 17 pounds. There might actually be something to this wild theory that losing weight is simply a matter of eating less food! I’ve now lost the equivalent of the weight of my cat Ginger before my wife put her on a diet.

I also noticed that I’m beginning to run short of “food” packets which lead me to the conclusion that I’m going to have to find a new way to eat pretty soon. That’s when I stumbled upon the revolutionary diet plan that will make you skinny and me rich.

I call it the: Eat Exactly What My Wife Eats Diet.

The plan is quite simple: You give me some money and I will text or tweet you every time my wife eats something. I’m pretty sure I can find a scientist who will back me on this one. You see, my wife is exactly the same weight she was when I married her. When she got pregnant with our two children I gained weight, but I don’t think she did. So it stands to reason that if you eat exactly what she eats, at precisely the same time you will wind up in the same shape.

And as a bonus for signing up early I’ll toss in, free, “My Wife’s Exercise Plan”… which consists mainly of running around the house hiding things from me.

So, let me give you a little preview of how a typical day might go on the “Eat Exactly What My Wife Eats” and “My Wife’s Exercise Plan” program.

You might get up in the morning and make a pot of coffee. Go ahead and use high fat coffee creamer because you’re not going to drink the coffee anyway. Instead you will notice that the bathtub needs caulking and on the way to the garage to get the tools you’ll notice your spouse left his/her briefcase in the hallway and you’ll hide it.

For breakfast you might cook a two egg omelet with low calorie cheese and broccoli. But you’ll forget to eat it because you will have noticed the exhaust vent on the stove needs cleaning. And on the way to the garage to get the cleaning supplies you”ll notice your spouse left his/her shoes in the family room and you will hide them.

Lunch generally consists of a sandwich and a bowl of soup, which you’ll forget to eat because you”ll have noticed the food in the pantry wasn’t stored in alphabetical order and in the course of implementing the Dewey decimal system for canned goods you’ll see your spouse left his/her car keys on the counter and you’ll hide them.

And finally, for dinner you’ll prepare a delicious but nutritious chicken stir fry. But on the way to get the salt shaker you’ll notice the kitchen needs re-tiling. And on the way to the tile store you’ll see your spouse failed to put his/her car in the garage so you’ll hide it.

So, as you can see, the “Eat Exactly What My Wife Eats Diet” with the bonus “My Wife’s Exercise Plan” program works simply by making good, healthy food choices then not eating them. And through a sensible exercise program involving hiding things from your spouse. All you need to do is wait for your personalized text or tweet to arrive the instant my wife does something then you do exactly the same thing.

What I like best about this program is that I won’t have to leave my house, which is a good thing.

I can’t seem to find my car keys.

Stephen


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courtesy: Becky Johns

One of the questions I get most often…especially from young people who haven’t yet developed any sense…”how do I get into television?”. I’ve decided to devote this incredibly valuable blog space today to answer that question, so here it goes.

Don’t.

Are you still here? Are you ignoring my advice? Okay, that makes you a perfect candidate for television. Never take “no” for an answer. Well, there are times you should take no for an answer, but that’s a whole different subject. If you are dead-set on getting into television you will hear “no” a lot. You’ll also hear things like: “There’s no way on God’s green earth or anywhere else in the universe that you will ever succeed in TV or any business that remotely resembles it.” It wasn’t exactly “no” but I learned it meant pretty much the same thing. But I didn’t give up and neither should you.

Stay classy Detroit!

My first bit of advice: if you want to get into TV to be an anchor, forget it. That’s my job and you can’t have it.

Seriously though, the days of being “the Anchor” are quickly going away. Those of us with vast amounts of experience (read: “old”) are rapidly being offered the “opportunity to pursue other options”, which is a corporate euphemism for “getting Donald Trumped”, which is my euphemism for “you’re fired“.

Like virtually every other industry on earth the TV bosses are trying to figure out how to do more with less..and I certainly can’t blame them. When I got into TV there was a secret room in the basement of the station where they printed money…at least that’s what I heard; we never seemed to run out of the stuff. But back then there were only three TV stations in any given city and we had to walk to work, knee deep in snow, uphill both ways. Now days with roughly a million channels on cable, another couple billion websites, email ads and that guy in the dog suit outside PetSmart, the advertising dollar has been sliced pretty thin. And ad money is what makes our machine go ’round.

So, here in Detroit we’re learning to do a lot more with a lot less. Some reporters and anchors are shooting video, a couple photographers are showing up on air as reporters. Writers are learning to edit. We’re all getting trained in posting content to our website. There is understandably resistance to this kind of change…especially from some of the “veterans”. I can’t blame them. We’ve spent a lot of time getting very good at what we do. We’ve worked our way to one of the top TV stations in one of the biggest markets in the country. And now we’re being asked to do jobs for which we’re not qualified…at least not by our high standards.

"One Man Band" on Mackinac

Personally, I have to admit I’ve found new life and new energy in this new direction. I get plenty of strange looks when I show up at a story with a camera, microphone and tripod but no photographer. “Don’t anchors have people to do that for them?” I’m asked almost every time. We used to…but I’ve found I really enjoy the process of creating a news story, start to finish by myself. As the photographer I find myself examining the “location” much more closely, trying not to miss the best shots…and since I’m constantly in contact with the reporter (me) I’m shooting the video that will best tell the story I’m about to write.  As the reporter I’m utilizing the video much better, after all…I shot it! And as the editor I have the ability to fix all the stupid mistakes I made as the shooter and reporter. I’ve got to say, the stories I’m ending up with are some of the best work I’ve done in years. Stories I wanted to tell, told the way I wanted to tell them.  Could the photography and editing have been better? Sure, but overall the product is strong and I’m getting better at these new skills every day (at least that’s what I keep telling the boss).

Then the whole process moves to wxyz.com where I have to re-write and often re-edit the story. But I’ve found it also gives me an opportunity to add back all the stuff I hated to leave on the cutting room floor for the TV version. Plus I can become my own promotions department simply by logging on to Twitter and Facebook.

I guess what I’m saying for those of you interested in getting in TV is that you need to think about it as one job, not a bunch of different jobs. The journalist of the future will shoot, report, write, edit, package for internet, promote by social media and… yes… anchor. All at the same time.

You know…. on second thought forget all that stuff I said about “don’t’ get into TV. Go ahead and do it.

I’m having a blast.

Stephen

BTW here are a couple samples of my latest “solo” stories. Let me know what you think:   Blight Busters / Race Kart Family


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Silverfish Hand Catch

Who would have thought it would take a Silverfish Hand Catch to tear down the walls between traditional media and social media?

I promise I’ll get back to the fish but obviously a statement like that requires a little bit of a back-story. A few months ago I began “tweeting” from the news desk during live newscasts. At first one or two people would “tweet” back, usually just curious whether it was really the “guy on the TV” tweeting. They wondered a) how I had the time and b)why I had the interest.

That got me thinking.

As I’ve reported in this blog before I have had a very long one-sided relationship with the people who watch my newscasts. I talk, they listen. If they had something to say to me they yelled it at the TV screen like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Twitter changed all  that. I can now hear you and I can now answer you.

So a few weeks ago I created the “backchannel”… while the news rolled forward on the front channel… Channel 7… I tweeted on the backchannel. I invited viewers to watch the news, tweet comments and questions to me and to ‘discuss among themselves’ when I was actually busy reading the stories. I really only had a vague idea of where the ‘backchannel’ might take us all, but I hoped it was a first step to tearing down the glass screen that divides us.

I can’t speak for the dozens of people who check in regularly every night…sometimes at 6 or 7:00.. but mostly 11:00. I don’t know exactly what they get out of it except a kind of cool experience of actually conversing in real time with the guy on TV. But I can tell you what I get out of it. For the first time in years I actually feel like I’m talking to someone rather than at them. Frankly it’s energizing!

But I promised to talk about the fish. Specifically the Silverfish Hand Catch. You may have heard about the “Old Spice” guerrilla marketing campaign. The ridiculously handsome guy standing in a towel in his bathroom with his six pack abs and mellifluous baritone voice answering tweets from average people. In his final video posted on YouTube, the actor ended with a spectacular “Silverfish Hand Catch”. What did it mean? Who knows, who cares; it became an Internet buzzword that landed with all the grace of a flying Asian Carp in my ‘backchannel’ Monday night.

For that you can either blame or credit Charlie Wollborg, a brilliant marketing man who knows a few things about getting people engaged in social media. Early in the newscast @CharlieCurve posted the following Tweet– and everything changed:

First of all, to be clear, I probably wouldn’t have said “Silverfish Hand Catch” even if a thousand people had re-tweeted the post. I like to think of the backchannel as a kind of Las Vegas…what happens there, stays there. If I start excluding people on the front channel I risk losing them (not to mention my job!). So I needed to keep the whole “Silverfish” affair a “backchannel” thing, which wasn’t easy. Over the next half hour my Tweet stream exploded with re-tweets and suggestions of how to work the phrase “Silverfish Hand Catch” into the newscast. @CharlieCurve suggested I introduce the weather segment by saying, “It’s 74° in Detroit right now. A perfect night for a Silverfish Hand Catch.” @danielmrose suggested an addition to the Tigers highlights: “A fan in the stands just made a Silverfish Hand Catch.”  And on and on. It was all a bit silly sure, but I realized something else was going on. The audience of our 11:00 newscast wasn’t just talking to me…they were talking to each other! I felt like Alexander Graham Bell when he made his first call to Watson. The backchannel worked!

I hope it continues to work…and not just as a novel way to include the TV guy in on-line hijinx. I hope people watch my newscast, ask questions, make comments and most of all talk to each other about what’s going on in our community.

In the meantime. No, I did not say “Silverfish Hand Catch” on the newscast. Technically we came a few short of 100 re-tweets so I was “off the hook” so to speak.  But I did do something in the final seconds of the newscast that let my Twitter friends know I heard them loud and clear.

You’ll have to watch the clip to see what it was.  And you’ll have to join us some night on the backchannel.

Bring your own fish.

Stephen


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One Meal

I’ve been doing a secret in depth investigative report on weight loss and have uncovered a startling fact. I don’t want to get too excited about this but I believe I have discovered the secret to losing weight. Eat less food.

I know…bizarre, right!

Apparently there’s been a radical group of so-called medical experts called “doctors” on the outer fringe of the nutrition movement saying this for years. I for one didn’t hear them–probably because of all the loud chewing. But I’m listening now.

This revelation began in the course of my “investigative report” on dieting. I recently went “undercover” as a dieter and since I’m a dedicated investigative journalist I needed to “look” authentic so I spent the last ten years packing on an extra 40 pounds. It was tough but, hey, its my job!

Anyway, with the assistance of my wife, who has secretly been a member of that “eat less food” cult since I married her, I embarked on a diet. For research purposes only, of course. We went straight to the paragon of responsibility, that pillar of reliability…the Internet…to find a diet to “research”. A few days later it arrived. A month’s worth of meals–in a shoebox. Okay, I’m exaggerating. The box wasn’t quite that big.

The box contained packets of powder which the instructions allege is “food” but is actually smaller than the amount of  salt I’d sprinkle on a typical meal. The plan is to mix the powder with lo-cal ice and water and “enjoy a tasty shake”. I got the mixing part down, I’m still waiting for my wife to return from Burger King with the tasty shake.

Turkey the Size of my Palm

You want to hear the good news? I get to have five of these packets a day! Plus one “real” meal consisting of a vegetables and a piece of chicken, turkey or fish “the size of my palm”. I’m stuffed just thinking about it.

I just started my diet… er… “research” last week and have made some important observations.

1) The palm of my hand is not nearly as big as I’d like it to be.

2) Hunger makes you do strange things, like fantasize about drinking glasses full of strawberry flavored wallpaper paste five times a day.

3) I now know what it would feel like to let a mating pair of weasels loose in my stomach.

I can’t tell you if this diet has actually been working. I’m avoiding the scale until the one-week anniversary Thursday. But I can promise if I’ve lost weight I’m going to celebrate.

With a tasty shake.

Stephen

Forrest Gump

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “News stories are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I’ve been in the news business 30 some odd years (actually, come to think of it, most of them are odd), but I digress. Anyway, in my vast experience I’ve learned I shouldn’t write the stories I cover before I actually cover them. The story may sound like one thing over the phone, or written in a press release, or as related by a third person, but when you actually get your “boots on the ground” as the network correspondents say, the story changes. Actually the story doesn’t change; your perception of it changes.

It’s not uncommon in the TV news business for producers to “stack” their news show based on what they “think” the story is…long before the reporter has left the station. I’ve actually seen “promos” of my stories run before I’ve actually left my house to go to the station–much less go to the location of the story to report it.

My experience on a story this week reminds me that’s not a good idea. “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Chantay Anderson

Let me set the scene. Over the weekend someone fire-bombed Chantay Anderson’s home on Detroit’s east side. Her two year old son Jasiah Collins died in the blaze. Our reporter on the scene that day, Tom Wait, asked the grieving mother if she had a picture of Jasiah to put in the story. She said “yes”… one single framed photograph, damaged in the fire. That’s all she had left she told Tom of her baby. One damaged photograph. She asked if Tom knew someone who could fix that last precious memory. After all, that’s all she had left.

Tom went live on our 6:00 newscast Sunday with a plea for someone who  might be able to repair the picture. I was watching from home and can find my way around Photoshop, so I emailed Tom and told him I’d take a crack at it. It was, after all, the only memory she had left.

At work Monday we scanned the photograph and one of our video editors, Teresa Simmonds, and I divided the workload and began painstakenly restoring, repairing and replacing lost pixels, one at a time. It was heartbreaking as I rebuilt the damaged eye of the little boy who’s real eyes are forever closed. But the result, I must say, was pretty impressive.

I emailed the file to Tom to give to the grieving mother and he suggested it might be a good story for me to present it myself. Newsroom management agreed. It was never my intention to get a story out of rebuilding the photograph. But after talking to Chantay on the phone I saw the advantage of doing the story as a springboard to get her some help burying Jasiah, which she says she has no money to do.

So I arranged to meet Chantay at Swansons funeral home to present her with the restored photograph of her dead son. And that’s when this story took a bizarre twist. Proof that “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was early, Chantay wasn’t there yet. But a woman who told me she was Jasiah’s grandmother was there and was excited to see the restored picture of her grand baby Jasiah. But when I showed it to her she frowned, then became angry. “That’s not Jasiah,” she nearly shouted as though I was intentionally trying to trick her. Or maybe she didn’t like my photoshop skills. I didn’t know.

“That’s the picture Chantay gave to us,” I pointed out. “She gave the same picture to the newspapers,” I added weakly.

“That’s not Jasiah,” she insisted, growing angrier. “That’s Jamari.”

Jamari, as it turns out is Jasiah’s older brother…five years older.

When Jasiah’s mother, Chantay, arrived moments later the situation only got stranger. She argued with the woman. “That’s my baby, that’s Jasiah,” she argued through her tears. But then, when pressed by Jasiah’s grandmother, Chantay made a startling admission. “He looks just like my baby.”

Then the real story began to emerge. Chantay, it turns out, has NO pictures of Jasiah, burned or not with the exception of one tiny cell phone snapshot, which she didn’t know how to retrieve from her phone. When reporters asked if she had a picture, the grief-stricken mother found the next best thing.  A picture of big-brother Jamari, taken five years earlier.  After all, “he looks just like my baby.”

So the story had changed…dramatically. The producers had already stacked into their newscasts because they thought they knew what the story was. I can’t blame them, so did I. Actually, journalistically speaking, the story had gotten better. The producers moved it up in the newscast. Had the promos already been shot, recorded and aired they would not have teased nearly as interesting a story.

Oh, by the way, what story did I eventually come up with after picking through this box of chocolates?  Here’s the link… tell me what you think. Plus, here are the before and after pictures of Jasiah–I mean Jamali–let me know how Terry and I did…just in case I wind up doing that again.

Because you never know what you’re gonna get.

Stephen


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Ginger, our "primary" cat

I’ve learned two interesting facts about cats.

1) Cats hate water 2) Cats will jump into a lake FULL of water if they find themselves on a pontoon boat pulling away from the dock.

I learned the first fact about 40 years ago when I thought it would be fun to give “Tiger” a bath. Coincidentally, that same day I learned “Tiger” was an extremely fitting name for that particular cat.

I learned the second fact this weekend when my wife and I thought it would be a great idea to take “Ginger” with us on a pontoon ride.

We need a little background here. Ginger is our primary cat. We have a backup cat named Ollie (aka “Damn Nate” in honor of the teenage boy who brought him to our house because his mother wouldn’t let him keep a cat). Frequently as we pull away from the dock for an evening cruise my wife and I will see our two cats standing side by side watching us sail off into the sunset. I’ll admit we’re often guilty of attributing thoughts to them that probably don’t exist since I don’t believe cats actually “think”. A few weeks ago we decided Ollie really wanted to take a boat ride so we scooped him up and off we went.

It went about as well as we expected. Ollie slinked around the boat like a caged Lion at the zoo for a while, crawled under a blanket and went to sleep. It was a wise choice given that the boat was entirely surrounded by water which, I believe I mentioned cats hate.

So, fast forward to this weekend. My wife scooped Ginger up and brought her aboard the pontoon. We were under the mistaken impression things would go pretty much the same. I mean, a cat’s a cat, right?  Well, things didn’t go at all the same. Ginger didn’t slink around the boat assessing the situation. She didn’t crawl under a blanket. She didn’t go to sleep. No, Ginger made a mad dash to the front of the boat (sometimes referred to as the ‘bow’), stared for a panicked moment as the dock slipped away… and jumped.

I’m not talking some little namby-pamby, sissy cat belly flop either. No, Ginger launched herself from the boat like Michael Phelps going for his eighth gold medal. She hung there over the water with her little legs pumping like that coyote in the roadrunner cartoon until gravity took over and she plunked into the water with all the grace of a toaster oven.

I gunned the motor and headed back to shore fully expecting to launch some grim search and recovery effort when suddenly Ginger breached the surface like Shamu late for lunch. When she hit the water again her stubby legs were whirling like an Evinrude and she headed for shore at roughly warp speed.

Keep in mind, this is a cat for whom napping is an adventure. The deepest water she’s ever had to contend with is when she accidentally tipped her water dish onto the floor racing for her food dish and, of course, had no option but to actually step in it or starve. But here she was suddenly motoring toward shore like Miss Budweiser.

I think she may have continued to circle the lake forever at full throttle if my wife hadn’t waded into the water and snatched her out. Ginger looked a bit like that clump of stuff you pull out of a clogged drain but seems to have survived the incident intact, although I suspect she may have used up one or two of her lives.

We took another boat ride the next night. Neither cat was there to watch us leave.

Stephen


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I lead a very boring life. I found this out through Foursquare.

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last week and missed the latest next big thing, Foursquare is a “geolocation” app for your smartphone that lets every living person on earth know exactly where you are at every breathing moment…even if you’ve been living in a cave. Now the obvious question is “why would you want every living person on earth to know exactly where you are at every breathing moment”? Well, the idea behind Foursquare is that all your incredibly cool friends will know precisely which trendy place you’re visiting and drop in to buy you hip cocktails served by waitresses with dazzlingly white teeth.

The trouble is–I believe I mentioned–I lead a boring life. I checked my stats the other day and discovered I’ve never even been to a trendy place. In fact, the only place I ever check in is work, my dentist’s office and Costco. Excuse me for a moment, I think I need to doze off.

The "Local" Badge

Foursquare, besides being an incredibly valuable tool that lets burglars know exactly when you’re not home, also serves as a bit of a game. Participants can collect “badges” with exciting names like “adventurer” and “superstar” for visiting interesting and exotic places. So far my only badge is the “local” badge–apparently because I never go anywhere. You can also become “mayor” of a location for checking in there the most. I was briefly the mayor of WXYZ TV but was ousted in a coup orchestrated, I believe, by the Hungry Howie’s delivery boy.

This could get a guy down…but they don’t give “badges” for that. So I decided to turn lemons into a drink made out of lemons. I’ve developed a new “app” that I call Forgesquare. Instead of checking in at places you are…you check in at places you want to be. Exotic, hip places like Paris, Rome or Bad Axe. You’re standing in line at the Novi Costco with the industrial-sized pack of Depends and a case of dental floss, you whip out the Blackberry and check in on Forgesquare and voila!!! you’re in Istanbul drinking hip cocktails with Morgan Fairchild. At least that’s what all your friends will think when they see your check-in. And the chances of them running into you at the Novi Costco are extremely slim since they’ll all be checking in from some trendy place in Royal Oak.

I’m still working on the companion “app” that lets you post photoshopped pictures on Twitter of you standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.

I know this will probably create some chaos when everybody on earth is someplace else. And I’m sure businesses who want to use geolocation for marketing their products and services are going to have some issues. For instance the Bellagio Casino will keep sending me half price coupons for a prime rib dinner because they’ll be under the impression I’m at one of their blackjack tables raking in thousands of dollars when I’m really on my couch watching Man vs. Food.

Despite a few “bugs” I believe I have a pretty good idea here. If you have some thoughts on how to improve it just look me up.

You know where to find me.

Stephen


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