Thursday, September 18, 2008

Local TV

I live about three miles west of the Strip. The place where I work is right on Las Vegas Boulevard, with our building just on the east side a little bit. I drive straight down a street called Desert Inn, named after the casino that used to be on the corner, now occupied by the Wynn. Their golf course is still back there across the street from us, the last big spot of green on the Strip, where every hotel used to have a course out back. All gone now, to building expansion and parking lots.

Interstate 15 runs through Las Vegas, parallel to the Strip and just to the west of the big hotels, so to get here from my house (yes, I write most of these posts at work, shhh, don’t tell my boss) I have to cross both I-15 and the Strip. Desert Inn (DI) crosses over I-15, and the railroad tracks that run alongside, on a wide bridge. Most of the east/west roads jump over 15, but a few do go underneath it. DI then drops down and goes underneath Las Vegas Boulevard, it is the only large road that does not cross directly. This avoids all of the traffic, and the waiting at traffic lights due to all of the tourists driving up and down the Strip looking at the big fancy resorts. DI is also unusual in that there are no on and off ramps to I-15, as almost every other big road has.

Las Vegas is laid out like many other towns in the west in a big nice even grid. All the streets run either north/south or east/west, there are very few diagonal roads and no major curves. The state is building a big loop freeway that will circle everything, but that will not be done for a few years, so we have I-15 as the only major freeway that runs right through the middle of everything. Major streets are spaced a mile apart, with most of them having three lanes in each direction along with a wide center divider for left turns. In the middle of this grid is the heart of the city, in Las Vegas that is Fremont Street and the old casinos. In Salt Lake City it’s the big Mormon Temple. In Phoenix it’s the downtown area that has recently been much rebuilt. It was probably easy to lay things out like this because there was nothing out here when the design started, and the land is flat and open, unlike most of the east coast that took centuries to grow up.

Back to my morning drive; as DI crosses over I-15 up at the top of the overpass there is a place where a ramp does go down into the back industrial areas (this is our back way to get to the parking garage for the big shopping center avoiding lots of traffic) and an on ramp from the same place. This provides a large triangular place between DI, the off ramp and the on ramp that is almost directly over the middle of I-15. Being the only major freeway in the area, and in addition the route from the Los Angeles/Southern California area north to Salt Lake City, Denver and beyond, there is always a lot of traffic, with very frequent accidents and much delays and bumper to bumper crawling stuff, frequently in both directions. Several of the local television stations are located near DI and I-15 (it is a large industrial area) and quite frequently there is a TV remote van parked on this triangular area, as I-15 down below provides a nice backdrop for short remote segments during the news shows.

There was one there this morning, a large van with fancy big printing all over it, a tall antenna raised overhead, one guy with a tripod and camera and a woman walking back and forth, waiting for her fifteen seconds on air, live overlooking 15. I’m sure that you all have seen these young eager to get that full time gig reporters, the ones that end up with the jobs no one else would take for fifteen seconds on air, with the hopes that next week it will be thirty and next year perhaps a spot at the desk inside of the studio. I see one of these remote vans at least once a week, either in the morning drive in catching the morning news or in the afternoon going home, to be on the early evening news reporting on the typical daily traffic jam on I-15 shown behind them. I’ve seen them standing out there in 115 degree weather and in the cold winter rain, pacing back and forth practicing their lines so that they will sound OK on air and not blow their big chance. Sometimes there are two vans from competing stations there, once I saw three of them; impressive because we only have three local stations in town. All parked next to each other, the cameras and lights and reporters standing just a few feet apart because even though it is a large triangle it isn’t altogether that big. I’ve even made it home a few times and caught them on the air, interesting to compare them, driving past them standing out there and a few minutes later standing on that screen in my TV room, how professional it looks while I know it’s just on the side of a road on an overpass above the freeway.

We were watching some movie a few months ago that revolved around a television studio and a news show. One of the characters was the new guy, the one that would have to stand in the blowing snow out in front of the courthouse where a big trial was being held live for the eleven pm news, the only person out there in the wind and snow and dark trying to talk about what went on that day in his fifteen second spot, freezing while waiting for them to call and say he was on the air. During the commercial my wife flipped (yes, she usually has the remote and does the channel flipping during commercials) the channel over to the news, and there on screen was some poor guy out in front of the downtown Las Vegas courthouse all alone talking about some trial that had been going on earlier that day. It sure looked as if it was right out of the movie except he was nice and warm instead of in the freezing blowing snow. I guess every business has a path you have to follow in working your way up the chain, for TV news it probably starts with getting coffee and carrying the story sheets, moving on to writing bits, then these fifteen second remote gigs on to the short interview with the famous celebrity in town for a charity event for a small town local station, then on to the big city following a similar path and hopefully for the remote few onto the network news. I work as a programmer, and it is similar here, but without the having to look pretty on air, just having to make a great presentation to the big boss on how well the project is doing.

I used to regularly read a blog by a young woman that worked for a station here in town, had a link over there on the right to her pages, until she password protected it. Guess she was found out by somebody at work and started having problems about her writing, oh well, it can happen to anyone. She wasn’t a reporter but a producer, with her own background stories to tell. Interesting to me, as it is an industry I have never been involved in.

We have the OJ trial going on downtown right now, I’ve been skipping the news since B isn’t here (back this afternoon!) so I have been missing all the stories, but even the national radio stations I do hear have been talking about it. So I know that there are probably dozens of reporters from all over out there on the steps, trying to figure out what to say that would make their bit unique and interesting.

And somebody else in town that I read regularly, Loraloo (over there to the right near the bottom with some other Vegas people) has taken the time to give me this:

Thanks, LL, I have too many people that I would like to give this to to pick a short list, so besides yourself (love the stories about your kid and trips to Caliente) I would pass this on to D. Probably for all the stories of the fun family events she goes to and all the interesting nieces and nephews, but right now it’s the visions of skinny dipping while wearing a life vest that are in my mind (sorry T man).

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