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small deeds

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

The other day I was walking to the grocery store when a woman ran up to me, tapped my shoulder and said, “you dropped this.”  She handed me my ATM card.  I got out a whispered wide-mouthed, “thank you,” but my desire to express my profuse gratitude didn’t make it before she vanished.  My mind started to swirl!

I felt an instant need to return the favor.

She just saved me God knows how much aggravation.

The world has way more good people than nefarious ones.

I really must return the favor, but what can I do?

I’m trying to think up a big idea, but in the meantime, I want to do 12 small spontaneous deeds for strangers throughout the holiday season. The 12 days of Christmas, for me, will mean little gestures that might, in some minute way, brighten a moment in someone’s ordinary day.

Maybe this is already part of your routine.  Maybe you want to join me.  Either way, tell me (via the comment section) about your daily bright spots.

Day 12 – Guess what?!  I know Santa Claus!  The real-deal, North-Pole-living, sleigh-riding jolly old man himself!!  And for my final small deed I asked him for help!  I took the money hubby and I usually spend on holiday cards for family and friends and we gave it away to strangers.  We had seven holiday cards, each with some cash inside and a message to have a happy holiday.  Hubby armed himself with the camera, I had a bag of candy canes and Santa, the master at deliveries, had the envelopes.  We hit South Bay Center one morning and surprised a parking lot of people.  It was amazing to watch how young and old came running to see Mr. Claus.  Cars, full of adults, drove around the parking lot, children dragged parents out of stores, and everyone beamed at having their pictures taken with Santa!  Ok, there were some children who hollered for Santa but when he stopped by, they started crying.  But that was kind of cute too!  They like Santa from a distance!  This young couple told us it was their daughter’s first Christmas and they waited 45 minutes the other day for a picture with Santa at a mall only to have him go on break.  They never got a picture, that is until Parking Lot Santa showed up!  We hope the cash was a nice surprise for some strangers, but it was all worth it to see the pure joy on so many faces at the mere sight of Old Saint Nick!

Day 11 – I went to get a cup of coffee and the woman behind the counter was super sweet.  I left her a big tip.  I hope it brightened her day just a bit!

*(Mike told me about his small deed in the comment section.  He gave his monthly Charlie Card to the woman about to put money on her card! I love that idea!  Yeah, Mike!!)

Day 10 – On my way to the store, I saw some litter so I put it in the trash.  I arrived to the store and before me, a few more pieces of paper were blowing in the wind.  It was so easy to put them in the garbage.  A man saw me doing my small deed and said, “thank you.”  I was grateful for his appreciation.

Day 9 – I took Cricket for a walk this morning and picked up some arrant piles of poop (a suggestion from my friend Jen!).  I hope Cricket and I saved your shoes from a stinky day!

*(Erinn shared in the comment section that she likes to brush snow off of neighboring cars!  I hope we all get a chance to park next to an Erinn!)

Day 8 – While at Dunkin Donuts to get a cup of coffee, I saw a stand full of gift cards.  I added several to my order.  When I went running, I took a different route and gave Dunkin Donuts gift cards to some folks who looked like they could use a hot cup of coffee.  It was great!

*(Marsha from NC left a note in the comment section.  She bought a meal for a stranger.  She was paying it forward!  How awesome is that?!  Thanks Marsha!!!)

Day 7 – I have a couple pairs of gently worn mittens.  I put them in my work bag and on my way to and from work, I placed them in areas where I’ve seen homeless women.  I hope the gloves will help just a bit this winter.

Day 6 – I ran into Walgreens to pick up some stuff and saw a Toys for Tots bin.  So in my basket with some water and face cream, I added a couple of toys.  I put them in the box with the rest of the collection and smiled as I exited the store.

*(Very excited!!!  My friend Anita sent me this awesome tweet:

Anita Moller@aamoller: @susantran It’s contagious! I was inspired to do a good deed today.
@aamoller: @susantran Yep. While on my run, I stopped to carry the newspaper to a cute little man so he didn’t have to walk down the icy drive to get it.)

Day 5 – On my run today, I had a pocket full of scratch-off lottery tickets, and as I jogged around town, I handed them to strangers.  It was much more fun and far more comical than I’d imagined it would be!  Every one appeared taken aback, confused, or shocked.  I smiled, said, “Happy Holidays,” and ran off (I should have worn my elf hat!).  As my strides moved me forward, I could hear them yell, “Thank You!”  Those two words powered me for the rest of my trek home.

Day 4 – I went to get a soda and a snack at some vending machines and I left the change.

photo by: tomlin

*(I applied to Caring Canines but got an email response saying its program is at full capacity.  Sad for me but awesome for the program!)

Day 3 – I noticed some union brothers in the cold this morning.  I stopped by a Dunkin Donuts and bought them some hot coffee.  It was their appreciation that warmed me.

*(It’s only day 3 and I’m finding it somewhat difficult to do a small good deed, which is kind of upsetting.  Please consider giving me some suggestions.  I’m looking for small gestures.  Thanks in advance!)

Day 2 – I walked to lunch with a pocket full of quarters.  I fed several expired meters.  I hope I kept you from a ticket.

Day 1 – I’m running along the Christian Science Center and I notice a family of four.  Mom is trying to get her two sons and husband in the perfect picture.  I stop and ask if I can help take a family photo for them.  They hand me their Canon, smile, and I capture their broad grins in front of The Original Mother Church.  I make sure they’re satisfied with my work and run off.  They put a smile on my face and my stride home had a new elasticity.

news lingo

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

TV news is like the military when it comes to acronyms.  We love them.  We’re also huge fans of lingo.  Even better, there are often several words to describe the same thing depending on the shop (station).   So in case you were ever curious about what the heck we’re talking about, here’s your secret TV news decoder ring.

A vo (some say vo, others go with v.o.) is a voice over.  It’s when an anchor or reporter is reading a script over video.  A vo/sot is a voice over followed by sound on tape.  An anchor/reporter will read a script over video and then you (the viewer at home) will hear a portion of an interview.  There’s also a pkg which is an abbreviation for package.  It’s a fully edited story.  A reporter/anchor will look at the video, the interviews and write a story.  She (or he) will record her voice, pick the sound bites and the editor will piece it together into a seamless story.  In the field, the photographer is also the editor.

the rundown

Everything that will be in a newscast is displayed on a rundown.  The slug is the name of the story.  The talent line tells everyone (the producers, directors, camera crew, audio person) who’s reading the story.  The format column indicates what type of story it is, whether it’s a vo, vo/sot, or pkg.  The writer is the person who wrote the story.  The story is given a certain length of time it can run.  Usually a vo is :15-:20 seconds.  A vo/sot is :40-:45.  And a pkg is 1:15-1:30 (1:30 is very generous, though special stories can be about 2:30).  The hit time is the point in the newscast when the story will air.  As my first producer told me, we have a window; you have to start and end the show on time, every day, to the second.

assignment desk

The heart of every newsroom is the assignment desk.  That’s where the assignment editors sit.  They are the lifelines for the reporters, photographers, truck operators, producers, and the public.  Assignment editors read all the press releases that come in, listen to all the police and fire scanners, they keep an eye on recurring stories, upcoming court dates, and have a huge file of contacts.  They call to get information on breaking news.  They let the producers know what is going on that day and help them decide how to allocate the crews (reporter/photographer/truck operator) to each story.  Assignment editors prepare reporters with the necessary information for their story, give photographers and truck operations locations of where they need to go and are the conduits between the producers and reporters in the field.  They are amazing multi-taskers!


At 7News we have a working newsroom, which means our newsroom is part of the news set.  You can see the writers’ pod (there’s also the producers’ pod, the executive producers’).  At their desks are computers that also double as viewing stations so they can look at video and interviews.

anchor desk



The news set’s main focus is the anchor desk.  That’s where the anchors usually read their stories.  You’ll also see 7News anchors standing in various positions in the newsroom.  There are also several places where the sports team does its reports and the weather station where the meteorologists present the forecast.  By now you probably know they stand in from of a chroma wall on the news set (that’s either bright green or royal blue) and at home you see the computer generated graphics and animations instead of the chroma wall.  On the news set, there is also a ton of lights and several cameras.  Attached to the cameras are teleprompters so the anchors can look right into the camera lens and see the words they need to read.  We also have a fun jib, which has a camera on one end and a counter weight on the other.  It lets the camera operator capture high shots or smoothly move horizontally or vertically.  Many of the big movements done in the newsroom are done with the use of a jib.  Out on the set with the anchors is the floor director who guides the anchors, telling them which camera they’re on, how long sound bites are, or letting them know when they might need to move to a new position.


control room

But the magic happens in the control room.  That’s where the director runs the show.  He (or she) will look at the newscast that the producer put together and synchronize the execution of camera shots, audio, graphics and video.  During the live newscast, he calls out directions to the technical director on when to take each camera shot, when to bring up each anchor’s or reporter’s microphone and when to go to a reporter.  They’re constantly looking at the preview monitor to see what will be the next thing viewers see.  Next, they’re looking at the on-air monitor to make sure that folks at home are seeing what they’re supposed to be seeing.  The producer helps to ensure what he envisioned is carried out and he’s constantly monitoring the air-time clock to make sure he gets out of the show right on time.


Reporters often put their stories together in the field.  The photographer uses his (or her) video camera and captures video and interviews onto a beta tape (some stations use disks or flash drives).  The reporter reviews the video and interviews and writes a package.  We use a lip mic to record our voice in the field.  The photographer then takes all those components and pieces together our package using the edit decks in the truck.


live trucks

lip mic

When you see us on TV we’re often reporting from a live location.  A live microwave truck or a satellite truck is sending our pictures and sound from the live location back to the station before it’s broadcast to you at home.  The reporter is usually wearing a lavealier microphone, we call it a lav mic.  She’s also has an ifb (interruptible feedback earpiece) in her ear.  This lets the reporter hear the show and the folks back at the station communicate with the reporter.



If you’ve read all this, you’re probably more versed in TV news jargon than any civilian should be but as I write that last line, I realize I didn’t even get to explain what a cg, lower third, ots, and  mix-minus is.  I’ll save that for next time.  (That, in TV news, is called a tease!)