Tennant, Manchin statements punt to legislature

While marking a visible difference in legal opinion, statements made by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant appear to agree on one thing: the law is convoluted, and the legislature can change it, perhaps in a special session.

Earlier in the day, Manchin told reporters that he has asked state Attorney General Darrell McGraw for a second opinion on the state’s election law. Tennant had previously declared, that because of a quirk of timing and a confusing election law, that the seat had to be filled by appointment. After Manchin’s comments hit the wires, Tennant released a statement which, while recognizing the legal authority of the attorney general in this matter,  firmly stated “while I welcome the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office, I stand by my original interpretation of state code and our review of the appropriate case law.”

She stated that her office has been evaluating the legal requirements and timelines for various election scenarios and has contacted the attorney general and offered their election law expertise.

“I have said time and again that I do not personally agree with this section of code. In fact, I would like to see the people of West Virginia go to the polls as soon as possible,” wrote Tennant. “I have always been an advocate for voting whether it be satellite precincts, vote-by-mail, or internet voting for our military and overseas voters.”

The big news that the AP seems to be focusing on is that Manchin has said that he would run for the seat if a special election were held. I would venture to say that most West Virginian’s are not surprised by this, but it is nonetheless newsworthy for the grim and awkward dance that is filling the late, and openly beloved Sen. Byrd’s seat.

The larger story is slowly focusing itself on the legislature and how, or if, they are open to changing the law. They have a special session coming up on July 19, and the matter could be addressed there. Tennant also issued a call for a special session as early as possible to examine the section of state code that deals with the succession process. “I believe by working with the legislature we can clear up the confusion in the code and pass a law that works for West Virginia voters.”

Innovative use of multimedia by a newspaper…in 1924

I’ve been poking around the video vaults over at Archive.org recently. Much of this is due to the fact that I have been itching to edit video for about six months now, ever since my 2004 Canon Optura 10 died for the last time. Archive.org’s large and downloadable cache of public domain documents, ranging from videos, to e-books, to archived websites, make it an excellent resource for any videographer searching for production elements (or inspiration) on the cheap. Recent excursions into Archive.org’s vaults have me working on some re-edits of Things To Come, which is basically a British Metropolis (as well as another movie which George Lucas must have seen before he conceived the Death Star).

Then I stumbled upon this fascinating piece of newspaper cinematography from 1924, a early example of a newspaper attempting to engage its readers with motion-picture content (sound like a familiar topic anyone?) Try pitching this to your editor on Monday and see what looks you get: readers send in descriptions of their bizarre dreams which the newspaper then makes into a movie starring the dreamers.


The challenges which news organizations face are not new. As new communication avenues have opened up, newspapers have often been at the forefront of that change, be it dabbling in early radio ventures (mobile journalists should dig the picture showing how they did live remotes in 1922), interpreting dreams for the big screen, or today, with multimedia and social journalism.

Knife pulled in late night fight

Multiple anonymous sources living in the vicinity of German Street are reporting that the Shepherdstown Police Department responded to a fight late last night on German Street in which a knife was drawn.

One resident who lives in an apartment overlooking German Street says that shortly before midnight she heard a verbal argument escalate into a physical confrontaion below her window. She says that, while she did not look for herself, she overheard the beligerents remarking about the sudden insertion of a knife into the loud altercation.

Another witness who was commuting home around midnight reports that he passed by two Shepherdstown Police Department squad cars with their lights on interacting with a group of about 10 to 12 people, some of whom appeared to be overcome with emotion. He says that by this point, order had been restored.

All versions of the rumored fight share a few details: A street side argument on German Street escalated to the point where a knife was drawn, at which point multiple belligerents wrestled the knife away. Shortly thereafter, many of the rumors say, the police arrived on the scene.

Ranking members of the Shepherdstown Police Department have been contacted to comment on the story, but as of 8:13 p.m., no response has been received. Messages were left with SPD personnel after business hours, It is not unusual for local police to refrain from commenting on a story of this small nature until they conduct an initial investigation into the incident.

This story will be updated once official confirmation, refutation or clarification of the described sequence of events has been obtained. Readers should, until then, bear in mind that the details of this story are still emerging and unverified by official sources.

Water problems persist on Ray Street

Roots run deep east of the tracks on Ray and College Streets, one of two historically black sections of Shepherdstown. Many residents can trace their local family lines back to the Civil War, and in some instances, the houses have stayed in family ownership for generations. In instances of hardship, it is common to witness the community rally around their affected neighbor to help them out of duress.

Today is no different.

Ray Street residents Lucy Curbo and Walt Green chip away at the dirt and rocks hiding a water main which may or may not be the source of Keith Boyd's water problems. Boyd, in blue, says he has been using bottled water since Monday. Also pictured, to the left of Green, is Buck Showalter.

A group of neighbors are pitching together to help restore water service to the home of lifelong Ray Street resident Keith Boyd. Boyd says he has been without water pressure since at least Monday morning.

“It was just my problem, but now it’s my neighbor’s problem because they are helping me so graciously,” says Boyd.

According to Boyd, the Corporation of Shepherdstown can’t repair the line because, simply, it’s not theirs. Boyd admits that he won’t know for sure until he finds the source of the leak, but he suspects the problem could be related to last weeks emergency repairs to a ruptured water main at the intersection of Princess and Washington Streets.

But finding the leak has proven to be difficult for a number of reasons.

Boyd says that a plumber’s estimate to fix the problem ran over $3,000, which Boyd can’t afford. Instead, Boyd’s friends and neighbors have donated a considerable amount of sweat equity to try and overcome his water woes. The small group of volunteer plumbers arrived around midday today and began digging to discover the source of the leak. By 6 p.m., the group included Buck Showalter, Dawn Showalter, Walt Green, Lucy Curbo and a whimpering puppy named Wider. They, along with Boyd, are lending muscle to the formidable task of discovering the source of the leak, repairing the line and restoring water pressure. Obstacles so far have included the wet, heavy clay soil and persistent, frequent rocks which have to be delicately worked around, lest they disturb surrounding pipework.

“We’re learning as we go,” said Buck Showalter between shovel strokes.

What they are looking for now is an instructor, someone who can volunteer their time to help them out of their situation. Neighbor Lucy Curbo has been calling around to her plumber friends to see if they can offer any guidance or services. Dawn Showalter was also calling a family friend who owns a plumbing business to seek advice. As of this writing, it had been in short supply.

“We just need someone to tell us what to do, and we can do it.” Said Showalter, who labors in a brickyard by day.

Lifelong Ray Street resident Keith Boyd, in blue, pauses for a moment as his neighbors Walt Green, background, and Buck Showalter, foreground, dig to find the source of a leaking water main on Boyd's property. Boyd says his water service has suffered following last weeks water main break in Shepherdstown.

Failing professional help, they also would appreciate any other volunteers who may be able to come out and help them dig up the water line over the next few days.

If you are able to donate time or expertise to help Keith Boyd return water service to his house, please contact 304-283-9840 or 304-707-1907.

Hawaii state legislator has mad flow

The meetings of legislative bodies are meant to be boring and stale affairs. This ennui serves the important purpose of highlighting for journalists the (surprisingly frequent) moments of legislative insanity. Or creativity. Or both?

To be quite honest, I’m not sure what this falls under (discovered via Fark):

But I love it. I love that Rep. Brower (D-Waikiki) apparently listens to Yung Joc, to the extent that he was inspired to incorporate the memorable and titular hook of Yung Joc’s first single “It’s Goin’ Down” into his 2010 Hawaiian state legislative session themed rap. I love that he, himself, uploaded the video you just watched. He appears to understand how to be a politician in the digital age.

I love that Rep. Bower, apparently, does this every year. Here he is delivering another rhyming invocation on the floor of the legislature in 2008:

And again in 2009:

Mostly, I love how he sells his entire performance. Look at him. He’s a middle-aged legislator who, frankly, cannot rap worth a damn, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him. You just know he’d be an excellent front man for some Hawaiian themed industrial surf rock band (I hope those exist).

For sticking to the script and exceeding my expectations (which were low) Rep. Browers gets my highest praise, the title of “Consummate Showman.” He’s up there with the Two Man Gentleman Band and Khaos Kloud.

How to pitch to a multimedia journalist

This is from my audition at Ragan Communications. I talk to Chicago-Sun Times multimedia journalist Kevin Allen about how public relations practitioners can pitch a story to overburdened reporters in the digital age.

Mike Zaruba ran camera for my standups (the first standups of my career, I might add). Script, lighting, principal shooting and editing were done by yours truly.

How to mic a senator

It’s the year 2006. You are working on Capitol Hill as a production assistant for a niche web publication which has recently launched a Web-based video platform. You are struggling to convert your college mastery of Final Cut Pro into a passable understanding of Avid Adrenaline. Your thoughts frequently meander through futile comparisons of the two programs in a vain attempt to comprehend the outwardly archaic Avid system.

Then, the anchor announces that the senator has arrived, and all previous thoughts go out the window. Now you are faced with, to an outsider, a rather daunting task: firmly affixing a microphone to a senator’s left lapel.

It is an intimate task, perhaps one of the most intimate in all of journalism.

Have you showered that day? It doesn’t matter. You are part Italian, you grew up with District of Columbia summers and you work as a studio hand. If there’s one thing you excel at, it’s sweating. Besides, you’ve done this countless times before. The senator’s armpits usually are just as smelly as yours. “The senator is just gonna have to deal with it”, you think to yourself.

You follow the anchor and the producer into the lobby where the producer introduces herself and her staff to the senator and his staff. From there, you follow the producer, the anchor and the senator into the studio.

The anchor sits down at the ovular-yet-triangular studio table. Her microphone is already on her seat, placed there by your hands earlier in the day during studio prep, and she quietly affixes her mic and IFB earpiece to herself.

The senator does a similar routine, except there is no microphone awaiting him on his seat. You are holding that mic in your hands. If you’ve positioned yourself correctly you are now standing behind the senator as he takes his seat. Usually he will remark with surprise that the studio chairs don’t have wheels. There is a reason for this: wheeled chairs and jittery guests make a cameraman’s job more difficult than it needs to be. The anchor usually explains that part. You remain silent.

Upon taking his seat, the senator, if he’s good, will lean forward on the table, exposing his backside to you, while at the same time unbuttoning his jacket. You reach down and grab the back of his jacket to expose his belt. If he’s skinny, you can easily slide the mic onto his belt and proceed to step two. If he is fat, you have to go fishing under his spare tire with your fingers to find the belt before the mic pack can be slid into place.

Now you are holding a small lapel mic tethered by thin wire to the belt of an important person. Your next task is to run the cord to his lapel in such a manner that the wire will not become visible during taping.  Amateurs will simply run the wire around the side of the senator, between his jacket and shirt, to the ventral face of his torso before clipping it to the lapel. This, as mentioned, is amateur. Mic cords are long, and in this manner a lot of cord is left dangling at the side of the senator. This leaves the senator in a position where simple conversational hand gestures could betray the presence of the cord.

A professional studio hand knows to run the microphone cord from the mic pack, up the back of the senator (and in between his jacket and his shirt), over his shoulder and down his chest to his lapel. In this manner, the jacket firmly holds the wire in place while leaving any slack in the wire hanging harmlessly behind the senator, relatively protected from dislodging and discovery.

To do this, you must again grab hold of the senators jacket and lift it up enough to reach your left hand upward between his jacket and shirt to the top of the left shoulder. Your right hand waits there, next to the senator’s ear, for the left to emerge from his collar with mic in hand. There, your other hand grabs the lapel mic as you dislodge your hand from underneath the senators jacket. You position yourself now to the left side of the senator.

You tug on the wire from the front to gain enough slack to reach his left lapel. Why his left lapel? Simple: the anchor sits to the left of the senator, and all of his vocalizations will be sent in this direction. Your microphone should sit between the senator and the anchor to most effectively record his voice. Once enough, but not too much, slack is obtained, you grab the senator’s left lapel and turn it outward to clip the microphone to his jacket.

Once clipped, you return the senator’s jacket to its previous unruffled form. Your last task is to position yourself back behind the senator to take up any remaining slack in the wire.

The entire time, if he’s good, the senator will act like nothing is happening. It’s just part of his job. What is not part of his job is putting on his own microphone. That is your job, and you are very comfortable with that, as is the senator.

After all, the last thing a politician wants to do is to take away your job.

Later in your struggling career you might have a weighty interview coming up. The lead up to these interviews, and certain contentious public meetings, produce in you an anxiety not unlike that felt before delivering a speech to a large crowd. Your experiences invading the personal spaces of powerful and important people while occupying the lowest rung of the newsroom ladder as if it was just another task to be completed helps you to deal with that anxiety. The audio recorder starts going, or that first click of the camera shutter, or the opening bang of the gavel is all that is needed to snap you out of the anxiety and into the present moment where you can do your job.

Back then your job was simply to observe, record and edit. Now you observe, record and report.

It is your job. You are good at it.