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Doing This Job, Part 1: Chatting on the Air

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 18, 2006

A couple of things happened last week that will give you a glimpse at part of this job works, for good or ill.

The first thing explains why you've seen me popping up on Channel 5 lately. It actually started the week before last, when Channel 5's Stefani Schaefer called, asking to interview me for some pieces she was doing on Channel 5's fall lineup. I said yes. Schedule permitting, I usually say yes to such requests, and I've been on almost every station at some point. In fact, in the days of the old ''Morning Exchange,'' my colleagues and I had an annual appointment to talk on the air about the coming TV season.

Anyway, Stefani called. Since our schedules -- and the idea of my driving to Cleveland -- didn't mesh very well, we finally agreed that I would be interviewed from the Beacon Journal offices. (Channel 5 has an office here, as part of a news partnership with the Beacon Journal.) Stefani would be in Cleveland, talking to a camera. I would be in Akron, watching Stefani on a monitor and talking to another camera. Earpieces would let us hear each other. It's a weird process -- your impulse is to look at the monitor, where you see the other person, when you should be looking at the camera, where the audience is -- but it's functional enough.

We were going to do this last Monday. Then things changed. There was some problem setting up the live hookup between me and Cleveland -- probably an outbreak of real news. After calls back and forth, Stefani ended up writing out her questions; the list was sent to me. I went to a meeting room here, Channel 5's Joe McGee set up a camera (and tried not to make me look too much like, well, me) and I gave my answers to the camera. It wasn't the tidiest process, since my answer to one question might include the answer to something two or three questions down the list, but I hit the topics.

And apparently hit them enough that Channel 5 keeps running stories with my mug in them; they sure have made efficient use of my monologue. I haven't seen any of the stories yet -- I don't like to look at myself on TV, especially after a long hiatus from the gym -- but I've heard from people who have.

''Pimping for Channel 5!'' one co-worker declared. That's not it, of course. I happen to like several shows on ABC -- just as I like shows on CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW.

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