Hello, my name is Deborah…

I could probably write a hundred entries about all the crazy people I end up dealing with on a semi-daily basis. I figured I’d start with the first one I encountered.

When I interned for the company in my senior year of college, one of my duties was listening to the voicemails for potential stories. My intern advisor hadn’t checked them since February, and since I interned over the summer, that meant there were a ton of voicemails. Before I began, she warned me about Deborah.

“There’s this one woman who calls all the time. Her name is Deborah. You’ll probably want to listen to the first few messages from her, but after that, you can just delete them as soon as she says her name.”

I was confused. What was up with this Deborah? I began listening to the voicemails, and I quickly discovered what my boss meant.

Deborah began every single call with the phrase, “Hello, my name is Deborah.” She seemed normal at first, but within a few seconds her tone would escalate to a scream. The calls would usually go something like this:

“Hello, my name is Deborah. I’ve been having a problem with a parade going outside my window. AND STEVEN SEAGAL OWES ME SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS. AND (expletive) MIKE BLOOMBERG OWES ME THREE TRILLION (expletive) DOLLARS!!!!”

She would go on and on about who owed her money, usually in ridiculously large amounts. Sometimes her commentary also included racial slurs (usually against Italians).

At first listening to the calls was funny. But then it got annoying. Sometimes she would talk so much that the voicemail would hang up on her. Then she’d call back and continue her crazed rant where she left off, as if she hadn’t had to call back midway through it.

I’m not sure how she got the number, or why she felt the need to call it to talk about how much money Steven Seagal owed her. But it taught me that there are lots and lots of crazy people out there with access to phones and televisions. As someone who has to deal with strangers every day, it was a good lesson that sometimes you need to be careful about who you’re dealing with. Luckily, Deborah never showed her face, so I never had to deal with her in person.

But I do look back fondly on those moments, when I was bored out of my mind from listening to regular voicemails, that Deborah brought a smile to my face with her craziness. So thanks Deborah, for always introducing yourself before going into psychotic nonsensical rants that made me laugh.

The Perks of Being a Journalist

Ok…obviously I got my title from the book/movie Perks of Being a Wallflower (if you haven’t read or seen it, stop reading this and go do it!)

But back to the topic at hand…I know I complain a lot about my job. But there are a ton of perks that come along with the pain.

Like, for instance, food. I get offered food all the time. Usually I don’t take it, because I feel like it’s sort of wrong to eat at a shoot. I don’t want to look like I’m taking bribes.

But sometimes I don’t have a choice. More often than not, I get the food forced upon me–which really isn’t a bad thing. One time I did a story about a young girl who had gotten an award for volunteering. Her family threw her a little party, and her mom insisted that I eat something. I told her no, but before I knew it, I was holding a full plate that she had filled up for me.

Sometimes I don’t feel bad taking the food. Like today, I did a story at Mother Mousse Bakery. I didn’t even try to protest when the owner gave me a pack of cookies to take back to the office.

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(My coworker and I have already decimated the cookies. They were delish.)

Maybe it’s just because I love cookies so much that I took them so readily. Either way, things like this just make the job a little bit better.

P.S. If you’re on the Island, head to either Mother Mousse location and buy a charity cookie-all proceeds go to breast cancer research! I promise your taste buds will thank you.

The pain of MOS

We just had a conversation in my office about the worst thing you could be told by an anchor. And that thing was, “Go grab some MOS.”

MOS is news speak for man on the street interviews. If you’re watching a story about Obamacare and you see some lady that no one has ever heard of complaining about socialism, that’s MOS. If you see some guy at the beach saying how beautiful the weather is on an unseasonably hot day on October, that’s MOS. You get the idea.

Us news people out in the field generally hate getting MOS. You would think it would be easy, but it’s actually one of the most difficult parts of my job. Despite what you would think based on reality tv, not everyone wants to be in the spotlight. Most people tell me not to put them on camera at all. Some people will tell you all their opinions about a topic but then refuse to be filmed saying any of it. It can take an hour to get two people to agree to talk on camera, which is sort of ridiculous when you actually think about how long the finished story is.

Then, when you finally convince them to say something on camera, it’s not always usable. For example, one time when I interviewed a kid about what his plans were during Hurricane Irene, he told me (not in such nice language) that he intended to get drunk all night. I couldn’t put what he said, curse words and all, on the air (but it did make our Christmas Party blooper reel).

I’m no stranger to getting MOS. When I interned at a newspaper right after high school, I worked a lot with the (now defunct) teen section. They would often ask me to go do their teen polls, which consisted of asking teens a question, getting their answer, and a picture of them. If you think getting adult MOS is hard, try asking teens. They won’t even usually look up from whatever they’re doing to acknowledge that you spoke to them. And if they do, they just give you a dirty look.

The questions weren’t even that bad, either. Nowadays I often end up asking people complex stuff, like about their political beliefs. The teen section never had anything remotely close to that. It was always things like, “What summer movie are you most looking forward to seeing?” or “Where are you buying your prom dress?” Really simple. But it would take me hours, standing by myself in the mall, to get the requisite three people per question. Eventually I wised up and called my friends-who were all still teenagers at that point-and used their Facebook photos along with their answers.

The truth is that people don’t like to be bothered while going about minding their own business to stop and talk to a complete stranger just to be put on the news. I kind of understand. It’s like those people who spray you with perfume in the mall and ask if you want a sample. I usually just say no and walk away, but now that I’ve been in a similar situation, I feel awful about it. It’s really hard to try to get strangers to interact with you.

So that’s why I hate getting MOS. But whenever it takes me a long time, I try to think back to the days when those rotten teens wouldn’t even look at me in the mall. Because at least now people say “no” (and even occasionally, “sorry”), which is better than being treated like you don’t even exist.

Court stakeouts

Before I was in the news biz, I knew surprisingly little about how court works. I say “surprisingly” little because my dad is a lawyer, and when I was young he took me with him to court a couple times. Also I used to be an avid fan of Law & Order.

Now I know a couple things about court, mostly from staking out high profile cases. Like today, for instance, I’m standing outside the Supreme Court in Staten Island, waiting for an accused hit and run driver.

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There isn’t much fun in staking out a low-high profile case. Unlike the Casey Anthony trial, no one is waiting outside the courthouse with signs, chanting angrily. It’s just me, and the people from channel 2.

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(Here’s the channel 2 guy…he uses a bigger camera than I do)

What I’ve found out from this whole thing is that news coverage of a trial is pretty much determined my a judge. You know those trials you see televised? A judge had to allow those cameras in. I’ve been denied entry with my camera by judges. I understand why, but it’s also super annoying from my perspective.

Another thing is that pretty much anyone can sit in on a trial (or at least an arraignment, in my experience). Right now one of our reporters is sitting in on an arraignment, waiting to give me the cue to get ready to try to film the perp as he exits the courthouse.

I also found out that they could say an arraignment is at 9am but then because of scheduling conflicts, no one will show up until the afternoon. Hence all my waiting around.

I now know more about prison vans and perp walks than I ever wanted to know. But that’s just a part of the job, I guess.
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(One of the lovely vans just pulled up now!)

The only real thing my court experiences have confirmed is that I’m so glad I didn’t end up in law school, because I really really dislike court.