Archive for 'Reporting'

With the amazing opportunities as a new reporter, you almost never know who you’re going to interview next.
The along came the chance to meet with civil rights pioneers Claudette Colvin and Fred Gray. I’d heard of both their stories before, but never knew their names or their connection.

Before Rosa Parks, there was 15-year-old Colvin, who refused to give her seat on a segregated bus in March 1955 (Rosa did the same in Dec. 1955). Colvin was arrested for civil disobedience and her attorney was Fred Gray. They eventually won their case, and Gray went on to represent Dr. Martin Luther King and took on several groundbreaking cases. Gray is featured in the Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” and is portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.
There really is not enough room to write all their accolades. But I tried to capture in a one minute and 30 seconds, the essence of their historical impact as the two made a stop in Oklahoma to speak at Oklahoma Christian University in honor of Black History Month.

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Moving to the state of Oklahoma to report the news, I got a rude awakening of just how life-changing the weather can be. Growing up in Georgia, I’ve experienced tornadoes before but certainly nothing like the historic ones that hit the state of Oklahoma in May 2013. For a while it was like they didn’t stop. I covered my first one on May 19th in Carney, Oklahoma, which was devastated small town, where I interviewed a woman who pulled from rubble. I was in the city of Shawnee the next day for coverage of the same tornado that destroyed homes there. And while back at my news station, the big one struck. It was late afternoon on May 20th. Our meteorologists kept talking of more twisters to come, but the day was sunny and hadn’t the state suffered enough already?
Well apparently not, since the sky turned black out of no where, and it began to rain and hail and sirens went off. Then it happened, we’re watching storm chasers on live broadcast track the tornado that wiped out two elementary schools in Moore killing 7 children.

I had never seen anything like it. I heard Moore was “Tornado Alley” since it experienced several tornados in the last two decades, but like lighting, you rarely think it’ll strike the same place twice. Then the widest tornado recorded hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st. And this one destroyed a vocational school, farms and even killed a National Geographic storm chaser. I was covering this storm for weeks, since sadly that’s how long it took for rescuers to find bodies of a couple families that took refuge in sewer drains in Oklahoma City. The waters got so high, did a flash flood, and these two families with very little children were washed away. Many of the families still survived, but babies died.
Again, nothing like I had ever seen before or imagined.

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Downtown Day

I get assigned to cover the $440 million cuts that the Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power is making. I head downtown LA to the press conference at City Hall where the DWP manager and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa address this topic. After checking out camera equipment, walking to my car and driving downtown in a seemingly low-traffic day, I park at the LA Mall ($16 for 2 hrs) and make it through City Hall security to catch the tail end of the conference. I was able to slide in, get set up and catch a few statements from the mayor before getting a one-on-one with the manager.

Questions to Ask:
Why was the DWP was making cuts now?
Exactly, How much was being cut to which departments?
Who all do the cuts affect?
How would people perceive the cuts?

I get my answers, shoot a tease in front of City Hall, walk all the way over to the DWP building and do a standup there, and then I’m off to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers office since this union represents many employees who work for the DWP. I called beforehand and was told the “Media relations person” would get back to me, so I just show up hoping to get a comment from somebody about the effects the DWP cuts would have on them.
“Our manager is gone for the day and no one else here can comment, but our media person will get back to you before 3 p.m.,” a staffer said.

Well that didn’t happen, my story gets cut from a package to a V.O. and I after I finish writing and logging the footage, I’m sent right back downtown to do a Live shot on the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer case update. I try to familiarize myself with latest discoveries in the murder mystery and decide to take the DASH to the Police Administration building to save on time, and if you’ve ever taken packed-out public transportation with a camera bag, tripod and purse – it’s the Most. The journey isn’t over as I trek (and I mean trek) from 5th and Flower St. all the way to 1st and Main St. (Thank God I didn’t wear my heels that day!).

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I meet up with the Camera Operator who will be doing the Live Shot. She briefs me on what she knows of the Grim Sleeper, I get set up, go Live at 6 p.m. and try to not mix up all the numbers of the women identified vs. unidentified in connection to the case. Post-shoot, we both rush to the bus that ends its routes completely at 6:30 p.m. We make it to 3rd & Main St. -nowhere near USC’s campus. Stranded, I call the news producers who are still in the studio & then one of my friends saves the day and picks up me & my camera lady after we had been waiting on a downtown street corner for an hour with 2 cameras, tripods, a streambox and laptop.

Though the package got scrapped, you can see some of the remains here, along with my Live shot on the Grim Sleeper:

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Late-night election coverage is nothing new to me. I covered the night of the 2008 Presidential

Reporting at Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina’s watch party in Irvine

elections while in Columbus, Ohio. Last November, I covered California’s contentious senatorial elections until midnight, but this year’s Los Angeles City Council race in the 8th District took me to 2 a.m – a new record for me.

Tuesday was already a long day. I rose at 4:30 a.m. to get started on a paper due later on that I should’ve took care of the night before. I tried to research and type with lightning speed, knowing that the longer I took, meant the less time I would have to get ready for my reporting shift for USC’s ATVNews beginning promptly at 8:30 a.m.

I pulled the paper together, emailed it to my professor, and draped on a political blue suit to get revved up for Election day in LA. My producer told me over the weekend that I’d be covering the much talked about race in USC’s own district: 8. This race was so big because two-term incumbent and former police chief Bernard Parks faced off against two candidates with no previous city council experience. His biggest challenger, candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles, had the support of the public employee unions ($1.2 million worth of support) and was a nonprofit-group executive. Former Trojan footballer Jabari Jumaane was the third contender in the race.

When I interviewed Jumaane Tuesday afternoon at Jesse Owens Park, he said he had so much history in the community being born, raised and educated in the 8th district. He’s a firefighter who believes the biggest issue in the area is constituents being ignored. I went to Parks campaign headquarters first that day.

District 8 candidates: Forescee Hogan-Rowles, Bernard Parks and Jabari Jumaane

All three candidates housed their offices on Crenshaw Boulevard. Parks’ places was plastered with posters and pictures of himself and  all his celebrity endorsements including Magic Johnson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca. He had huge “Re-elect Councilman Parks” billboards all over town, and though his headquarters was fairly mellow and empty when I visited, his volunteers boasted that Parks had the race in the bag.

“It’s not going to be a close race at all,” said Pamona Alexander, a Parks volunteer making phone calls. “He’s done a lot for the city and will win by a landslide.”

The mood was slightly different at the Hogan-Rowles camp. She had volunteers holding up signs on the side of the road, a party bus that would go by blaring oldies music, a busy office with many on the phones and even a professional chef on hand serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

She ran against Parks in 2003 and lost, but said bringing more jobs and affordable housing to South LA were biggest goals. And though she’d be a newbie to the city council, she said she’s no stranger to balancing big budgets as a former commissioner for the Department of Water and Power.

After getting interviews from all the candidates offices, I took to the streets of Crenshaw to see who people were voting for and why. Many didn’t even know it was election day, and my questioning served as a reminder for those registered to vote. Parks seemed to be the favorite for some who said they were most familiar with him.

Len Ivy, a building contractor in the 8th district said he was voting for Hogan-Rowles because he wanted a change of face in the community. Next, I headed to the polls at Christ Temple Church on 54th Street to get some shots of people in line casting their ballots, but by 3 p.m., the place was deserted minus the volunteers. Rushing back to the newsroom, I struggled to put a decent District 8 voting story together in an hour before showtime, but I managed to get something written, tracked & edited by my 6:03 p.m. slot.

Just when I catch I my breath and take a seat, off I go back to the Hogan-Rowles campaign headquarters to cover her watch party for the night after the polls close and voting results announced. Spirits were high in her camp as people waited for her to arrive. She came around 8:30 p.m. as results were slowly trickling in, and I remember when California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina showed up around 11 p.m. for her party.

I tweeted from my location, interviewed Hogan-Rowles supporters and watched for reactions as the results showed Parks slightly in the lead and Jamaane trailing in last place. The music stayed pumping, diet coke cans were popping, and guests helped themselves to fried chicken, pasta and salad all night. I connected with other journalists from the LA Times, Intersections and NeonTommy, and the time really passed.

Cheers of “Forescee!” which sounded like “For S-C,” crescendoed throughout the midnight hour and supporters danced each time the results showed Parks lead slowly slipping.

“All we need is for him to get 50 percent, and we’ll go into a runoff,” Hogan-Rowles said while beaming. Her smile still didn’t fade at 1 a.m. when it was reported that Parks declared a clear victory. “Not so fast Bernard,” she said. “There are still absentee ballots to be counted.”

But she shortly told all her supporters to go home, await the results and to not give up. I thought she would have a Kamala Harris effect, who won the California Attorney General elections late last year after battling vote for vote her opponent.

Though it was almost 2 in the morning, on a school night, I kind of didn’t want to leave since I had been there for so long, I should have camped out in the campaign quarters. The atmosphere was homey and Hogan-Rowles supporters were really behind to the end.

I later learned that the race went to the man with more than 45 years of LA public service under his belt. Parks got 50.89% of the vote, Hogan-Rowles finished with 43.99% and Jabari S. Jumaane followed with 5.11%.

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