Friday, October 26, 2007


According to research by Children Now, almost 4 in 10 kids watch news programs daily or several times a week. As a parent I wonder, how are they processing what they see? Does a 6-year-old understand the California wildfires aren't near her grandad's house in LA? Does a 7-year-old know how to avoid staph infections at school? Does a 10-year-old understand why President Bush said letting Iran's nuclear ambitions go unchecked could lead to World War III?

I've done a 180 on this issue. Being in the news business, I always said I want my kids well informed. I remember telling someone: "My kids will read the newspaper at home starting when they're small and do reports for me on what they learned."

That was BK (before kids). Well, have you seen what's on the front page and on TV lately? I take it back! Now I look at the news, and their innocent faces, and wonder how long I can hold off reality.

Three years ago -- during that infamous child molestation trial in California -- my then 3-year-old came home from daycare and asked: "Mommy, who's Michael Jackson?" I knew she wasn't asking because they'd been listening to "Thriller" in school. Do you go for the easy answer ("He's just an entertainer, honey") or a watered-down version of the real thing ("He's an entertainer accused of doing bad things to kids") --

inviting the inevitable question: "What KINDS of bad things, Mommy?"

Clearly there are things even little kids need to know. If they're in school, they need to know enough about staph infections to prompt good hygiene. And sadly, at very young ages they now need to be aware of molesters, what they do, and how to avoid them.

But do I really need to explain to my grade-schooler about what happens if Iran's making nukes, what's going on in Iraq (or for that matter, Washington)? A lot of it depends on their age, what type of media they're watching, and whether you're watching with them. The group "Children Now" offers some great advice. Take a moment to read it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


They say every cloud has one, right? I sure was looking for it this morning!

We overslept and missed the school bus. After returning a must-do email from my daughter's teacher, I rushed her to school just in time -- realizing on the way I forgot to put the PTA newsletter in her backpack. A parent was waiting to make 600 copies today.

It wasn't ready anyway -- a rainy-day car accident added an hour to my commute last night, making me late for a meeting. After the meeting, a dear friend from out of town stopped by unexpectedly -- and visiting with her was a lot more fun than finishing that newsletter!

So I woke up behind the eight-ball. I quick-finished the newsletter, emailed it, left a hardcopy at my door for my PTA buddy, and cleaned up the "accident" my long-since potty trained preschooler had on my favorite sofa this morning (why today?!) That couldn't wait till after work -- but I had to run up and down 42 steps on a sprained ankle to get it done!

Finally -- breathless -- I was on my way to begin my day.

I remembered what my pastor once told me: success is 90% attitude. So I started thinking positively. I'm alive, healthy, employed and didn't skid off the rain-slicked roads. What other good things happened this morning?
  • My daughter learned to be more self-sufficient (she had to - I couldn't help today)

  • I made her education a priority by emailing the teacher back
  • My PTA colleagues learned they can count on me to meet deadline, even in a pinch
  • Barring any more accidents, my living room will smell nice and fresh this evening -- and maybe that huge box of Oxyclean I didn't have time to put back will inspire DH or teen daughter to spruce up the house before I get home (okay, now I'm dreaming!)

God must have known I needed a break because when I got to work, the best possible parking spot opened right up for me!

What a great day!

Monday, October 22, 2007


For every Mom who's horrified by (or gotten used to) your toddler licking his toys...

the Consumer Product Safety Commission says those home lead testing kits are completely useless. After all the news this summer about lead paint in toys from China, the CPSC did a new round of tests, and guess what? Half the time the tests said there was no lead present, there was! So the agency recommends not using them at all.

Actually, for all their claims the industry never said these quick-check tests were better than getting an inspection by a licensed professional. But when faced with the choice of a $300 inspection or a $6 test that promises its "accurate," "lab-tested and approved" and even used by the government, what are most parents going to choose?
The concern is that too much lead exposure can cause brain damage. Best advice: stay on top of the recalls and make sure you've checked on the real culprit -- lead paint in your house.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I love doing stories with real impact, and as a parent, this is definitely one of them. Today the FDA may recommend whether to pull kids' cold and cough meds off the market or just relabel them.

Manufacturers recalled cold and cough meds for kids under two last week -- more than a month after the FDA told parents to stop using them. Doctors claim these meds don't work -- they just mask the symptoms.

When I'm up at 2 a.m with a whiny, miserable child and I'm due at work a few hours later, that's good enough for me! I've probably got about four brands in my medicine chest right now -- from doctor's samples to the "emergency" version:
"Honey, can you just run out and get her something now -- she's been up all night and I have to be on air in a few hours!"

As it turns out, many of these meds were never tested in kids -- the industry just estimated based on adult dosages. Now they promise to do more research, but insist even if they don't help, they won't hurt either.

But of more concern: in 2005, Poison Control Centers answered 1,100 calls about these meds and 123 kids have died since 1969. In fairness to the industry -- which sells 100 million packages a year -- that's very few possible deaths over four decades.

The problem is it's easy to overdose because the dosages are supposed to be based on weight, not age. So my 4-year-old -- who's 40 pounds -- wouldn't need as much as my friend's 4-year-old, who's 65 pounds. But that's hard to gauge from the directions.

So for many, it's back to Grandma's recipe: a teaspoon of Father John's (remember that?), cod liver oil (disgusting but effective -- ask my kids) or Castor oil (that was my poison) --

rub some of that thick menthol stuff on your chest and under your nose...

and get plenty of rest and love!

Friday, September 14, 2007


Some days I love to blog about all the great "extra" info we get in the news business that can't make it on air. And some days I love to talk about being a "newsmom."

This is a "mom" day.

Sometimes we mothers can find ourselves doing the strangest things.

We go to church on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The other night my 4-year-oldson had homework, so I brought it to church. My daughter ended up being ill, so I sat in the church bathroom letting her rest most of the service. Great, I thought - we can do homework while we're in here.

But I didn't realize the homework involved cutting and pasting. I hadn't thought to bring glue sticks so... improvise... improvise... so we used lip gloss from Mommy's purse instead! Then, of course, my son wanted to TRY ON the lip gloss!

Ever have a wierd mommy (or daddy) moment? Do share!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I covered a heartbreaking story recently about the Ohio mom who left her two-year-old in the car all day. Changed her morning routine, was running to meetings, and simply forgot about her. She's a middle school assistant principal -- someone who clearly has a concern for kids -- yet will now be haunted the rest of her life because of what happened to her own.

I learned there are some devices on the market that will "beep" to remind you if you've left the baby in its car seat. (So as not to advertise, I'll let you Google them.) But there's a pretty strong debate about whether manufacturers should be reminding parents "Oh, don't forget your CHILD!" -- or whether parents just need to slow down their lifestyles and responsibilities and put their most important priorities -- their children -- first.

As a parent of two little ones, I can't say (thankfully) that I've ever forgotten them in the car. But I've certainly had that debate with myself about whether it's safe to leave them locked inside for 30 seconds while I run back into the house to get something I forgot. Or whether they'll be OK sitting in the car while I run in the mini-mart to get a soda ("I can see them through the window.") Strapping them in and out of those car seats is such a hassle that these things DO cross your mind.

Another parent offered this perspective:

"We're concerned what may happen to the kids, but what about what may happen to YOU? What if you're hit by a car running into the mini-mart, and you've left the kids alone?"

I hadn't thought about it that way.

So many choices to make, to keep our most precious possessions... safe.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


You know it's that time of year when kiddies with backpacks crowd the corner every morning...

you can get a pack of pencils for 5 cents at your local office supply store...

and your neighbor's child comes by asking if you want to buy gift wrap (our fundraiser starts the second week of school!)

But I must say, for the last 3 months I've missed morning mayhem, homework, packing lunches and all the wonderful chaos that comes with having kids in school. Tonight's our "Back to School" night, so I'll get to meet my daughter's teacher for the first time.

This year I decided to get involved in the PTA and see what that's all about. What I like so far is that I get a heads up on everything happening at school before it happens.
It's funny - when school starts, my whole schedule changes. All summer I drove to work after dropping the kids at camp. But when school starts, I usually hop back on the Metro.

Evenings are totally different. Instead of grilling on the deck and watching the stars, it's "eat your dinner - do your homework - time for bed."

Maybe we can do homework on the deck under the stars, just as a little reminder that summer's not quite gone yet. :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007


My preschooler has asthma, so this story caught my attention:

The National Institutes of Health announced new guidelines for treating asthma. Instead of just focusing on attacks, NIH wants doctors to spend more time on prevention. They want patients to get written plans on how to manage the disease. And they want doctors to periodically monitor a patient's lung function to determine future risk -- even if they have few symptoms.

Why the focus? For one, kids are going back to school, where they're likely to catch colds. Colds are a major trigger for asthma attacks. I know all about that. We start listening for wheezing at the first sign of a cough.

Also, asthma's becoming a huge and costly problem -- 22 million adults and 6.5 million children have it. The CDC says for kids it's increasing 4 percent a year. And asthma deaths among children have tripled in the last 30 years. Every year, asthma causes 14 million lost school days.

So it's a big problem. But be encouraged -- some kids DO grow out of it. I hope mine is one of them.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Here's some Friday "news you can use":

Symantec -- which makes the popular Norton virus protection for your computer -- commissioned a poll about kids outsmarting their parents online. Here are some highlights:

  • Kids spend more than twice as much time online as parents think (7 hours a week)
  • almost 1/4 do things online that "their parents wouldn't approve of"
  • 1/5 have dealt with inappropriate materials online
  • almost 1/5 have been "cyber-bullied" (receiving embarrassing pix, video or messages)
  • 7% have met an online stranger in person
  • almost half of parents use controls and spy on their kids emails and web sites
  • most parents say they know more about the Internet than their kids, but half of the kids say THEY know more

So keep your eyes wide open!

A couple of warnings from the FDA this week:

Also this week, a panel of scientific experts from the National Institutes of Health said the chemical "Bisphenol A" -- found in baby bottles, hard plastic sports bottles, water fountain containers and children's dental sealants -- likely does NOT cause prostate cancer and reproductive problems as critics claimed. But they are concerned about neural and behavioral effects. Here's more on what the scientists, critics, and plastics industry have to say.

Happy weekend!

Newsmom T

Thursday, August 09, 2007


There's a new survey out. The headline is: they're spending a lot more time than you think doing things you can't imagine.

I'm reading the details and hope to give you the highlights tomorrow.

In the meantime, go get your kids off the computer and eat dinner together. :)



Regarding the Minnesota bridge coverage, a faithful reader makes this valid comment:

"The media gripe I have is the rush to judgment and the sensationalist piece - it really does seem like the reporters on some stations have insulated themselves so much from feeling that they appear disappointed if the death count goes down."

It reminds me of a news producer I worked with who often read her Bible. Once, on a very slow news night, she looked up from the Bible to the newsroom scanner, and said: "We really need a lead [story] tonight. I hope we get a good house fire or [car] crash."

Then she went right back to reading -- as if that was the most normal thing in the world to say.

I'm not making excuses, but let me try to explain -- based on my experience covering breaking news -- how this happens:

When a big story happens, there's a HUGE adrenaline rush in the newsroom. In an instant people are running around, grabbing gear, running out the door, working the phones, making flight arrangements, dialing up satellites, sending out live trucks, desperately looking for information, and running to the studio to report it. Your sense of horror about the event quickly falls on the back burner in the massive effort to cover the story. And get it on the air. And get it first. And get it right. Because that's what creates loyal viewers... and ratings... which draw advertisers... who pay your check.

At first, you're so involved in the logistics of doing your job that there's little time to think about -- or feel -- anything else.

The sensationalism, I think, comes from an insatiable demand for 24-7 news. Whether that's truly fueled by viewers, or the media, is a valid question. But the fact is, when you're reporting on the scene of breaking news, the producer at the station (with the News Director breathing down his/her neck to beat the competition) comes to you live over and over wanting "new" information when, often, there is none. So any small tidbit becomes larger than life.

For instance, if you see a diver come out of the water shaking his head, reporters may say:
  • "Rescuers have "apparently" become discouraged, wondering if they'll ever find all the victims" - leading to speculation about whether the death toll is rising. So the producer calls in an expert to talk about the psychological effects.


  • "Rescuers "appear" frustrated, realizing this is a much bigger job than they can handle." That can open a whole debate about whether the county has enough divers, and whether the mayor's doing enough to get help in this crisis. So another reporter is assigned to do a package on how the city has cut funds for rescue services.

All this from a guy shaking his head. Maybe he was just wet and shaking off water.

It's not responsible and certainly not an excuse. I'm just trying to explain how these things happen.

Then, once you're out there, you see the network guys arrive and think: "I'd love to do THAT job one day!" So you focus on your on-air presence and delivery, hoping some News Director or agent will see you on a satellite feed and pull you out of Smalltown, Alabama (no offense - I lived there!) into a bigger market. That motivates you get the best elements for your story, so you can "stand out." That prompts you to rudely stick a microphone in the face of a grieving mother and ask: "What are you thinking as divers search for your missing son's body?" -- then get her answer on TV as soon as possible.

As someone who's had to do those interviews, let me say this: MOST reporters hate doing it. It is, however, part of our job to show what victims' families are going through. I've found two things to be true. First, there are respectful and disrespectful ways to approach families in sensitive situations like this. Second, some people WANT to be on TV when they're grieving. Some find it cathartic. Some want to get their loved one's story out there, so they're not remembered as just a statistic. For those people, we give ample opportunity. For those who want privacy, we should respect it.

Hope that gives you some insight.

News Mom T

Friday, August 03, 2007


Makes you think, huh? People trying to get home, maybe in a hurry. Working moms trying to figure out what to pull out of a hat for dinner tonight. Parents rushing to get their kids before day care closes. People on cell phones. Listening to music, trying to forget the day. Kids coming back from a summer camp trip.

Then suddenly, in a moment -- life changes. Or ends.

Actually, it makes me thankful. Watching this coverage has been horrifying. I realize every car I see in the water was a life - or several lives. People with hopes, dreams, problems, marriages, mortgages. Just like me.

In news we're often accused of being sensational, but in this case, I think the "could it happen here" story is completely warranted. Most people driving over a bridge today must be wondering if it's safe or about to give way.

Having covered many tragedies, I know the anguish some of those reporters feel. Often we mask our feelings to get through it and break down later. Sadly, there are a few who have become so immune that they never really grasp that this is a real tragedy affecting real people -- not just the best story ever on your resume tape.

But it's hard to watch the tearful families, day after day. I can't imagine what it's like to BE one. A few years ago we covered a string of missing and murdered children's cases. There's always a "sympathy wall" where friends and neighbors place flowers, notes, balloons as a makeshift memorial. It's always so sad.

After about the fifth one, I was doing a live shot and my producer asked if I wanted to go to the sympathy wall and shoot video. I just couldn't do it - not again. The grief had started to weigh in.

A few weeks later, a cute little girl about my daughter's age went missing from a neighborhood near mine. Authorities announced they found her body miles away as I was preparing for a live shot. I couldn't stop the tears. I guess that one just hit too close to home. I did get it together in time to do my job, but to this day I often think of her when children are reported missing.

A sign of weakness? Not fit for my job? Maybe. But I like to think it's a sign of being HUMAN -- a really important quality of a good reporter.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


For FUN today I checked out a popular newsletter for TV folks and learned:
  • Robin Roberts has breast cancer
  • An TV producer depressed after being let go for drug abuse fell off a building and died
  • A Pittsburg anchor who'd been depressed is off the air
  • Tom Snyder died
  • Four chopper pilots and photographers died in a crashed covering a chase
  • A few more news people died and retired

and the GOOD news:

  • Another chopper came down but all 3 survived

Fun? Not. A coworker said: "People used to complain that the news was depressing. Now the news ABOUT the news is depressing."

I've got to wonder if we've fallen in a rut and don't know HOW to report good news --

or is the business really that bad?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Most people who watch TV news have little idea of what goes on behind the scenes -- not just getting stories on the air -- but the environments in which we work.

News changes constantly and so can our surroundings. I remember reading the average tenure for a news director is two years. When news managers come and go, they often take our co-workers with them. And digital TV is forcing all sorts of personnel changes.

It's challenging to do great work on deadline when you're concerned about the livelihoods of yourself and your co-workers. In a way, that's a good thing. It reminds me I'm not just a news machine, but a real, caring human being.

Facing change can be scary -- or exciting, depending on how you look at it. Some of my best opportunities in life have come after what I initally thought was a disaster. Of course, that lesson is best understood after the storm -- not when you're in the middle of it.

Today we're reporting on wounded soldiers having trouble getting benefits. These are men and women who lost limbs, can’t sleep, have terrible headaches and live with horrible nightmares that are REAL – yet they can’t get a doctor’s care or money to support their families when they can’t work.

Talk about being in the middle of the storm!

Perspective helps us put a fresh look on everything, doesn’t it?

Friday, July 20, 2007


If anyone's still out there... WE'RE BACK!

After taking several months off to re-assess, I decided I missed this blog! So many of you asked "What happened?" that I realized we must have made an impact. Or at least made you laugh. Or think.

I'm hoping to recruit other News Moms to contribute from time to time. In the meantime, look forward to some interesting tidbits, news-you-can-use, and personal reflections.

It's good to be home!