What I’ve Been Up to..

Updates, Work


Hopefully, given that my last post announced the birth of my baby girl, anyone reading this blog can appreciate the reason I have no been diligent about updating! Maddie turned six months on Christmas Eve and at her doctor’s appointment a week later clocked in at 14lb. 7oz. and 26 inches long. It has been amazing to watch her grow and develop. My tiny little peanut has grown into an awesome, fun baby girl with so much personality. She will giggle up a storm for absolutely no reason. She’s learned how to army crawl to get what she wants (usually my cell phone!) and I’m sure crawling isn’t too far off. She loves standing holding onto things, whether it’s the side of the changing table or my hands. When we go to storytime at the library or music class, she watches with such wonder. I sincerely hope she never loses her amazement with the world and her joy in discovering new things. It is such a pleasure to watch her learn and grow.

Being a mommy has definitely given me a new perspective on the struggles of working mothers. As a freelancer, finding the time to get work done in between all the diaper changes, feedings and naptime battles has been a challenge. In a post on InPower Women, I wrote about how I didn’t have a maternity leave because FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act, doesn’t apply to freelancers.

In my postpartum period, I finished up a project that I started while pregnant. At 7.5 months pregnant, I produced three videos for the website BabyCenter.com touring the maternity ward, operating room and birth center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. It was a really awesome experience and definitely gave me an inside look at what I could expect for my own birth experience. I was really proud of how the videos turned out from an idea when I was suffering from morning sickness and spending way too much time on the BabyCenter website to finally seeing the videos posted online. But finding the time to finish the videos while taking care of Maddie was definitely a challenge!

I also somehow managed to read What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? and post a review on InPower Women to coincide with election day. I was pretty proud of that post, which talked about some of the reasons we haven’t had a woman president yet. Many people have high hopes for Hilary in 2016. Just throwing this out there, but Maddie will be eligible to run for president in 2048…

One of my main goals for 2014 is to get more of my writing published in more places (and get paid for it!). I’ve always been interested in writing about women and politics, but every time Maddie does something new, I think of another possible article to write about babies and parenting.

Here’s hoping for another big year!


She’s Here!


Madelyn ElizabethOr, rather, she was here four weeks ago! Madelyn Elizabeth Westlake was born on June 24th at 4:08am. We called her peanut throughout the pregnancy, because we didn’t know the sex until she was born, and it turns out, it was an appropriate nickname. Maddie was only 6 lbs. 13 oz. at birth and 20 inches long.

I went into labor on Sunday morning, having fairly regular, but not terribly painful contractions. By mid-afternoon, the contractions were definitely starting to hurt and getting more regular. I had hoped for an unmedicated birth and one of the best ways to do that is to labor at home as long as possible. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for me. Even though I probably wasn’t ready to head to the hospital, I suspected my water had started leaking. Once your water breaks, the risk of infection goes up, so after calling my doctor, we headed down to the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortland Manor to get checked out. Sure enough, it was my water leaking and Paul and I were in it for the long haul.

And it was a long haul. When I got to the hospital, I was only 2-3 cm. dilated at around 7pm. After walking the halls, sitting in a rocking chair and laboring in the jacuzzi tub, I made it to a whopping 4 cm. dilated by 11pm. At that point, my doctor recommended we start pitocin to encourage the contractions along. My white blood cell count had come back high and my medical team was concerned that if we waited for things to happen on their own, the risk of infection would grow exponentially.

With that, my hopes of an unmedicated birth were dashed. Around midnight, I was given pitocin to encourage labor along. Anyone who’s had pitocin, which is artificial oxytocin, can tell you that the contractions from pitocin are significantly more intense than natural contractions. And after almost 16 hours of labor, it was time to call in the anesthesiologist. I had always said that I would get an epidural if I was in extreme pain that was hindering my labor or if I had been laboring for an extended period of time and needed a break. Well, both of those criteria were met and after a bit of a cry over the fact that my body wasn’t cooperating, I got the epidural and was able to get some rest.

Rather than a continuous drip, the epidural I was given was supposed to last for about two and a half hours. Well, at about two and a half hours after getting the epi, I started to feel some sensation again. The nurse came in, checked on my progress and found that I had gone from 4 cm. to 9 cm. in that time. It was almost time to push and my epidural was wearing off just in time for transition. And transition was not fun! I started feeling more and more as the pain increased. Soon enough, it was time to push.

Throughout my entire pregnancy and labor, my husband, Paul, had been an absolute rock, doing everything he could to make me as comfortable as possible. And during the pushing stage, he took awesome to a whole new level. I am so lucky to have such an encouraging and amazing husband.

To me, it seemed like I was pushing forever. But in reality, it only took 28 minutes to meet our daughter. Because she had the cord wrapped around her neck pretty tightly, the doctor had to cut it before she was completely out. But once that was done, she passed the baby to Paul, who handed her to me. The feeling of a newborn baby on your chest for the first time is pretty amazing. And Paul and I were so enthralled with the fact that we finally had a baby, we forgot to check to see what kind of baby it was! It wasn’t until the nurse prodded Paul to check that we found out that we had a little girl!

Maddie and I at the hospitalAfter a few minutes of skin-to-skin contact, the nurse took Maddie over to the warmer to suction out some fluid from her lungs, clean her up and measure and weigh her. Paul was very amused that the nurse did, in fact, count all her fingers and toes (and they were all accounted for). We spent two more nights in the hospital and Maddie passed all her tests with flying colors.

The last few weeks have flown by in a sleep-deprived blur. Breastfeeding is a constant work in progress, but Maddie is growing like a weed and seems bigger every day. After dropping down to 6 lb. 4 oz. when we left the hospital, Maddie regained  all the weight she lost and more, clocking in at 7 lb 4 oz. at her two week appointment. She’s still a peanut though!

It’s been really amazing to see how fast she’s grown and developed in just four weeks. She’s already much more engaged than she was last week. We spent some time in the play mat today and she was actually looking around at all the stuffed animals hanging above her. We’re still a few weeks away from real smiles, but every so often, we’ll get a dream smile or, more often, a dream smirk. I wonder what she’s dreaming about! I can’t wait to find out what she has in store for us in the future.

Wide awake at bedtime!

Gender Socialization from the Womb

Extracurricular, Updates

Ultrasound at 20 weeks, 6 daysI mentioned a few posts ago that I was working on a collaboration with my husband. Well, the secret’s out on most social media, so I might as well post it here. Paul and I are expecting our first child this June! We went in for our anatomy scan and our little peanut is looking perfect and healthy.

Get pregnant and you’ll find yourself getting a lot of the same questions over and over again.

How are you feeling?

Well, the first trimester was rough, but I’m feeling better now. I still have moments of feeling a bit iffy and I still get tired, but overall, it’s gotten much better in the second trimester.

When are you due?

End of June! Yes, I have a specific due date, but very few women end up delivering on their due date, so I’m trying to keep it to myself. Plus, first pregnancies almost always go long, so I’m trying to avoid the “have you popped yet?” questions if I end up going past my date. I’d love to deliver on my due date. I think it’d be a great birthday for this kiddo!

And then there’s my favorite question.

Are you finding out the sex? Is it a boy or a girl? Do you know what you’re having?

Well, yeah, we know what we’re having! A baby! A verified human baby! But no, we won’t be finding out the sex.

Surprisingly, other people have very strong opinions about the decision to wait for the surprise. Mostly, I get the response, “Oh my goodness, I could never not know! I’d go crazy!” Luckily, Paul and I have pretty mellow personalities, so we’ll be happy either way. I’d love to have one of each, so I’ll be thrilled either way.

I’ve also been asked how I’m going to prepare if I don’t know the sex. In that regard, we’re fortunate to be having a summer baby. For the first few months, odds are this little one will be wearing mostly onesies and a diaper. We won’t have to pick up too much clothing before the baby comes and anything more elaborate, we can pick up afterwards.

"Gender Neutral" ClothingBut even with a limited need for clothing, there is a problem with not finding out the sex. Gender neutral clothing. Visit a baby store without knowing the sex of the baby and it’s going to be tough to find a lot of stuff. Sure, there’s yellow… And… Yellow… Maybe green? Oh, and white! But beyond that, the options are limited.

Which is part of the problem. If clothes aren’t pink or blue, they have some other accoutrement that defines them as gender specific. Girl outfits are particularly offensive in this way. If it’s not pink, it has frills or ruffles, sequins or leopard print. And it seems boy outfits have a really unsettling tendency to have slogans like “Ladies’ Man” or silly ties or bowties (yes, because I want my son to be a corporate drone from the start!).

I like ducks as much as the next person, but why is it that ducks seem to be the only “gender neutral” animal out there? Why aren’t there more middle of the road outfits for monkeys or dinosaurs? Girls like dinosaurs as much as boys! I know this for a fact, because dinosaurs are awesome. And I’m a girl.

Since I started my pregnancy, I’ve been participating on the BabyCenter.com message boards. And for the most part, I enjoy the conversations over there. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one dealing with certain symptoms and worrying about certain things. But I am constantly amazed by how many of the moms on the board are planning on starting their children down a very stereotypical gender path right from the start. I think it’s particularly bad with girls, but I’ve seen it with boys as well. Just using words like “princess” to refer to your new baby starts that child down a road that she might not be interested in.

One of the more interesting debates is whether or not to pierce a babies ears. I personally feel that earrings are a responsibility and ears should be pierced when a girl is old enough to ask for them and take care of them herself. But I appear to be in the minority, at least on my message board. Justifications range from the fact that she’s too young to remember the pain at 3 months to the probability that the holes can heal easily when she’s too young to play with them and even that earrings on babies look adorable. I tend to disagree, but my primary reason for not getting my baby’s ears pierced is that I don’t want to force a certain gender path on her. My little girl might be into dolls and tea parties and frilly dresses. Or she might be a total tomboy who wants nothing to do with “girl stuff” and just wants to play in the mud. Or, most likely, she’ll be like me and tread the middle of the road. I played with dolls, but I also played with mud. I wanted to get my ears pierced, but I’ve never been too good at wearing jewelry. Whoever she ends up being (if she’s a she at all!), I want her to come to that conclusion on her own.

I’m excited to welcome our new addition to the world and I’m excited to discover who he or she will be.

And for the record, we’re painting the nursery blue. Not because we think it’s a boy, but rather because the sky is blue and I want clouds, stars and sun decals on the wall.

Why I’m Terrible at Updating My Blog

Extracurricular, Updates, Work

It was a very busy and productive fall, but I haven’t been able to post any updates lately because of computer issues. Did you know WordPress has a mobile app? Did you also know that typing blog posts on your phone is very time consuming?

Fingers crossed, I’ll be back on my computer soon, but until then, a promise. In the next few weeks I will:

1. Update about working with Google at the conventions. With pictures!
2. Update about the Google+ hangouts with ABC News on election day and tracking down voters from all 50 states!
3. Write about my trip to Vegas! Including a jaunt to the Grand Canyon!
4. Talk about volunteering with the New York Women in Communication on their awesome student conference.
5. Finally write about the election. There are 20 women in the Senate!!!
6. Updates on some exciting projects to come, including a big collaboration with my amazing husband.

Until then, some pictures!


The Google set at the RNC in Tampa


Chelsea Clinton touring the RNC Google space


One of the amazing tigers at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa (and one of the aforementioned projects)


The Google space at the DNC in Charlotte


The Bellagio Fountain in Vegas


Self-portrait at the Grand Canyon

More to come!

Heading to Tampa…

Updates, Work

In five hours, my wonderful husband, Paul, will be driving me to the airport to board a JetBlue flight to Tampa for the Republican National Convention. The big news that I mentioned in my last blog post is that I am working with Google and YouTube on their convention coverage! I’ve been working as a booker and associate producer, liaising with media partners and helping them book guests for their hangouts on air. I’ll be heading to Charlotte next week for the Democratic National Convention.

Hopefully, my experience with the RNC will be slightly different from my experience in 2004.

Changes Big and Small

School, Updates, Work

There have been a number of changes to this website and in my life lately. Some of the smaller changes are here on the site. First, you’ll notice the domain name changed. I decided it was time to spend the $18 and buy ShanaWestlake.com. I’ve also added a few things to the site, mostly under the work samples tab. You can now listen to my final from my Research for Media Activism, which was an audio podcast based on ethnographic research of the first meeting of the Move to Amend NYC affiliate. In addition, I’ve added a few of my favorite segments from ABC News to the professional work tab and within that, I’m slowly working on adding more information, including write-ups of the segments and slideshows.

So, that’s the small changes. Mostly housekeeping, cleaning things up.

The big changes, though, are pretty big. First off, I am officially 100% done with graduate school. Last week I graduated from The New School for Public Engagement with a Master’s of the Arts in Media Studies and a certificate in Media Management. When I first applied to The New School, it was because I felt like I could get an education that I could control. My undergraduate studies at NYU were very broad and very narrow all at once. The journalism major was only eight courses and most focused on hands-on skills, like putting together a news package or writing up an interview article. The rest of my time at NYU was a combination of required courses and electives, many of which added up to my three minors. In retrospect, I wish I had double-majored instead.

At the New School. I was really able to design my own curriculum and, in the end, it wasn’t the curriculum I expected it to be. Recently, a friend was struggling with her graduate school application and I sent along my statement of purpose for her to check out. Re-reading  that I realized that what I thought I was going to do with my graduate experience and what I did with my graduate school experience were very different. I applied very interested in globalization and ended up focusing a lot on politics. As you can see from my academic work, I wrote a lot about the intersection between media and politics. Somehow, I ended up writing three separate papers that looked at the work of James O’Keefe III from various angles. I tried to gain a better understanding of why the news media could become so obsessed with scandal while ignoring the bigger picture.

I was also able to pursue a media management certificate in conjunction with my Master’s. While I enjoyed almost all of my classes immensely, I think the media management courses were some of the most helpful. It’s very easy to say a manager is bad, but it’s hard to really define why. Media Management and Leadership helped explain why and how I could be a more successful manager in the future. Another favorite class was Media, Corporate Responsibility and the Law. In the class we discussed the legal ramifications of invasion of privacy and libel. I learned laws that govern the news media and I learned how to read court decisions, a useful skill.

Another advantage to my education at The New School is that I was required to take a certain number of production courses. Many of my classmates chose to take as many production courses as they could, learning to shoot and produce documentaries and short films. While I was interested in learning more production skills, I wasn’t particularly interested in narrative film or documentaries. I had done an internship with a documentary film company in the past and primarily learned that I didn’t want to be a documentary filmmaker. At least not right now. So, I chose to use my production credits on sound and images. My first class was Radio Narratives, which made a very strong impact on me. I’ve always loved audio and the aural experience. Radio Narratives took that appreciation to the next level and showed me how to make sound. I also took Visual Storytelling, where I learned more about photography and the craft of telling stories through images.

And beyond that I met an overwhelming number of smart and interesting people who are looking to do amazing and important things in the world. Graduate school was a wonderful experience and anyone who says it’s a waste of time has clearly never been. Graduate school, for me, was about more than the piece of paper. It truly was about expanding my mind and understanding the world in new and different ways. Will I be paying off my student loans for the next 30 or so years? Yes. Will having an MA make a practical difference in my career? Who knows. But I am proud of my accomplishment and, for now, that’s enough.

The other big announcement is that I am no longer working with ABC News Now. Since I started with the department, News Now has gone through a number of changes. New programs have come and gone. I worked on health, finance, politics, entertainment and more. I was there for the inauguration of President Obama, the Miracle on the Hudson and the 2010 Midterm Elections. I had the opportunity to book guests, write news copy, produce interviews and meet a ton of interesting and amazing people. But recent changes in the department have made my role there largely superfluous. I am very grateful for the experience, but it’s time to move on.

And in moving on, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to start telling my own stories. That being said, I am venturing out into the world of being an independent producer and writer, pitching audio and video segments and articles to anyone who will have me. I’ve also joined PRX and I plan on putting together podcasts, packages and explorations of topics that might, hopefully, end up on public radio. I also want to continue writing and producing segments on health and personal finance. I’ve done a lot of work on those topics in the past and I surprised myself by enjoying it a lot. I have ideas that I was never able to pursue with ABC News and I think it’s time to jump off the cliff and go at it on my own.

I am apprehensive about the change, but I’m also excited. I don’t know if this is going to become my life going forward; I still have hopes of finding gainful employment with an organization and program that I can be proud of. But I do know that I am at a crossroads in my career and the only way to take the next step is by showing everyone that I can. But I also know that I’m going to need as much help as I can get, so if you’re reading this and willing to offer a hand (or a job!), I’d appreciate it.

Stay tuned. There are bigger things coming.

Back from Vacation

Extracurricular, Updates

I’ve clearly neglected the blog for the last few weeks, but primarily because I’ve been on vacation! My husband, Paul, and I took our long-awaited honeymoon. The wedding was back in October, but we decided to put off the honeymoon until January, because of school and work. Honestly, putting off the honeymoon was probably one of the best decisions we made for the wedding. We didn’t have to plan a vacation and a wedding at once and we had something to look forward to! So, Paul and I spent two weeks in Ireland and England, driving around and seeing new things. We’d both spent time in England, but Paul had never been to Ireland, so that was brand new for him. I’d been to Dublin, but never outside of the city, so seeing the countryside was lovely.

My husband, Paul, driving on the left

Being plugged in media folks, Paul and I didn’t exactly unplug over our vacation. But watching the news in different countries is always fun and interesting. Immediately after landing in Ireland, we hopped in a rental car and turned on the radio. Take away the Irish accents and the news could have been from America. The conversation was about problems with the economy and layoffs. Ireland is in pretty dire straights right now and we heard a lot about it on the radio and on TV.

One of the most pressing issues that we heard about in Ireland was the situation with the European Union. Ireland and Greece are both dealing with major debt crises (with Spain and Portugal right behind them). We listened to a number of debates about what should be done about the debt and whether Ireland should continue to be a part of the EU. Many of the Irish people we met lamented the Euro, which was at its lowest rate in years while we were there, and remembered the Irish pound fondly. On our last night in Ireland we spoke to a pub owner about the problem. He was surprised to learn that the Greek debt crisis affected the New York markets as well. These economic issues aren’t just affecting Europe.

We also saw proof of the Occupy movement has gone worldwide. We saw two Occupy protests during our trip and heard of at least one more. To the left, you can see some of the signs from Occupy Belfast. We were there in the early afternoon, so it was pretty quiet. We spoke to two gentlemen who were in one of the structures. They said that a lot of the protesters were college students who were in classes during the day. Occupy Belfast is across the street from Belfast Cathedral and is made up of a number of tents and structures. They have space heaters set up. I think what surprised me the most was the fact that they could walk away from their tents and the authorities didn’t come clear them out. In Zuccotti Park, it was the willingness of people to stay day in and day out that allowed the protest to continue.

We also saw an Occupy protest in Galway. That surprised me a lot. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and the largest city. It made sense that the Occupy movement would be there. There was also a protest in Dublin, though we didn’t find it. But Galway is not a big city. I think it’s just a testament to how broad this movement has become.

Salford Quays

We also had the opportunity to visit the brand new BBC Center in Salford, UK. Paul spent a few months in 2005-2006 working with the BBC in Newcastle, training video journalists in the one-man-band style of journalism. Since then, BBC has begun moving their base of operations up to Salford, outside of Manchester, from London. The new center is not what you’d expect from a media organization. From my experience at ABC News and MSNBC, most of my workspaces have been rather bland. Beige is the dominant color of choice. But at the BBC center, there are bold colors throughout; pink, chartreuse, purple. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting at all. In addition, the main work area we saw, which houses BBC Radio Five was a very open space surrounding an atrium. I found the space to be really collaborative. It gave me the sense that everyone was working as a team, rather than being in their own groups or departments.

A nice place for a chat

In addition, the building is filled with spaces to meet and work together. It was very similar to what I imagine the Google office spaces are like. There are comfortable spaces to get together, outside of a conference room-type space. It felt like creative and interesting work could happen in these spaces. The spaces like those pictured here were all over the place. There were also couches scattered around. Plus lockers and cubbies where people could store their stuff. It felt very comfortable and inviting. One of my biggest pet peeves at work has always been the lack of space to store my personal items. As a freelancer, I’m constantly bouncing around from desk to desk. I never had a space to put my things overnight.

Being in England meant we watched a lot of BBC News coverage, which both of us are fans of. But even better, we got to watch English game shows! There are few things better than game shows in England. So many of them are so ridiculous that they’re hilarious. For instance, one show (that we watched the entire episode of) was called “Pointless” and the point, as it were, was to uncover the most useless piece of information. People were surveyed about types of trousers, for example, and the contestants had to go through a list and choose which of the answers on the board were the most pointless names for pants. A low score would win. The silly game shows were one of the most enjoyable  things to watch in my time abroad in 2004, so it was nice to catch some of those again.

Back at home, my final semester at the New School is starting up. It’s going to be a busy few months, but both of my classes look like they’ll be very interesting. I think I’ll learn a lot from both Gender, Culture and the Media and Research for Media Activism.

End of the Year (and a Very Long Two Weeks!)

Extracurricular, Updates, Work

I have been ignoring the blog lately, but mostly because it has been a busy two weeks at work! Usually, Healthy Living has two to three people working on it daily. Last week, it was just Cara and I and this week, just me! So, it was a pretty busy week, but I accomplished quite a bit.

We had a lot of interesting guests join us the last two weeks. Keri Glassman came in and talked about how to get your fruit in the winter, which can be a challenge when things are out of season and more expensive. We also had Dr. Jacques Moritz talking about a new option for menopausal women. I’ve produced a lot of different segments about hormone replacement therapy, which can increase the likelihood of getting certain kinds of cancer, so learning about the possibilities of DHEA was really interesting. Gail Blanke joined us to talk about starting of the new year by clearing out the clutter and Logan Levkoff explained how to maintain a healthy relationship over the holidays.

We talked about a lot of really interesting studies this week. Ohio State University published a study about the connection between the mother-toddler bond and teen obesity. Dr. Keith Ayoob came in and explained it for us. And Dr. Shelby Harris joined us to discuss the implications of a study on sleep disorders in police officers. She also explained how to deal with shift work. As someone who has worked very odd shifts in the past, I paid attention to that one! And yesterday, we had Dr. Anne Chapas come in to discuss winter skin regimes and Phyllis Shapiro to talk about acupuncture.

One of the projects I enjoyed working on the most these past weeks wasn’t for Healthy Living at all. Last week, Dan Kloeffler and I were asked at the last minute to put together a video comparing the reactions of Callista Gingrich and Wendi Murdoch when their husbands were attack by protesters. The next day, Dan came up with the idea of compiling a bunch of different awkward campaign moments into a video. We tracked down videos of hecklers and protesters. Because staffing was a bit limited, it took a few days to get the video together and the piece edited, but take a look at the final product:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

One of the most interesting aspects of working on the video was working with an editor instead of editing it myself. Different people have different ways of editing. My goal when I sit down to edit is first and foremost to get my timeline laid out, so I can here how things flow and know how long it runs. Other people work as they go along, placing video to cover VOs and working on effects and transitions. I was hoping to get the piece a little tighter, but with limited resources and only a basic knowledge of Avid Newscutter myself, I couldn’t sit down and make the cuts myself. New Year’s Resolution #1: Get better with Avid. I also had to let Dan, who had pitched and written the piece, make the final decisions. If I had had my say, I probably would have left off the music bed. I felt the content spoke for itself. But I was overruled and I didn’t fight it. I pick my battles and this wasn’t one of them. I do think the piece came out well in the end, but it reflected Dan’s vision, not my own. And that’s fine.

Paul and I getting ready to eat with our Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the background

Outside of work, I spent the holidays with my wonderful new husband, Paul. We decided to spend Christmas together at home this year and had a wonderful meal on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m a big fan of cooking and I especially enjoy making overly elaborate meals. Saturday, we had smothered short ribs, which turned out delicious. Sunday, I tackled a turkey breast. I smothered it in butter and herbs and roasted it over carrots, onion and garlic. Another delicious meal that also produced delicious leftovers!

I’m not going to lie, I’m a big fan of opening presents and Paul and I have established a tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. I had told him that he had a choice between comfy, practical or sentimental for his Christmas Eve gift and he went for comfy. Lucky for me, he loved the flannel lined slippers I got him from L.L. Bean. I opened a beautiful pair of earrings that I’ll probably wear tonight to a New Year’s Eve party. He opened the rest of his gifts the next day; a new fleece lined hat and two key chains. He bought me a new journal to replace my old steno pads and the best gift of all, a Kindle Fire! I cannot say enough good things about the Kindle Fire. If you’re debating between the iPad and this, I say go for the Kindle. It’s lighter and smaller, so easier to hold and it feels a lot sturdier too. I have barely touched my computer since I’ve started using the Kindle, because I can do so much on it.

Tonight, we have a New Year’s Eve party at Paul’s step-mother’s house. We’re both looking forward to ringing in the new year, especially since one of the first things on our to-do list is our honeymoon! Paul and I will be leaving the week after next to fly to Ireland! We’re renting a car and driving around the island, before flying over to England and driving around and visiting folks there. I’ve been to both countries, but I’ve mostly stuck to the cities. I’m really excited to explore the countryside and get off the beaten path for a change. We know it’ll be a bit chilly, but we’ll have a lot of freedom in our itinerary, because we’re going during the low season. Since we won’t be fighting with millions of other tourists, we don’t need to plan all our hotels and activities ahead of time. Plus, I’ve found that the bed and breakfasts over there are much cheaper during this time of the year. We’re both really excited to take a break and to explore a new part of the world. And I’m excited to finally have my brand new passport under Shana Westlake!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and here’s to much joy and success in 2012!

A Little Long, But Worth It

School, Updates, Work

Working at News Now means a certain amount of flexibility on our segments. Though we do air on digital cable, most of our content is distributed on the web and that means that we don’t have to hit an exact time length with our segment. I usually aim for five minutes with my segments. Five minutes can be not enough time at all or excruciatingly long, depending on the guest. I lucked out today, because I had Dr. Chris Magovern on talking about deep vein thrombosis.

DVT is something I had pitched to my senior producer a while back. The holidays are one of the biggest travel seasons of the year and all that sitting in a car or on a plane could lead to some serious complications. In fact, a colleague of mine had to talk his father out of driving all the way from Pittsburgh to NYC to pick him up for the holidays. One of his fears was that he’d charge through the hours long trip here and then do the same thing on the way back, putting himself at risk for DVT.

I’m also planning a trip overseas for January, so the threat of DVT has been on my mind. It really shouldn’t be, since I have very few of the risk factors; I don’t know of any clotting disorders in my family history, I’ve never smoked and I eat fairly well and exercise regularly. But I recall one plane ride a few years back where I developed a throbbing pain in my thigh, where DVTs usually occur. I retrospect, it was probably nothing more than a Charlie horse, but, boy, did it hurt!

Today’s segment was pretty straightforward, but it did have a couple of different elements. Luckily, we have a great crew, both on the floor and in the control room. Dr. Magovern had brought props, which the stage crew helped set up and then our director, David, worked with the camera guy to get nice tight shots of each prop so we could talk through them. Our duet all-star, Revi, was ready on the switch as Dr. Magovern moved through different treatment options, changing the graphics as needed. I enjoy segments like these, where all of us are actively involved.

As I mentioned, I usually aim for a five minutes on the nose for these segments. The anchor I was working with, Dan Kloeffler, is an rock star when it comes to hitting marks. There are few things more satisfying in the control than telling a talent one minute and being done and out in one minute. But we have the flexibility, so when we got four minutes in and we still hadn’t gone though the treatments, I knew it was time to stop calling out times and just tell Dan to wrap when Dr. Magovern finished. As you can see below, what we ended up with was a thoroughly interesting and informative six minutes of content without any awkwardness of Dan cutting the good doctor off. I’m pretty pleased with the final result.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The rest of the day was spent looking for guests for the rest of the week. I think we have a pretty good line up so far. Keri Glassman is going to be with us on Wednesday talking about getting your fruit fix during the winter. Fruit is supposed to be such a significant part of your diet, but it can be pricey to buy certain types during the colder parts of the year. On Thursday, we have Dr. Moritz for his usual segment. That topic is TBD, but I hope we find something interesting. Both of us hate doing those we-already-kind-of-knew-this-but-it’s-good-to-confirm-again studies. I’ll have to keep an eye out for something good. And Friday, Dr. Logan Levkoff is coming in to talk holiday stress on your relationship. I wonder how many relationships end at this time of the year…

In other news, my second to last semester is officially done. I say officially, because even though I had turned in and been graded on my final project, I was still waiting on the final grade. I am proud to say I’ve gotten an A in Visual Storytelling. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the class. I really wish we had done a lot more photography than we did. It was listed as a production class and we only touched our cameras three or four times over the course of four months.  Either way though, I am proudly sporting a 3.9 GPA with one semester of graduate school to go. On one hand, the end can’t come soon enough, but on the other, I know I’m going to get antsy later on when I’m no longer actively learning. Last time I left school, I ended up reading a lot of random non-fiction. (And I highly recommend Scurvy!)

Pacific Northwest Baseball and Photos

School, Updates, Work

As promised, I’ve been adding more to the work samples page and I’ve added a page of photos. The most recent addition to the work samples is my two-part series on baseball in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote and produced both parts back in 2007. I had planned a trip to Seattle to visit a friend and found that she’d be unavailable the first three days of my trip because of work. So I pitched an idea to the head of the multimedia department at MLB.com. I emphasized the rich history of baseball in the area from the Pacific Northwest League to the Pilots to the Mariners. I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when she said yes! I was working as an AP at the time and hadn’t done anything this big independently before. I spent two straight days at Safeco Field, getting sunburnt and learning more about the history of baseball in the region. The highlight, without question, was interviewing the late Dave Niehaus. He had so many stories about the team and especially Ken Griffey Jr. It was clear that the Mariners were his life. Had I spent more time working at MLB.com, I think I would have liked to interview more of the old school sportscasters.

I also added a few photos from working at Major League Baseball and from my time at New York University. At NYU, my favorite class, by far, was TV Newscast with Michael Ludlum. Together with my fellow classmates, I produced, wrote, edited, technical directed and directed a 30-minute newscast live on NYU cable. Sure, only 4 people were watching, but we took it very seriously. It was probably the most fun I had in my entire college career. Many of my classmates have gone on to do very impressive work at Good Morning America, on Capitol Hill and more.

Taking a moment to live my CJ Cregg dream

Also on the photos page are some of the adventures I had while at MLB.com. As a Red Sox fan, covering the team was incredibly exciting, especially during their 2007 World Series run. At the last series against the Yankees, I went up to the stadium to collect sound from the Red Sox locker room. Then I was able to cover the parade after the Sox won the series and got to hang out on the field at Fenway. It was exciting and the people of Boston were excited too. Finally, there are photos of my very first time in the White House press office (and only time to do date). It was a lot smaller than I expected it to be. Interestingly, the most helpful people there were from the ABC News camera crew.