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.

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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!)

“Now I Get” What Meta Means..

Work

Today was one of those days when I truly understood the concept of meta-. Roughly translated, meta is a prefix meaning on or about, but in our vernacular (or rather, according to the Urban Dictionary) it means “to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.” That said, I was working on a segment about dry eyes and Computer Vision Syndrome while suffering from dry eyes and Computer Vision Syndrome! Some of the monitors over at ABC News are just really big! At least I am well-armed to combat CVS now. Dr. Roy Chuck from Montefiore will be in tomorrow to talk about the causes and treatments for both. It should be an interesting segment.

My other big project for the day was tweaking the copy on the “Now I Get It!” segment on the Tea Party. Leading up to the start of the primary season, ABC News is producing segments on key terms that are frequently thrown around during the election. Not sure what the Iowa Caucus really is? Take a look at the breakdown by my colleague, Dan Kloeffler:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Breaking down the Tea Party to a minute long voice-over was a fun challenge. With so much to talk about, it was really hard to condense the entire 2010 Midterm elections, for example, down to a single sentence. The final script was approved today and Dan laid down the track. As you can see from the previous video, the process can be pretty labor intensive, since it’s entirely done with animation. I can’t wait to see the final product though!

Remembering Remembering Woodstock

Work

In my last post, I was reflecting on some of the other interviews I produced for ABC News and one in particular has really stuck with me for some time. Some searching on the website tonight finally turned it up.

Woodstock, the most iconic music festival of all time, was over 42 years ago in August of 1969. Two year ago, a few days before the anniversary, my senior producer, Ashley, told me to try and book something about the festival. I already had a segment booked for “Now You Know” that day, but I went ahead and cancelled it and began tracking down someone to talk about their experience. I couldn’t tell you how it happened, but I was lucky enough to get in touch with a publicist for Henry Diltz, the official photographer of the festival. He was having an exhibition of his work in the city and, on very short notice, agreed to come in to talk to us.

My only regret about this segment was the decision to play the David Muir piece to start. Only because Henry Diltz was such a dynamic character and had so many amazing stories from Woodstock that we could have kept going for another ten minutes. His photos, including the famous image of Jimi Hendrix, really blew us all away. It’s a booking and an interview I am really proud of.

Take a look at the interview below and please ignore the very old school News Now graphics!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Back in the Field..

Work

I went out on a shoot today for the first time since I left MLB.com way back in 2008. I’ve always enjoyed field producing, but until recently, News Now was primarily a studio produced network. Actually, I take that back. I went out in the field once for ABC. An intern and I went over to the Fancy Food Expo and shot B-roll for an interview with the Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert. It’s hard to believe I forgot about that, considering it had a similar attribute to today’s interview, lots and lots of delicious food!

Today, my colleague, Melanie, was running the show for a shoot with Heather Christo on better food choices at holiday parties. We all met at an amazing kitchen in Tribeca (a kitchen I am still drooling over!) and got set up. It was the first time I had ever see an ABC News crew in action. I’ve booked a camera crew dozens of times before, when I was working on our political show “Top Line”, but I had never actually worked with one. Today’s crew was great. Efficient and on top of everything.

Heather Christo's delicious party snack mix

It also helped that Heather’s food looked delicious! The segment was quick and easy and afterwards, we got to sample some of the wonderful treats Heather made including a cauliflower dip, delicious and much less fattening that party-favorite spinach and artichoke dip, and a great party snack mix, which is a much healthier option than mixed nuts which can run over 500 calories a serving! I definitely recommend heading over to Heather’s blog for the recipe. We even took some back to the office with us to munch on throughout the day! Mel will be editing that in the next few days. I’ll post it when it’s available on ABCNews.com.

One of the reasons I was so excited to join Mel on her shoot was that I’m hopefully going to start setting up and going out on shoots on my own. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but haven’t had the chance. There are a ton of ideas I’ve been kicking around that aren’t really appropriate for in the studio. So often, especially on the health show, we talk about these abstract concepts and symptoms, but it’s so hard to really understand what that means. It’d be so much easier to show rather than tell people about how things work, especially in regards to medicine.

Also, if going out on more shoots means more opportunities to eat delicious food like today, I’ll take it!

Tomorrow, I’m back in the studio for a segment with registered dietician Keri Glassman. It’ll be a great topic, avoiding weight gain during the holidays and Keri has some great tips! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so check back tomorrow for the interview!