Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
For you new CNN recruits, and those new to Peon Confidential, here's a bit of ancient lore:
Back in the TV Stone Age, when Lou Waters and Natalie Allen ruled the airwaves, CNN had a computer system called BASYS. One feature of this system was a curious message wasteland called The Dead File.
Well, some might have called it a wasteland. I called it a goldmine.
A goldmine that I could not access.
When you deleted a file in BASYS that had not been locked, a copy of it went to this creepy Dead File cyber pit. I do not know who designed the system in this Peeping Tom-friendly manner. I doubt I'd want them living next to me.
But much like retreats to the Bahamas on the company's dime, only the more seasoned or upper-level people had access to this file. Peons like me could only sit in wide-eyed wonder, hearing the tales of all it offered.
The tales were plentiful:
Numerous affairs were discovered this way, numerous grudges against co-workers were aired, numerous insidious plans were hatched. People routinely forgot that any unlocked, deleted drafts of juicy peccadilloes were available to anyone with Dead File access.
So it is with great joy that I ressurrect a Dead File story, written as a response to a post several months ago. This story deserves to be posted boldly in the blog. No longer will it be meekly confined to the comments space. Here's the "Do Not Read This" story for all to enjoy:
"I had been toying around with the idea of leaving CNN a few months before I actually cut the strings, and I thought I would amuse myself and create a fake "Goodbye" Read-Me post. Mind you, I had not actually turned in my resignation, and I never actually had plans to post this thread. This was merely for my amusement..filling in the wide expanse of downtime that came with the territory of working in the most boring department known to TV..Newsbeam. My thread basically mocked many of the weekly "Goodbye" posts that cluttered up READ-ME. First of all, I titled it "Do Not Read This", because every other goodbye post was titled something like LOOK AT THIS! READ ABOUT ME! SAY GOODBYE TO ME! I wanted to convey total disdain and apathy (then why do a post at all? Hindsight...) Second of all, I went into great detail about when I was going, where I was going, and what I was going to do (even though most of my plans were not yet solidified.) Honestly, most of the post was bogus, except for the fact that I knew I was going to leave CNN at some point. In the post, I thanked Ted Turner and Lou Waters for being close confidants. I said "G-Star-4-15-upper" was my most beloved satellite. I talked incessantly about the joy I had working in the newsroom. I added a little bit to the post each day, and read and re-read my creation often...
One day, I got bored with my creation and simply deleted it (or "killed" it, in READ-ME speak.) I did forget one imperitive rule of READ-ME. If you kill something, LOCK it first. If you don't, anyone with access to the Dead file can read it. Oh, did I mention that the only people with access to the Dead file were executives, managers and supervisors? Hmmm..can you see where this is going?
A few days passed by, and I received a phone call from my supervisor...Frank asked me, point blank, if I was leaving CNN. I believe I stuttered, mumbled and gasped all at once...He cut off my rambling by saying "I was looking through the Dead file and I saw a post titled 'Do Not Read This' with your name as the author. So, of course, I read it." Now, what does one do here? Should I be embarrassed that my boss busted me with my ridiculous fake goodbye post, or should I feel like my privacy was violated? Should I ask him why the hell he has time to sift through the hundreds of thousands of deleted files on the CNN database? I believe time stood still for a moment or two, so I could gather up some sort of explanation for what I had written. I said the thread itself was a joke, however, I had planned on leaving CNN soon. He asked when, and I just said "the first week in August." And it was done. I submitted my resignation, without even knowing I was going to do it that day. No big build up, no nervous butterflies, no wind in my sails..just "Oh, yeah, I am leaving."
Frank was totally calm, and I was depressed. After four and a half years, I had imagined my resignation would be exciting. I would get all of them back for all the pain I suffered through the years, by quitting and forcing them to go on without me. Instead, I got a lesson in locking files and a handshake from a Frank.
Nothing exciting about that."
Thursday, January 25, 2007
My recent request for humiliating Dockers-related incidents paid off. The following slice of pathetic fashion history comes from a man who wants to remain anonymous:
"I too was forced by CNN middle management hotshots to put those odious pants on my person. But I couldn't even afford to buy real Dockers. I had to count my coins and buy the cheap, no-name imitations.
One night I was out with some friends at The Lodge in Buckhead. The drinks were going down smooth and I was a star in my brand new, low-rent, cheap-ass pants. Of course, normally I would not go out in my work clothes. Nay, work clothes as fine as mine were to be protected from the throbbing nightlife that Atlanta offered. But since I was on the 3pm-12am shift that night, I made an exception.
At some point someone bumped my plastic cup and spilled Bud Light all over my pants. After shouting "Watch it asshole!" I ran to the bathroom and wiped them off. These were my Joe Kinstle-authorized work pants after all. I needed to keep them professional, presentable and not smelling of beer. I came back out, and cliche of all cliches, "The Macarena" came over the sound system. (Did I mention this was 1996?)
Maybe it was the beer, or maybe I was just high on life. Maybe I was just a young buck out on the town, looking for thrills. But I decided to do a revved up version of that stupid Macarena dance. I really got into it. I was all over that dancefloor, and added my own high energy moves. I guess the regular Macarena didn't involve enough high kicks for me. Then suddenly I heard a very loud tearing noise, and felt a soft southern breeze on my ass.
It was complete humiliation:
I had ripped open the backside my fake Dockers, which were already stinking of cheap beer, while dancing "The Macarena" at The Lodge in Buckhead, Georgia.
Worst of all, those were my 'good pants'.
Looking back, that's just so many kinds of embarrassing that I don't even know how I survived to tell the tale."
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Today's story comes from an evening I recently spent with some very lovely, funny and cool CNNers, some past, some present.
But CNN work experience is a bit like the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan:
There are no former CNNers, just recovering ones.
So it seems that Emmanuel Lewis, a.k.a "Webster", once heralded as "The Tallest 40 Inches In Hollywood" was a self-proclaimed Talk Back Live fan...
DURING THE SUSAN ROOK YEARS.
He also ran a limousine service out of Atlanta.
I really don't know which of those facts is more bizarre.
Now, for any youngsters out there, "Webster" was one show in the "Rich White People Adopt Black Kids" genre of the early 1980's. The other show was of course Different Strokes, which taught us all the invaluable lesson that:
"The world don't move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you, may not be right for some."
I don't know if a genre can be defined by a mere two shows, but I digress.
Both sitcoms also featured actors with rare genetic traits that rendered them childlike, even when they were well into their adult years. Emmanuel Lewis was already 12 when he played loveable imp Webster, and Gary Coleman never seemed to hit puberty while playing Arnold "Whatchew talkin' 'bout Willis?" Jackson.
Fast forward several years. Way past Mr. Lewis's glory days of being featured on the cover of TV Guide.
It was the mid-1990's and Emmanuel Lewis, presumably taking the day off from running his limousine company, was seated in the Talk Back Live audience.
It seems that day Susan was hosting one of those "What's Going To Happen To The Young People of Today?" type shows. One of those topics that allows the anchor to plead for the audience to "Think of the Future of America!"
Caught up in the moment, she passionately grabbed little Emmanuel Lewis's hand, and in her finest anchor-speak, asked people in TV Land something along the lines of:
"What about the young people like him? What can we do for the young people of this country?"
Now, Emmanuel Lewis was about 25 years old at the time. Young yes, but a full-grown man nonetheless.
A full-grown man who may not have appreciated having his hand held like a 10-year-old.
Plus he was Webster.
Also known as the one time little buddy of Michael Jackson, who used to carry him around everywhere like a Louis Vuitton bag.
Apparently, the control room went nuts, shouting in Susan's ear "THAT'S WEBSTER! THAT'S WEBSTER!"
Once this fact registered, the hand was dropped, and she carried on like a pro. Just kept moving on to the next audience member.
Perhaps she learned how to keep her cool from another 1980's sitcom theme song. This one from Growing Pains, staring everyone's favorite Fundie Kirk Cameron:
"Show me that smile again. (Show me that smile)
Don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.
We're nowhere near the end (nowhere near)
The best is ready to begin.
Oooohhh. As long as we got each other
We got the world spinnin right in our hands.
Baby you and me, we gotta be
The luckiest dreamers who never quit dreamin’.
As long as we keep on givin’
we can take anything that comes our way
Baby, rain or shine, all the time
We got each other Sharin’ the laughter and love."
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
While working overnights at the News Factory, I really mastered the art of sleeping on the job. I had zero shame or fear that anyone would discover me, snoring away in various crevices of the building.
And I really slept around too.
I slept in the CNN breakroom, Playback, the Feeds area, the CNNI breakroom, the Hard News Cafe, and various edit bays.
I slept in the CNN and CNNI script ripping areas and on the sports set.
I also slept on CNNI's World Report set, dubbed "Spaceship Wenge".
While TelePrompting, I actually trained myself to sleep during the 2-3 minute commercial breaks. I'd sleep sitting up in the chair, hand at the ready, jumping to attention when the director gave the countdown over the headsets.
So now whenever anyone complains about long flights and being unable to sleep, I just crack a smile. Because if I learned anything during my stint at CNN's VJ bootcamp, it's how to sleep in less than optimum conditions.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Today I received more confirmation on the apparent Dockers Mandate within the ranks of CNN Atlanta. It seems that Joe Kinstle enforced his Dockers Uniform Regime with an iron fist.
Within the e-mail I received was the ominous phrase; "Joe Kinstle made me wear those Dockers."
I feel that I have just stumbled upon an expose worthy of Woodward and Bernstein. Or at least Joan and Melissa Rivers.
So I am asking all of you who were affected by this vicious mandate to come forward. Tell me your Dockers' tragedies. The shame, the bland color scheme, the inability to pull off dance moves besides "The Cabbage Patch" with any degree of authenticity.
But furthermore, send photographic evidence. I will black out the faces to protect the innocent...or at least keep the guilty guessing.
As always, you can send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
And just so we know which vile corporate entity is to blame, here is a handy link:
Note that they offer up an insidious ploy called "The Dockers Dress-O-Matic".
It saddens me that they are spreading their filthy ideology to a new generation of broke professionals.
Friday, January 05, 2007
I was recently at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport on a layover. (I'd like to point out that at periodic times over the loudspeaker you'd hear a ditty called "Opening Day Fresh" sung to the tune of "Shake Your Groove Thing". While the song was supposed to encourage you not to litter, it was so annoying that it had the opposite effect on me.) I was looking for a bar open at 8:50 am so I could booze it up before my long flight. Can you believe I had to wait until 9:30 am for a welcoming watering hole? Downright uncivilized, having to wait in front of a dark, gated bar with all the other alcoholics until 9:30 just so I could chug down a Screwdriver. Bunch of clean living assholes running that place.
Anyway, while standing outside that shitty bar, the four of us looking like dogs at the pound, hoping someone would pick us, I ran into a CNNer. Which just underscores a previous point I had made:
It is impossible, even on an hour and a half airport layover, to escape CNNers in Atlanta.
That city is one big, hot, Peachtree street-laden, Cable News Network newsroom.