NAB/RTNDA in Vegas
I'm currently in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcaster's convention, as well as the Radio TV News Directors Association convention, which is a part of NAB. This post won't be very long, just a few quick observations.
First, the time change thing is a bit of a struggle. At three hours behind EDT, everything seems thrown off. Last night, after dinner, I turned in only to realize that in real time, I had been up for about 21 hours. I don't know how folks who zig zag across the country manage to do this without getting completely exhausted.
After our party landed, we took an Airport Limousine bus to the hotel and the first sign of the sociological problems I had a feeling I would see set in.
Our driver, while a nice enough man, seemed jittery and possessed, almost like some junkie musicians I have known over the years. I didn't think anything of it ... until the guy started driving. The bus clearly had mechanical problems and he was beating every bit of juice out of it that he could. At the first stop light, he looked down at his lap and started fiddling with something. Since I was in the front seat, I could see him acting strangely. I thought, ‘Oh, I hope he isn't getting ready to pop a pill or something worse.’ Well, he wasn't ... he was counting his chips. He separated them into colors and then re-separated them, clicking them together and fiddling with them nervously. It was a pretty weird thing to witness. He then quickly put all the chips into his saddle bag by his feet and began driving again.
The bus drove around the inner parts of the city before the hotels. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of XXX video stores and a couple of strip joints, as well as apartments and smaller, seedy - for lack of a better word - motels. We drove by a whole slew of boarded up apartments - not big brownstones like you would see in the Bronx - but what seemed like nice bungalows or something you would pay a small fortune for in a place like Miami.
I looked around at some old folks vacationing on the bus and at least one NABster annoying chatting on his cell phone and some were clearly worried about the ride they just got on. Thankfully, we got off the bus at the second stop.
The strip is busy ... almost like Times Square. Everything is loud and clanging, with horns going off, music, and Spanish street vendors handing out pamphlets for escort services. A "fat" Elvis is posing for free pictures outside one of the hotels but there is a Subway and McDonald's nearby. The hotels are big and glamorous, not unlike I expected and no different from what you see on television. The lights aren’t on - we would see that later - but you get the awe of the place.
At check-in, there is a long line and the cacophony of clamoring of slot machines so loud you can barely think straight. I think out loud that this is what a schizophrenic must have going on in the brain. The hotel, while trying, fails to blow away the cigarette smoke from the casinos and bars. Unlike Foxwoods, where people hog two and three slot machines and there is a look of death and hopelessness on faces far and wide, a lot of the machines and tables are not being used and people generally seem to be having fun. Of course, I'm not really paying as much attention to their faces because I am too distracted by the noise.
After check-in, we board the monorail to the convention center to check out the exhibits. I also want to attend the RTNDA seminar about being a new news director.
The monorail is pretty cool - not unlike the one in Miami. However, one can’t help but notice that it goes over almost all the seediness we just passed by to get from the airport to the strip. It is almost as if it was built to keep all the special people away from the riff raff. While that is good to keep crime down and preserve tourism, I wonder if it is the best thing for society. More boarded up apartments and construction everywhere can be seen.
I keep thinking about Stephen King's book "The Stand."
NAB is a radio, TV and film geek’s dream world. Every gadget you could possibly imagine is here - from antennae manufacturing to studio production and some of the coolest space-aged mixing boards I have ever seen.
“I wish I had a million dollars … hot dog!”
Before the news director’s seminar, my group checks out some of the vendors and has a couple of conversations with some interesting folks about software and mics. After leaving the NAB section, we head up to the RTNDA section which, as far as booths go, is extremely disappointing. There is a CNN store and a couple of other news booths, like AP and Consumer Reports. But there isn’t much else. I was hoping to find some other groups who might offer bartered news features or production tools. Not surprisingly, a few military interests have media promotion outposts, as does the HHS, where I grill a couple of folks on flu quarantine issues. Thankfully, they don't look at me like I am nuts and take my civil libertarian concerns very seriously.
For the record, flight attendants are reportedly trained to call airport officials who then call CDC officials when they believe there might be a medical emergency on a flight from overseas in which a quarantine/flu treatment situation might kick in.
I attend the first news director’s seminar about how to manage your news department after being promoted from within and other tips on getting the most out of your news staff. It was a pretty interesting conversation geared more towards TV news departments, but much of the information can be transferred into any management situation. I like that the main speaker, Valerie Hyman, kept stressing that in order to stay fresh and focused, news directors need to take breaks and schedule something I otherwise call "quiet time," to take care of those mundane tasks. Note to self: Take a walk in the middle of the day, especially if it is nice outside.
At the end, Hyman makes a most prolific statement about news directors being one of the most patriotic jobs a person can have and how the press is the only job protected by the Constitution. She also states that our job is one of the only ones that preserve democracy. I begin to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :-)
Alright folks, that’s it for now. I may not be updating the blog while out here but I wanted to give folks a taste of what I am seeing. If something super cool or newsworthy happens, I will post something. Otherwise, check back in for a longer report by the end of the week.