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Nov. 29, 2005
I've filled in as anchor on a number of shows at FNC, but hosting "The Big Story Weekend" (Saturdays and Sundays, 10 pm ET), was by far the most challenging gig.
"The Big Story" covers a lot of ground, focusing on a wide range of topics with multiple live guests in almost every segment. The producers do a lot of research to prepare the anchor, putting wire and newspaper stories in a folder along with background on each interview subject, including "talking points" from the expert on the topic they're coming on to discuss. Then, it's up to the host to digest the information, get comfortable with the subject matter, and come up with the right questions to make each segment interesting and intelligent.
The one-hour show has seven "blocks," or segments, and as I said, each segment may cover multiple stories with multiple guests. Saturday night's program included at least 11 stories with 15 guests. Sunday, we also had 11 stories, and 16 guests.
If you were watching Sunday, and didn't get up to make popcorn at 10:30 pm ET, you probably saw me lose my place in the "D" block. The first story of the segment was an alert updating the search for a phony firefighter sex-assault suspect in New York City. The story was supposed to include an interview with a New York Post reporter who broke exclusive details on the perp, but there were technical problems. The guest was in the newsroom studio but couldn't hear me, and our engineers couldn't correct the issue in time... so as I'm introducing him, I hear a producer in my ear telling me to move on to the next guest.
The trouble was, the next guest was supposed to discuss an entirely different topic, the sentencing of the convicted killer of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. As it turned out, former prosecutor Tom McCain wasn't hooked up yet in our Boston studio anyway. The script for the story wasn't in prompter. I looked down to find the script and couldn't. I looked up and the prompter had scrolled forward, but was still on the wrong page. I looked down and found the SECOND page of the story I needed to read, fumbled with that for a moment, apologized to our viewers, then introduced Arthur Aidala, a FOX News contributor and good friend, who fortunately was in studio with me, also booked to talk about the Brucia case.
Artie took the handoff and ran with it, bailing me out. The producers caught up, and the show moved on smoothly from there.
The entire miscue lasted maybe 10 seconds, but felt like an eternity. If it was a test, I'm not sure I passed, but I definitely learned from the experience. I look forward to hosting the show again, Saturday and Sunday, December 10th and 11th. That is, if my bosses still let me...
Nov. 22, 2005
So now comes the news that Kara Borden went willingly with David Ludwig, moments after he shot and killed both of her parents.
She may not have witnessed the murders, but she most likely heard the gunshots, and may have run right past her parents’ bodies when she left the house to chase Ludwig's car down her street.
Court documents reveal both teens told investigators when Kara got in the car, she told Ludwig she wanted to get as far away as possible and get married and start a new life together. Some have questioned whether Kara should be charged as an accomplice in the killings, or with aiding and abetting a fugitive. Prosecutors aren't saying whether charges are being contemplated against the young girl, but attorneys I’ve spoken with say it's highly unlikely.
"If they were going to charge her, they would've already," one told me.
The thinking seems to be if there were direct evidence of her involvement in the murders, she'd definitely be behind bars. However, prosecutors are likely to decide that what they're dealing with is a scared 14-year-old girl, possibly in shock, running off with the boy she loves after experiencing a traumatic, life-wrenching event.
Her defense? She couldn't possibly have been thinking lucidly and acted on impulse — actions she now regrets as she mourns the loss of her parents and deals with the awful consequences of Ludwig's anger.
Ludwig, according to detectives, has been cooperative since his arrest, telling police the murder weapon, a .40 caliber Glock, could be found under the driver's seat of his Jetta. He later was confessing to his crimes, describing his actions in detail during the argument, the shootings, and the 600-mile trek as a fugitive.
There were other weapons and evidence found in the vehicle, including a Colt .45 pistol, a holster, a rifle, black clothes presumably worn during the murders, some maps, a screwdriver, and a couple of different Indiana license plates (Ludwig's car had Pennsylvania tags) that he apparently stole to try and avoid getting caught.
Ludwig's cooperation could help him avoid the death penalty (that decision still rests with prosecutors) but it's unlikely he'll avoid a life behind bars, which is where he is right now in Lancaster County, waiting for his arraignment on December 16th.
As for Kara, she's said to be staying with friends and relatives. Last Saturday, she went to her parent's funeral.
Nov. 14, 2005
Another Sunday afternoon, another call from Refet, NY Bureau Chief.
"What are you doing tonight and tomorrow?"
"I've got dinner plans tonight ... I'm baking pumpkin pies."
"You're baking pies?"
Actually, my bride-to-be was doing the baking. I was watching football.
"There's a story in Lancaster. You can go tonight or early tomorrow morning. Need you there for 9 o'clock lives. Can you go?"
I told him I could leave after dinner. "What's the story?"
The story is 14-year-old Kara Beth Borden, apparently abducted at gunpoint by 18-year-old David Ludwig, who police now believe shot and killed Kara's parents after an argument early Sunday morning.
Apparently Kara was out with David late Saturday night, and her parents weren't happy about it, and wanted to talk to him. That's when cops say he allegedly went home, grabbed a weapon, came back, and killed Michael and Cathryn Borden and took off in his parent's red Volkswagen Jetta.
We decided to leave early Monday instead of overnight-ing in Pennsylvania, leaving just after 5 a.m. We got slightly lost on a two-lane road in this rural patch of Pennsylvania — mostly farmland sprinkled with subdivisions — but finally arrived at the quiet Warwick Township Municipal Building at about 8:25.
I asked Lititz Borough Police Chief William Seace if he was sure Kara was abducted, and he said they didn't actually know if she was kidnapped or left willingly, but he reiterated David Ludwig should be considered armed and dangerous and should not be approached.
I watched every part of both nights and have for a long time been a FOX Fan. I thought you did a superb job on handling the little mix up. Everybody should do so well! I hope they keep you at that position. Your honesty shows through. Thank you and keep on keeping on.
J.B. in Ohio
I hope they keep you on The Big Story. You're all about the story and your experience as a field reporter serves you well as a broadcaster.
Coeur d' Alene, ID
I saw the show where you lost your place, and I thought you did fine. Actually, you seem more real to me than some of the robots (news people) that never make a mistake. When your audience personally connects with you, then to me, you become the personality it takes to carry a show. You showed real strength and took responsibility, and I would think the producers would be very grateful for someone like that.
I saw the incident you described and it wasn't all that bad - I've seen worse from guys who have sat in the big chair for years! Keep up the good work!
Keep up the good work. I sure appreciate your honesty in discussing your "flubs" on last Sunday's show. I can't think of many reporters/hosts that would be that honest. I look forward to your next broadcast.
You were quite poised, Rick - even though it probably didn't feel that way! It was obvious to viewers that you were trying hard to recover. We always look forward to seeing you on FNC - and, now we know that you're human just like the rest of us!
Tony and Cynthia from San Jose, CA
My heart was bleeding for you when you ran into "technical difficulties"! I was so happy to see that you were doing the show and when that happened I said to myself "Poor Rick!" Hey, you handled Iraq like a charm without notes and telepromptors, so who needs The Big Story? You handled it well and the show went on!
I saw the miscue and your obvious discomfort. So....you and your crew are human!! I thought you handled it admirably. You're a great reporter.
You are one of our favorite reporters and my husband and I think you did a great job over the weekend with the Big Story Weekend. You seem to be a really nice person who cares about the work you do.
Rick, Was so glad to see you on The Big Story this weekend. You were so professional both nights, especially last night when you "lost your place;" you told us what happened and then you continued in your professional way of reporting the news and interviewing people. Do hope you can continue to host Big Story.
I also can't help but wonder about this Ludwig fellow. Sounds like he had a history of similar "brain washing" incidents. He is a real head case and someone should have seen it coming. What do his parents think of this? That's a story I eagerly await to read about.
It's possible that after seeing her parents murdered he told her if she didn't come with him he would kill her, her sister and little brother. She may have been terrified and knew he was capable of doing those things. Just another angle.