A Hard Lesson

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Thursday, August 14, 5:45 p.m. ET: Blackout

By On The Record New York Producer Beth Saunders

Chaos erupted in our newsroom shortly after 4 p.m. ET.

After a massive power surge, all the producers who were here for Sept. 11 looked at each other with a sense of panic. Moments later, a public announcement told people in the building to evacuate.

As we walked out the streets of Manhattan became flooded with people. Cars were at a near standstill. A random man began directing traffic.

About 40 minutes later, we came back inside the building to see what the status of our show was. We quickly realized the show must go on and now we've got to figure out a way to book guests without being able to use the phone. This is the night to own a Blackberry.

Thursday, August 14: A Hard Lesson

If you saw last night's show -- Wednesday, August 13 -- you might wonder why I was so "rude" to cut off famed medical examiner Werner Spitz, a guest out of our Detroit bureau.

Dr. Spitz was on our show to discuss the defense experts conducting a visual examination of the remains of Laci Peterson (search) and Conner on Monday, August 11.  Well, the reason I cut him off is simple: I made a mistake. Dr. Spitz happened to be a guest in a "hard out" segment of our show.  That means I must, and I mean must, end the segment exactly on time, or else the computer that somehow serves as my "time boss" will end it without me.

There are two "hard out" segments -- mid show and at the end of the show (obviously.)  There is someone in our studio who warns me with time cards how many seconds I have left in the segment and I have to time it just perfectly or cut the guest off or get cut off by the computer.  If I have 30 seconds left before the "hard out" and I ask a question that takes 31 seconds to answer, I am in deep trouble.  Of course, it is not easy to predict how long an answer will be -- but, if you have been in the business long enough, you can gauge yourself on most nights.  Last night was not one of them.  As soon as we went to break, I asked my line producer in New York to apologize to Dr. Spitz because I was unable to communicate with him.  He is a pro and understands but I hate cutting off guests like that.

As an aside, I hate it when a guest in a hard segment ends his, or her answer and I have 15 seconds left per the time cards. I can't very well ask a question -- that will take about five seconds -- and then leaves the poor guest with 10 seconds before I cut him or her off or the computer does it to both of us. In that instance, rather than ask a question, I usually say something and take the last word.

I hope you watch tonight. There is much happening in court today for Scott Peterson and we will cover it for you.


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