American Morning

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May 15th, 2009
11:47 AM ET
May 15th, 2009
11:26 AM ET

Meet AM: John Rappa – Technical Director

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="John Rappa sits at his switcher before the show starts. The switcher is how he controls what goes on the show."]

Each Friday in “Meet AM,” we’ll introduce you to the people who get American Morning to air.

Today, we’d like you to meet John Rappa. John is our very busy technical director. Whether you’re seeing live video from a camera, great video from yesterday, or still graphics, John is the one who’s putting it there. So as you can imagine, he’s great at keeping his eye on everything! He’s been with AM for six years.

How did you end up doing what you do?
I went to school at SUNY Plattsburgh, which has a student run television station. I received a Bachelor of Science with a major in Mass Communication from there. We aired about 5 hours of programming daily, some of which was live. I always knew I wanted to do something on the technical end of media. I’m not a big fan of writing, so the editorial side isn’t for me. I started with ENG camera before I switched to working in the studio and eventually the control room. I’ve done most positions on the crew, from camera and stage managing to videotape and audio and then TD and directing. Since graduating, I’ve held several different jobs including NEWS12, WNBC and MSNBC before I came to CNN.

Describe your average day:
I come in the early morning and start loading and checking all the equipment. This is somewhat time-consuming because I have to interface with so many individual pieces of equipment. I have to make sure cameras on the fifth floor, graphics on the fourth floor and server clips from Atlanta are all in working order, and then send the program feed back to master control in Atlanta. The most important piece of equipment I use is called a production switcher which is essentially a router for all the video sources used during American Morning. All the studio cameras, remote cameras, prerecorded clips and graphics funnel into the switcher where I composite the images into the program you can see on television. After American Morning I work on other programming for CNN.


Filed under: Meet AM
May 15th, 2009
09:58 AM ET

Boycotting Obama's commencement speech

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Kiran Chetry speaks to a Notre Dame senior who is boycotting graduation over President Obama's speech."]

(CNN) - President Obama this weekend will become the ninth sitting U.S. president to deliver the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, but none of the others has touched off the firestorm of Obama's appearance.

At issue is the president's pro-choice abortion belief, which runs counter to the Catholic Church's official pro-life stance, and his support for federal funding of stem-cell research.

One person who was supposed to be going to commencement but is not is Notre Dame senior Emily Toates. She feels so strongly about the university's decision to invite the president in spite of his views on abortion, she's organized a group to boycott her own graduation. Toates spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

Kiran Chetry: The president will deliver the commencement address. He got an honorary degree from the school. You feel so strongly about that situation that you're not going to attend your graduation? Tell us more about why?

Emily Toates: Well, I was really sad to hear that the university invited President Obama to speak. While it's an honor to have the president come, Obama's stance on certain life issues go against the Catholic teachings. I do not feel comfortable going and celebrating him as the university hands him an honorary degree, in a sense honoring his policies. I didn’t feel comfortable going and standing there and standing beside that – clapping while we did that.

Chetry: How is it shaking down at your school? How many students are supporting this move and how many are against it?

Toates: Well it's a difficult situation. This has caused a bit of division on the campus. But it also has created a lot of... discussion on these issues. I think there's a few camps - there's those strongly against it, those strongly for it, but there’s a lot of people in the middle that really aren't sure how they feel about this. Maybe they disagree with Obama on certain issues but don't really understand how this impacts him giving a speech on campus. So this has created a lot of opportunity for discussion, education. I'm working with "ND Response" and we’ve used this as an opportunity to discus these issues, brought some great speakers to campus, to really talk about this and why this matters.


Filed under: Politics
May 15th, 2009
08:41 AM ET

Airline industry's 'dirty little secret'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Jason Carroll reports the average starting salary for a regional pilot is $18,168 a year."]

One former member of the National Transportation Safety Board called it the airline industry's "dirty little secret." Well, it's not a secret anymore.

The issue – how much regional pilots are paid to fly. According to an aviation consulting firm, the starting salary is $18,168 a year. Compare that to a janitor's salary at $21,000 or a New York City cab driver with just a few years experience $22,000.

The issue is coming into focus during hearings in Washington DC into the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407.

The plane's first officer, Rebecca Shaw made less than $24,000 dollars a year. Shaw lived with her parents in Seattle, but worked out of Newark. She commuted across the country overnight before the doomed flight and investigators have asked – did that prevent her from getting needed sleep?


Filed under: Transportation
May 15th, 2009
07:37 AM ET

An end to 911 call replays?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A lawmaker in Ohio wants to ban broadcasters from playing 911 calls."]

From CNN's Ronni Berke and Carol Costello

There is no doubt that broadcasting 911 calls on TV exposes operators who make mistakes while handling emergency calls. There are hundreds of examples, like the call CNN aired in 2005 – A frantic parent called 911 to report her violent children were out of control. Here’s how the call went:

Caller: "I just got home from work. They were physically fighting with each other.  And they're 12 and almost 14 and the 12 year old is completely out of control. I can't... I physically... she's as big as I am.... I can't control her."

911 Dispatcher: "OK. Did you want us to come over and shoot her?"

The 911 operator later apologized for what he called “a joke.” He was also reprimanded by his superiors, but was allowed to stay on the job.

The question today? Was it really necessary to for the public to hear his faux pas on TV?

Ohio State Senator, Republican Thomas Patton, has the answer to that question. He says, “no.” He feels so strongly about it he’s introduced a bill in the Ohio legislature that would prohibit "radio, television and the internet..." from "playing a recording of" 911 calls.

The bill would allow broadcasters to "read(ing) a transcript..." of the calls. But, if broadcasters violate the law, they’re subject to a 10-thousand dollar fine. Patton says he got the idea from law enforcement officers. They told him airing audio of 911 calls makes people afraid to call 911 to report crime because they fear the bad guy will recognize their voice.


Filed under: Crime
May 15th, 2009
06:48 AM ET

Wingnuts of the Week

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh (L) and comedian Wanda Sykes (R)."]

The Wingnut of the Week segment got a great response in its opening edition. There were comments from all over the Web, including defenders of respective wingnut Representatives Bachman or McKinney who applauded one selection while condemning the other. We’re encouraging these debates and centrists are used to such complaints – liberals think we’re conservative and conservatives think we’re liberal. Independents don’t walk in lockstep with any party-line; they make up their own mind.

Others sought to clarify the terminology – saying that “wingnut” should refer only to folks on the far-right, while “moonbat” properly refers to the loony-left. I appreciate the efforts at Noah Webster-like netroot accuracy, but for me and many others in the moderate majority, a wingnut on one side equals a wingnut on the other.

After looking at your suggestions about this week’s selections, two names stood out as obvious: Wanda Sykes and Rush Limbaugh.

Even with a generous discount for edgy comedy, Wanda Sykes went over the edge with her routine at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. The now infamous standout lines: “I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight… He hopes the country fails. I hope his kidneys fail.”

If a conservative comedian made the same jokes about some left-wing bloviator, liberals would have been offended. And rightly so – the attacks of September 11th should be self-evidently off limits for humor, especially with the President of the United States an arm’s length away. Americans who disagree with you politically are not terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, let alone the 20th hijacker. Hitting someone’s struggle with substance abuse – or saying you hope their kidneys fail – to a room full of laughter and applause, is at best unkind and at worst an unusually personal political attack. It’s an illustration of how the extremes encourage each other because partisan politics follows the lines of physics – every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week