They say learning new things keeps your mind sharp. Or is that sharpening things keeps you learning?
At any rate, when the producer of a new half-hour television show, “Spokane Talks,” on Fox28 Spokane asked if I’d be willing to do a short commentary at the close of each weekly broadcast, I agreed.
I’ve never been a television personality or a news anchor, but I did study radio and TV broadcasting at Newtech Skill Center (formerly Spokane Vocational Skills Center).
Granted that was in 1983, but hey, I got straight A’s.
Plus, the precarious state of dead tree journalism makes me think I’d better expand my skill set, just in case someday no one wants to “Wake Up and Read It.”
To that end, the one stipulation I had is that this newspaper gets mentioned in the opening credits of my segments. Who knows, maybe television viewers can be newspaper readers, too.
OK, I did have other stipulations regarding hair, wardrobe, snacks in the green room and limo service, but apparently those emails went missing.
When I told my sons about my new venture, I said, “It will be like Andy Rooney on ‘60 Minutes,’ only with better eyebrows.”
“Who’s Andy Rooney?” they asked.
“He’s that really short actor that was married like, 12 times,” my husband replied.
Which is when I realized TV news programs are probably teetering on the brink of extinction, as well.
We found some “60 Minute” clips on YouTube.
My sons were not impressed, but they agreed my brows were better groomed and thought I probably had a superior wardrobe.
The folks at “Spokane Talks” created a cool introduction, featuring the dulcet voice of Tom McArthur.
The segments, like this column, are called the “Front Porch,” and writing the tag line, (That’s the view from my front porch) was a breeze.
Coming up with weekly segments, no longer than two-and-a-half minutes in length?
Not so breezy.
I mean, I have sneezes that last longer.
In newspaper journalism, we’re told to write tight, that if it takes you more than 1,000 words to tell a story, you’re probably using too many adjectives. Or worse. Adverbs.
But telling a story with a beginning, middle and end in a 150-second frame proved tricky. Especially since my only audience during the taping is a couple of unblinking television cameras and Vinnie, whom I can’t see because he’s in the booth.
It’s like talking to yourself while someone is eavesdropping. I decided my entourage should accompany me to the studio.
Unfortunately, my cats don’t travel well, so I roped my manager into going with me. I had to promise to buy him dinner afterward, but he’s got a vested interest in my career and is usually a good sport. A well-fed good sport.
“You’re in charge of wardrobe malfunctions,” I told him.
“Causing them or preventing them?” he asked.
It’s tough when your manager is your husband, but if Celine Dion did it, then so can I. Not that I plan to do any singing on television. At least not intentionally.
In fact, Derek has been trying to manage me for years. He says some days it feels like a full-time job, but the benefits are pretty nice.
Six weeks into the program, I haven’t been censored by the FCC, groped any interns or appeared on television with lipstick on my teeth, so I think it’s going OK.
I asked my sons what they thought.
“Uh. This is on YouTube, right?” they asked.
No wonder Andy Rooney was a curmudgeon.
I’m not sure if my mind is any sharper, but I’m figuring out how to cut excess verbiage, make use of camera angles and use a teleprompter app on my husband’s Kindle.
Now, I’m working on not grimacing on camera. Seeing still shots from the shows revealed I have a very expressive face. Unfortunately, many of those expressions should not be seen on network TV.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but maybe this old columnist can learn something new.
Contact Cindy Hval at email@example.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation. Her previous columns are available online at www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/ Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.