Food in the Field gives a sneak peek into what CNN's team is eating, and the food culture they encounter as they travel the globe. Today's contributor Wynn Westmoreland is a broadcast journalist with 16 years of experience in front of and behind the camera. She works from CNN’s World Headquarters in Atlanta and gets off work when most people are already asleep.
Ah, the smell of pizza! For most that means a party or a ballgame, but at CNN, the smell of pizza indicates bad news. Really, really bad news. Hurricane. Earthquake. Terrorist attack. In a 24/7/365 news and production room, catastrophe equals pizza.
The simple reason we order pizza is because we simply don’t have time during breaking news to take food breaks. My family does not have to watch the news to know what is going on in the world; they just have to watch my waistline. This year alone: Egypt? Pizza. Libya? Pizza. Japan earthquake? Lots of pizza. Southern tornadoes - well, you get the picture.
I approached the pizza perp and asked why he had pizza. He said he just felt like ordering it. I froze. The space-time continuum of breaking news first and pizza second had been broken. I waited for the moon to change to blood, for brain-sucking aliens to invade.
In the end, nothing happened, but Just-Felt-Like-Pizza Guy had tempted the news gods and broken the 11th Commandment: "Thou shall not order pizza BEFORE Breaking News." Whew! We got lucky that night.
A few more tales from the trenches:
Holidays and the Great Turkey Disaster of 2003
Since we do work a 24/7/365 schedule, we have a lottery to see who gets holidays off. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, CNN does provide us with a free meal that includes turkey and dressing with all the fixings. We actually have people who VOLUNTEER to work on these holidays and it's often because of this the free food.
I once asked a co-worker why he had volunteered to work holidays for the last eight years and he replied, "I don’t have to buy anything, cook anything, clean anything, and I don’t have to listen to my family complain."
This all leads up to the Great Turkey Disaster of 2003. In my department, we each decided to bring in a cooked Thanksgiving side dish and one particular colleague offered to cook us a homemade turkey. Ah, a real turkey cooked with love in a real oven, basted, seasoned and still delivered piping hot.
Then the call came. "Turkey Maker X" (name withheld due to emotional torment) had slipped in the parking lot, and the golden-brown bird was now pavement pizza. But we had each other and we still had our side dishes, so much like the Whos in Whoville, we celebrated anyway, sans our present of turkey.
Election Night 2000 a.k.a. Rock on Judy Woodruff
Election Night 2000 was a historic event here in Atlanta, as George W. Bush and Al Gore battled it out for the presidency. Two of the greats were anchoring - Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff - while Wolf Blitzer worked the Power of Balance desk for the Senate and House.
The night lasted into the wee hours of the morning. There were two floor directors that night and I was one of them. We took turns giving the anchors their cues while running to the catering table to get food for Mr. Shaw and our political analyst. Mrs. Woodruff, however, was a machine, not eating even once while reporting. With each state, we were closer to a new president.
Around 2:30am, we called Florida for Bush and started into a pre-produced segment on the new president. Judy Woodruff finally took two bites of food and then time stopped as we heard, "We are taking back Florida...taking back Florida."
Then with the grace of royalty, Mrs. Woodruff spit her partially-masticated food into her hand, lifted her head and with steely reserve announced to the world “Florida is too close to call”. In that 20 seconds, Judy Woodruff went from journalistic icon to rock star. She could tell the nation we did not yet have a president with half-chewed food in her hand. The news gods and the food angels held hands and sang "Hallelujah!" in awe at this amazing feat.
Rock on, Judy Woodruff. Never let food get in the way of delivering news to the masses.
There's a saying in the TV and film industry that you can get anybody to work for anything, at any hour of the day, as long as you pay them promptly and feed them with filling food. Live news is certainly no exception. In fact, I would continue to speak about the Mardi Gras chicken wings or the three gourmet cakes and ice cream we once had to celebrates promotions and send-offs, but I smell delivery pizza. It's time to wrap this up, grab a few slices and settle in at my desk.
It's going to be a long - and greasy - night.