Sobering

Spent time today working on one of the most heart wrenching stories I’ve done — seeing both sides of a drunk-driving fatality and the torment this bad decision can create.

Notably, driver Caleb Pruitt wasn’t just drunk. A police report indicated he was “greatly impaired” by marijuana too.

In court, he told the family of Angie Burke he did “everything within his power in those last few seconds to avoid” hitting her. Clearly, he needed to do more. He needed to not have smoked pot at some point, split a bottle of wine with his girlfiend over dinner, then gotten behind the wheel of a Subaru. He needed to not have sped down Barbur Boulevard at an estimated 75 miles an hour.

He also said in court, he never imagined he’d be on this end of the spectrum.

Never imagined?

In 2005, he did the same thing, only he didn’t kill anyone that time.

He was picked up for a DUII, and took a diversion class to avoid a misdemeanor conviction on his record. Yes, the kind of diversion class that force feeds you horrific images of fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers. Like visual shock therapy. The kind of class in which emergency room nurses do their best to help you imagine what could happen if you continue down the path of putting lives at risk.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lowes tells me it’s standard practice in Oregon to offer drunk drivers that diversion class on their first offense, and that usually they spend at least a couple hours in jail after the arrest. It depends on how many other scofflaws are in their company.

The second time around, the conviction goes on their record and they serve either 80 hours of community service or two days in jail, and pay a $1000 fine. If you have two prior convictions within the last 10 years, and you are convicted of your third, that conviction goes down as a felony.

None of us is perfect.

We are human in our imperfections.

I pray that we can all learn something from Caleb Pruitt’s mistakes.

As Judge Michael McShane closed out the sentencing hearing for Pruitt, sending him to prison for five years, he noted the next item on his morning docket — a line of drunk drivers outside the courtroom, 18 of them, waiting to plead guilty. He told Pruitt he planned on keeping the smiling photos of Angie Burke on display in his courtroom for those drunk drivers to see.

Perhaps they’ll be quicker learners than Caleb Pruitt.

The Prez is coming to town

Bruce Ely / The Oregonian

Once when attending a career-building seminar aimed at broadcast journalists, the guest speaker, who’d had years of experience in this industry, issued a specific word of caution to us up-and-comers about our resume tapes.

Those are the tapes we desperately send out to news directors in markets higher than the one in which we currently work, hoping something in the first ten seconds doesn’t induce a gag reflex and prompt the tape to be yanked out. We call them tapes, but nowadays, it’s a dvd.

The lecturer said, “Don’t put the president’s-in-town story on your resume reel. Because EVERYBODY puts it on there. And it does not make you unique. It doesn’t mean you’re a great journalist. It simply means, you can adequately cover the story when the president comes to town.”

He was right.

Covering the president, while an extreme honor, merely means that you passed the security clearance at the federal level to get a press credential. You survived the world’s biggest hurry-up-and-wait drill. And you and your crew managed to not screw up your feed, or botch your audio, as you collected the key moments of the event (the entrance, the standing ovation, the exit) usually from a platform WAYYY in the back of the room.

Not to sound cynical, but that’s really what it amounts to be.

Still.

Tomorrow, President Obama comes to town. The last time he was here, he drew some 72-75,000 people to the bowl in Waterfront Park. It was, by all acccounts, an historic day. It caught the attention of the national media, it was the largest gathering of his 2008 campaign, and by golly, it kinda put Portland on the map.

The Oregonian newspaper has the A1 page proudly displayed in its newsroom.

Which is why I’m looking forward to his return. Not for any sort of political reason. You’d be hard pressed to figure out which political party I ascribe to. (hint: none)

Given the context of how much has happened since he took office, I enjoy the context of having the Big Man step on our turf. I appreciate the weight of the news event. And I love that he’s here because we have a hotly-contested gubernatorial campaign, which can only serve to energize the electorate.

I know. That sounds kind of wonky-wonk…but it’s true.

I dig it.

My only dilemma is that I will be filling in as an anchor tomorrow, which I just dumbly realized sitting here on my couch. Evon, the scheduler at work, asked me to co-anchor last week, and even though I spent the weekend telling people about Obama’s pending visit on Wednesday, I did not realize until roughly two minutes ago that I get to announce to our KATU viewers tomorrow evening: “The President’s in town.”

That’s pretty rad.

The reporter in me would rather be on scene, but hey, the anchor clip might look good on a resume tape, no?

(BTW, Mr. Boss-man, if you’re reading this, I will perform my professional duties to the best of my abilities, in whatever capacity I am asked. All aforementioned content is purely satirical and derivates from my alter-ego.)