Tag Archives: brian andrews

The Journalist, Improvised

There’s a quote from Henri Matisse that goes “there are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.” Matisse was talking about choosing the word “Jazz” as the title of one of his final collections, the hand-brushed and stenciled works released under the Jazz name in 1947.

The series–now considered among the most important of Matisse’s career–grew out of setback and pain: as Greg Kucera describes the period, “The years of World War II were a difficult time for Matisse and his family. He had separated from his wife Amelie in 1940 when he moved to the south of France. His wife and his daughter Marguerite were each tried and then jailed by the Gestapo for their parts in the French Resistance movement. Marguerite was tortured and then deported to the Ravensbruck concentration camp but was miraculously rescued before arriving there.”  The artist himself was ravaged by gallstones, insomnia, failing vision, and the after effects of surgery for intestinal cancer, but as Kucera reflects, the pain produced a spark:  “After a risky operation, Matisse remarked to his friend Albert Marquet in 1942, ‘Truly, I’m not joking when I thank my lucky stars for the awful operation I had, since it has made me young again and philosophical which means that I don’t want to fritter away the new lease on life I’ve been given.'”

Without drawing too sharp a parallel, I believe many journalists are finding their own inspiration in the pain of unemployment, furlough and fear.  Over the past weeks, journalists on this page have shared their own versions of Matisse’s improvisational “Jazz:”  for Brian Andrews, it was selling everything he owned to move from Miami to Columbia and–quite literally–start his own English language news operation. For Polly Kreisman, it’s an online hyperlocal effort that, like the lady herself, has smarts and attitude.

And now, almost without realizing it, I’ve found myself producing my own collection of new works unlike anything I’ve produced before.  I’m improvising, and I’m loving it.  As you know (since you’re here), I began blogging back in January as a way of expressing my own uncertainties about the local television news business.  The daily writing–and connecting with creative, passionate people across the country–has become a treasured part of my life.  It started as strict improvisation:  I had no idea what it would become, I just knew I was being honest, about the business, and most of all, about myself.  As Matisse wrote, I was truly being “at one with the audience.”


Improv! On Stage at New York's Upright Citizens' Brigade Theater

And like nothing I’ve written before, people have responded to that.  I’ve made new connections, joined with other journalists determined to innovate and create instead of sit and bitch, and a few weeks ago, I found myself contacted about a job that somehow, in all the job-listing-looking I’d been doing, I missed. And they hired me.  (No agent-negotiated, megabucks deal here–I’m working for a nonprofit, and making nonprofit wages, so I’ll still be blogging my heart out, shooting my own stuff for my neighborhood newsblog, and getting goofy on Saturday nights for Toni Senecal’s “Toni On! New York” on WPIX.  (Today’s shoot:  doing improv with the comics at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade–am I driving the improvisation metaphor too hard?–if I am, whatev, they’re crazy funny and it was a blast to share the stage with them.)

Recovering Journalist and Philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch

"Recovering Journalist" and Philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch

Anyway, a week ago I ventured into a world that may one day be commonplace for journalists, or, perhaps, it won’t.  But for now, I’m part of  a journalistic experiment being bankrolled by a philanthropist (Ruth Ann Harnisch, former local newser turned benefactor to journalism schools, research programs and countless community efforts) and being studied by a university professor seeking–as so many of us are–new ways to keep journalists on the job.  I’m serving as a “community supported journalist” who works not for a paper or television station, but for a group of people who have a shared interest, in this case, in the field of coaching.  Will people interested in getting news on their field one day decide it’s worth their own money to keep a reporter on the beat? We’ll know more in a year.

The Coaching Commons:  Like No Newsroom I've Been a Part Of

The Coaching Commons: Like No Newsroom I've Been a Part Of

For now, I’m part pioneer, part guinea pig.  And improvising my butt off.  But like the artist with the new lease of life, I feel a stronger connection to my original love of journalism, writing, and storytelling than I’ve felt in a long time.  In part, because I really don’t know what I’m going to do next.  And also, because I feel a kinship with all the others out there spinning plates, juggling knives and tap dancing…waiting to see what new show an audience will pay for.

I feel confident one day soon we’ll look back and realize that some of us are doing some of the most important work of our careers.

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How Far Would You Go to Live Your TV Dream? Dispatch from the Frontlines: Brian Andrews


Brian Andrews: Deciding to Walk Away. Walking Far, Far Away.

As the longtime lead reporter at WSVN in Miami, and later as a correspondent at CBS News and WFOR in Miami, Brian Andrews always seemed to out-hustle the competition and break stories that the other guys missed. He was the guy you knew was going places, as they say.  I remember seeing Brian one day in my newsroom in New York and thinking, “this is the guy we need–he’ll be big in New York.”  But Brian had other plans.

As you’re about to read, Brian took a bold leap that left many in Miami scratching their heads: why walk away from something you’re so good at?  And to leave the country?  Well Brian’s now forging a new path in a new place, and serving as an example for those of us who are thinking: what next?  If you’ve had a crazy dream, this, kids, might be the time to give it a shot.  (And the way to take a dream and make it reality?  Use those reporter’s talents that allowed you to talk your way in for the exclusive interview–and use them to talk your way into a job that, like Brian, maybe nobody’d even planned for.)


DISPATCH FROM THE FRONTLINESBrian Andrews, News Director, RCN in English, Columbia

In December of 2007, I quit my job in Miami TV, sold my house, gave away everything I owned, and moved to Colombia to follow my dream of doing news in English in Latin America.  I got out before the collapse of local news.  I was lucky.  I feel like I was able to leave at the top, on my own terms.  I left a month into a new 3 year contract for big money.  CBS didn’t understand my reasons.  They thought I was crazy.  But, they knew my heart was in Colombia, not Miami, and were kind enough to let me go pursue my passions.

Once I got here, it took me about 6 months to get established, but I made it happen.   I pitched RCN, the largest TV network in the country on my idea.   They loved it.   A few months later, Colombia’s News in English was born.  At first, it was just me and a producer. We did everything. We translated, wrote, edited, stacked, sent, processed, converted, uploaded, and posted.  A few months later, after realizing working 7 days a week wasn’t healthy, I got more help.  We expanded to 7 days a week. I hired a weekend anchor and another producer.   And then, it just kept growing.

Brian's Team at RCN

Brian Andrews, left, and his Team at RCN

At the start, we were just one webcast a day.   Then, we grew to two.  Then, we added a third. Next, TV Colombia, our international channel, starting running our shows.  Then, we expanded to Avianca Airlines.   Last month, we revamped the whole operation, built a new website, and started posting single stories, in addition to the webcasts.  We also added weather and sports. We encourage user interaction.  We have people email us their photos for our constantly changing header.  We solicit contributions of stories from people who have the time to produce them and FTP them to us.   We’re doing it all with a staff of 5 and a budget that works out to less than $12,000 a month.   This is the future of news: digitally delivered and made inexpensively.   My staff is very young, hungry, and full of ideas and energy.  We use existing resources to make our product.  We offer the opportunity to anyone in the newsroom who is comfortable speaking English to make pieces for our programs.   We also shoot our own stuff with handheld cameras.

colombianewsFor my team, its not work, it’s our passion.   Plus, we know our project has meaning and impact.  We are showing the world there’s more going on down here than bombs and kidnappings. We are teaching others how to make Miami style TV for the internet.  We are teaching others a new language, a new way of doing things, and a new way of telling stories.   Plus, we are still cutting edge.  Right now, we are the only product of its kind being produced in Latin America.    So, when you want to know what’s happening in Colombia, please check us out at www.colombianews.tv!   In a time when dream jobs in TV news don’t exist anymore… I found mine in Colombia!


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