Bill Hemmer had just arrived at an airbase in Florida when I talked to him Monday afternoon. He had just completed a reporting stint in Port-au-Prince that started last Wednesday, the day after a powerful earthquake struck the Haitian capital.
"It is such a difficult story to relay to people, because it's so overwhelmingly awful ... the sheer enormity of human need," said the Fox News Channel anchor, a veteran correspondent who has seen rough situations before.
"Professionally we're taken to a lot of tough areas," he said. "Nothing has prepared you for an experience like this. Every person in that city has a story, they're all heartbreaking, not one is a happy story."
In terms of logistics, Hemmer and crew found a hotel on the outskirts of the Haitian capital. "It was very accommodating." From that base -- "a bit of an oasis" -- he, a producer and a photographer would hit the city as the sun came up to chronicle the stories of the survivors.
Despite the overwhelming tragedy, Hemmer leaves Haiti with hopeful stories.
"We met numerous Americans," he said. "They're at the airport trying to get out, and they're torn between trying to stay or go."
He recalled a 25-year-old woman from Wisconsin with "brilliant blue eyes" at the airport.
"I was gonna go home," he quoted her as saying. "But I can't go home now because I work for an orphanage, and I have to go back."
Until sometime over the weekend, cellphones and black berries didn't work, but modern TV technology allowed him to get on the air.
"We were broadcasting from the moon, as someone said."
While there have been reports of reporters confronted by angry quake survivors, Hemmer said, "I experienced none of that. Yes, they ask you for food. Yes, they ask you for water."
Hemmer said the need for clean, fresh water is greater than the need for food in Haiti.
I asked how hard it is to handle the memories of the horrors he'd seen in Haiti. Hemmer responded by speaking of another reporter talking of a "secret cabinet for those kind of memories."
Hemmer, himself, didn't want to dwell on those memories. "If we allowed that to effect us, we couldn't do our job."
In fact, he spoke of stories of hope, of rescues from the rubble and how he was "stunned by the resiliency of the Haitian people."
Here's video of one of his stories:
"I'm a half-glass-full guy," Hemmer said. "I always try to find the goodness. You can find that in that city, as hellish as it was."
Reflecting on the disaster scene he'd just left, he said, "you feel like a part of you is left behind."
On radio: Chicago media guru Robert Feder points to more circumstantial evidence that Jonathon Brandmeier will soon be in radio earshot of his native Wisconsin. Feder blogs that Brandmeier, who was fired in November by Chicago's WLUP-FM, got a personal tour of the WGN-AM (720) studios on Saturday from the program director.
- It'll be easy to follow the results from Massachusetts' pivotal Senate election tonight on the cable news channels, but radio's tougher. Satellite subscribers can find election coverage on Sirius channel 110/XM channel 130 starting at 7 tonight.
- Speaking of Massachusetts, liberal talker Ed Schultz, whose show airs on Racine's WRJN-AM (1400) at 11 a.m. weekdays, is under fire for saying he'd "cheat" to insure the victory of Democrat Martha Coakley.
- An Internet radio outlet devoted to this year's Grammy nominees is available at the Grammy Web site. Click on "radio." CBS airs the awardscast on Jan. 31.
Jay fires back: Using the platform of his dying 9 p.m. show last night, Jay Leno offered his side of the mess at NBC.
"Through all of this -- through all of this, Conan O’Brien has been a gentleman. He’s a good guy," said Leno, whose own good-guy image has been damaged in this battle over "The Tonight Show. "I have no animosity towards him. This is all business."
Here's the video:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.