David Pogue does it all.
Our Westport neighbor is an Emmy- and Webby-winning tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American) and TV correspondent (“CBS Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”).
Those are big companies. David is the first to admit that, as creative and inspired as is, he’s got tons of production firepower behind him.
Until this month, that is. COVID-19 has made mincemeat of modern media. Rachel Maddow talk to US senators via Skype. Anderson Cooper broadcasts from home.
As for David — well, let him tell his tale.
Yesterday, “CBS Sunday Morning” aired my cover story: How to work and live at home without losing your mind.
Here’s the problem: CBS News is locked down. Nobody can get into New York City headquarters. No camera crews are available, and no travel is permitted for making stories.
So I proposed something radical: I’d write, shoot, perform and edit this entire piece at home in Westport.
David Pogue at work in Westport, long before the coronavirus.
Dan asked if I’d reveal a bit more about how the whole thing came together, for “06880.” Happy to comply!
First of all, it’s incredibly easy these days to shoot and record video that’s good enough for TV. All you need is a cheap flat-panel LED light, a digital camera, and a wireless mike.
A big chunk of my story was an introduction to Zoom, the video-chatting program that’s become a hero of the coronavirus crisis. It’s free and easy to use; the video’s very stable; it can accommodate up to 100 people on screen at once —and you can record the video meeting with a single click.
To demonstrate the possibilities, my producer arranged a historic first: All of “CBS Sunday Morning’s” correspondents on the screen simultaneously in a Zoom video. Even Jane Pauley, our host!
There’s David: top row, 2nd from left.
It was supposed to be a 5-minute deal. But it was so much fun, the call went on for over an hour. Even though we’re on the show week after week, most of us rarely meet in person.
(I’ll spare you the story of how the resulting huge video file somehow got corrupted and wasn’t openable … and how, panicking, I hunted down a Zoom PR person at midnight, who wrangled a company engineer into rescuing the file just in time for the broadcast.)
In my script I cited a new rule for the videochat era: Informal is the new normal. You’ll see kids, pets and untidy backgrounds in your video calls — and that’s all allowed now.
Imagine my delight and amusement then, when I interviewed neuropsychologist Sanam Hazeez — and in the middle, her twin 5-year-old boys burst into her office, crying. One had driven a truck over the other’s foot. (To be clear, it was a toy truck.) It was completely unplanned — but could not have made my point any better.
Well, except when Wilbur the Wonder Cat started pacing back and forth in front of my laptop camera during the interview.
Sheltering in place doesn’t mean you’re not allowed out of the house. My 3 kids are all home, of course. I corralled one of them into taking a walk with me beside the Bedford Middle School field, and another to pilot a Mavic Mini drone to film the scene. It came out great!
As it turns out, it’s even safe to meet friends face to face, as long as you maintain a decent distance. In hopes of finding examples to film, I posted a note on NextDoor.com. It’s kind of like a Facebook for neighborhoods, like Eastern Westport or whatever. (If you haven’t joined, you should. It’s free.)
Usually, NextDoor is full of lost-dog notices and “Can you recommend a plumber?” posts. But during the crisis it offers great social-distancing ideas, invitations to virtual gatherings, even a Help Map where you can see who needs errands or groceries, and you can volunteer.
My query led me first to a group of young women, all sent home from college, who gather in the parking lot of Weston Middle School, where they had been together years ago. They park their cars in a circle, sit on their trunks, 15 feet apart, and just hang out. It’s glorious. I filmed it from overhead, with my drone.
I also heard from Westport Library fundraiser Barbara Durham, who lives in an apartment building in Bridgeport. She told me that some evenings she gathers with her neighbors across the elevator lobby, each pulling a chair into her apartment doorway, for “Cocktails in the Foyer.” I drove over to film one of these wonderful social-distance parties.
I love how the story came out. I’m grateful to everyone who helped, who allowed me to film them, and who believed in the idea. (That includes my bosses at “CBS Sunday Morning,” who took a leap of faith in trusting me to deliver a story they wouldn’t see until it was finished.)
Once we’re allowed to be close to each other again, I’ll thank you all in person —with a tender, heartfelt elbow bump.
But enough about David’s back story. Click below for his piece — and Westport and Weston’s contribution to surviving in our new work-at-home world.