Behind the Camera with Pat Carlini
Working mothers face many daily challenges--from finding quality child care to juggling the stress of work and managing a home. These challenges are the same for nearly all working mothers, regardless of their career, marital status or income.
To highlight the joys and challenges faced by working mothers, Indy's Child followed WTHR-TV's Pat Carlini for a day in August. As anchor of Channel 13's Eyewitness News Sunrise and Noon newscasts, Carlini has a high-profile job, but the juggling she handles as a working mother is similar to that of many local mothers. She and husband John Miller are the parents of three children: Nicolette 6, Alexa 4, and Johnny 11/2.
A blaring alarm clock startles Carlini awake. Her husband hates the screeching clock, but it helps get Carlini moving each morning. "I chose the worst sounding alarm I could find," she explains. "I just want to throw it across the room."
After a quick shower, Carlini styles her hair and applies makeup. Local anchors don't have personal stylists, makeup artists or wardrobe coordinators. Periodically, a consultant comes in to the studio to advise anchors and reporters about the latest fashion trends and seasonal colors, but they must handle the day-to-day preparations themselves.
Today she pulls on a stylish black suit accented with a bright salmon-colored blouse. Carlini arranges her soft blond hair with a hip flip at the ends and applies tasteful makeup. Before slipping out of the dark house, Carlini can't resist peaking in on her three sleeping children. Then she's off through the deserted streets to WTHR-TV's studio at 1000 N. Meridian.
"Your whole morning routine is by yourself," Carlini says. "It's so quiet." Carlini breaks the silence by singing along to the radio or CDs--perking herself up for the Sunrise newscast. "I have the most eclectic music in my car," Carlini says with a laugh. "I have everything from Barney to Matchbox 20."
Carlini walks into the WTHR-TV studio and begins meeting with Sunrise producers and co-anchors Bruce Kopp and Chuck Lofton. They discuss news segments for the upcoming show and prepare to go on the air. "People are busy until the moment we go on," Carlini says. "From the moment I walk in, it just keeps on rolling." As she talks, Carlini sips her first cup of morning coffee. She never drinks coffee before leaving home. This gives her something to look forward to when she arrives at the studio and ensures that she doesn't drink too much.
Carlini slips into the studio restroom to check her hair and makeup under the bright lights. A special vanity is surrounded by harsh studio-like lights and gives Carlini a realistic view of how she will look through the camera.
As she sits down at the anchor desk, Carlini does one last makeup check with a hand-held powder compact then turns a critical eye on her co-anchors--mentioning any wild hairs and plucking any lint from their shoulders. "Here we have to take care of each other," she explains.
Cameras roll. For the next two hours, Carlini shares the morning's news, weather and traffic updates with viewers throughout central Indiana. With a cheery smile and light-hearted tone, Carlini strives to give viewers a morning lift.
"You're their first cup of coffee," she says. "People want a lighter tone because they're walking around doing things, getting ready for their day."
Carlini's path to morning anchor has been anything but straight--from hanging studio lights and doing radio news to writing advertising copy and carrying her own television camera.
As a child in Columbus, Ohio, Carlini's inspiration came from her grandmother, who wrote historical essays for newspapers and magazines. Carlini inherited that love of writing, which lead her to a journalism degree at Ohio State University. After graduation, Carlini launched her career in radio news in Columbus, Ohio. Other radio jobs led her to Charleston, W.Va., and Maryland. Then it was back to Charleston for her first job in television.
When she interviewed for the TV job, the interviewer told Carlini that she would have to do everything--report, shoot footage and edit the film for the air. Although she had never handled a television camera or edited film, she decided to give it a try. Her first segment was a little crooked, but she did the job. Lugging around camera equipment nearly as heavy as she was quickly proved to be too much, though.
"I went to the man and said, 'Thank you for the opportunity, but I just can't do this anymore.'" Carlini says. "He said, 'What if we give you a photographer?'"
"I couldn't believe it," Carlini said, dumbfounded. "He said, 'I just wanted to see if you would do it.'"
That same sense of adventure has lead Carlini through much of her career. She's not afraid to take a chance or make a change. She loves to keep busy and keep learning.
Carlini came to Indianapolis and WTHR-TV in 1988 to do weather. After several years, an anchor position opened, and Carlini decided to give that a try. She has been doing the Eyewitness News Sunrise for about six years, since just after her older daughter, Nicolette, was born.
Carlini's children rarely watch her newscasts. They're still asleep during the Sunrise show, and they're busy during the noon newscast. But as they get older, they're starting to realize that their mother is well known around town.
A few years ago, Nicolette came home from school and asked her mother, "Who is Pat Carlini?" Carlini says with a laugh. "They just know me as Mom."
When they do watch the newscasts, the children often get upset. "They don't understand why I don't talk to them or wave back," Carlini explains.
With the Sunrise newscast over, Carlini heads back to the newsroom. She and co-anchor Bruce Kopp take turns doing the local news breaks that air during NBC's "Today Show." Today Kopp takes the first two so that Carlini can talk to a visitor. As she walks into the newsroom, Carlini heads for her cubicle--no fancy office or prestigious view. The open room allows reporters, anchors and producers to talk easily--and sometimes loudly--across the room about breaking news, upcoming newscasts or working stories.
At her desk, Carlini is surrounded by a few snapshots of her family, but she prefers to display mementos from her career. She has a row of books written by people she's interviewed, autographed photos from '50s television stars who appeared during a special promotion at the station, and a pile of files and tapes. Around the room are television monitors showing the "Today Show," MSNBC, the Weather Channel and other news programs. Otherwise, the room is fairly quiet at this hour. Most employees don't come in until after 8 a.m.
A second area of computers clustered together in the middle of the room offer reporters, anchors and producers a place to work and talk easily. Carlini often takes time to read the dozens of e-mails she receives daily. Some people have questions, others use her as a resource for local services or contacts, and some just want to vent about a story they heard on the news. She reads every e-mail and tries to answer those that ask for a response.
"These are people that you're talking to on the news every day," Carlini said of her e-mail correspondence. "It's important to hear what they have to say. We have a lot of intelligent viewers."
Carlini moves to her computer terminal to prepare for the next morning news break. She looks at updates on stories that appeared on the Sunrise newscast and checks for any breaking news. As she turns from the computer, Carlini pulls out a pouch of makeup for a touch up. She applies a little more powder and heads for the studio.
Carlini settles into the anchor chair on the set, watching as the camera people and director prepare the equipment. Shuffling her notes, she chats with her co-workers. A few seconds before the cameras roll, Carlini straightens herself, puts on a pleasant smile and takes a deep breath. Then she says a cheery good morning to "Today Show" viewers. During the short news break, Carlini and Chuck Lofton provide a quick overview of the morning traffic and weather. After the live break, Carlini tapes four news break segments to run later in the morning. Just before 9 a.m., Carlini does a final "Today Show" news break.
Although the news segments appear smooth, behind the scene is full of action. Hidden in the anchor desk are recessed monitors that show Carlini and Lofton which shots are being aired at each moment. In the middle of the desk sits a computer, tucked out of sight. The computer can be used to look at the newscast's story lineup, breaking news or the Internet. Three cameras cover all angles of the set, each with a teleprompter scrolling text for the anchors to read. When the cameras aren't rolling, chatter fills the studio. The director checks to be sure the correct graphics and text are ready for the next segment. Carlini talks to her co-anchors about stories just presented and segments appearing on the "Today Show." Music plays over the speakers, and the voice of a hidden producer seems to float down from the ceiling.
But when it's time for the next taping, the studio calms on cue, and everybody is ready to do his job. Many of the news stories Carlini reports touch her personally--especially those describing abuse against children. "It's hard not to dwell on this stuff," she explains. "You just have to move on and hope that justice is served."
Carlini sits down at her desk to call home and check on her children. She calls every day to see how their morning is going. During the school year, she calls after the Sunrise newscast to talk to Nicolette and Alexa before they head to school. She enjoys hearing what they decided to wear or what they ate for breakfast. "The hardest part is that I miss the morning routine," Carlini says of her schedule. "But I like being home when they get home from school." Often they have requests. Today they ask her to bring home ice cream because there's none in the house.
Since Carlini's husband travels a few days a week on business, Carlini has to arrange early morning child care. She had trouble finding people who could be at her house at 3:45 a.m. every morning and not be late. For the past few years, Carlini and her husband have hosted au pairs who live with them and care for the children. Each au pair stays for about a year, attends classes at a local university and learns about the American culture. This year a German student, Leah, stays with the children. "They view her as a big sister," Carlini says. "It's almost like having a fourth child."
After Carlini calls home, she prepares for an interview with Diahann Carroll scheduled for later this morning. Carroll is in town for a promotion at the Indiana State Fair. Carlini prepares questions, talking to other staffers about what they would ask the star. She and co-workers set up the cameras and get the film ready for the interview. Then Carlini receives a phone call. Carroll is running late after an earlier appointment and won't make it to the studio. "That's just the way it goes sometimes," Carlini says with a chuckle.
Besides anchor, Carlini also works as WTHR's entertainment reporter. She has been to Hollywood and interviewed countless stars from television and movie stars to recording artists. "Sometimes you get a look at their lives behind the scenes," she says. Carlini interviewed Sela Ward while she was staring in the drama "Sisters." She remembers Ward complaining about the long hours and time away from her children. In another interview, Carlini had extra time to chat with Morgan Fairchild about their children.
Sometimes Carlini catches stars in a less than flattering moment. While interviewing the stars of "Mad About You" by satellite, Carlini said that Helen Hunt and Paul Reisser were friendly, polite and open. After the cameras stopped, but the satellite feed was still on, Carlini heard Reisser making fun of her Midwestern accent. "He even had it wrong," Carlini said, remembering the moment. "He was doing more of a southern accent. I just wish I had it on tape."
Carlini's most memorable interview was with John Mellancamp and Reggie Miller. A few years ago, when the "Reggie Miller Show" aired on WTHR, both Miller and Carlini wanted to interview Mellancamp. WTHR officials arranged for both of them to fly on Chopper 13, the station's helicopter, to Mellancamp's home. After they both spoke with the singer, Mellancamp asked Miller the title of his favorite song. Then Mellancamp escorted them into his garage, where his band was waiting. Carlini and Miller enjoyed a live concert. "It was so loud I could feel the music pounding through me," Carlini says.
Carlini joins Bruce Kopp and Chuck Lofton on the set for the Eyewitness News at Noon. Stories update viewers on the news of the morning, events happening today, and the latest information on health, consumer and business news--broader information than is provided at Sunrise because anchors don't have to provide continual traffic reports, Carlini explains. Noon newscast viewers aren't in such a hurry to get ready and get out of the house, she says. They have time for more in-depth information. "You have to know who you're talking to," Carlini explains.
Carlini moves to the side of the studio for her favorite part of the show--the crafts segment. Today she is joined by a representative from Joann Etc., who demonstrates gel candles. Carlini likes to take craft ideas home to try with the kids. "Sometimes its a disaster, but it's always fun," she says.
As soon as the Noon newscast is finished, Carlini grabs her bag and heads out the door. She's now on her own time, and she doesn't want to waste a minute that she could spend with her children. "I really have two days," Carlini says. "When I'm done with work, I have the whole rest of the day for the kids. It's definitely a balancing act." When she arrives home, she sends Leah the au pair off to enjoy her own activities. "I'm not one who wants to have a sitter around while I'm here," Carlini explains. "I want to do things myself."
Now at 40, Carlini is happy that she waited until her mid-30s to have children. "I'm so much more patient with them," she explains. "It's okay if I miss something. They are the priority." So what if the room is a mess or they don't finish their lunch? Who cares if she has to miss a night out because one of the children gets sick? She appreciates the time she has with them and cherishes every milestone.
Johnny is learning to talk and toddles after his older sisters, trying to fit in with the big kids. Nicolette and Alexa always seem to be on the move--from school to soccer to playing dress up with Leah's high heels. "It's a three ring circus all the time," Carlini says, laughing at their antics.
Carlini heads out the door with the children in tow for a neighborhood pool party. As she and two other mothers watch and talk, the five children splash around in the water. Carlini starts to relax and enjoy what she hopes will be a calm, relaxing weekend. But Nicolette, Alexa and Johnny might have other plans. They want to go boating this weekend. They also remind Carlini that they haven't been to the Indiana State Fair or ridden the new Indianapolis Zoo roller coaster yet. "They think I'm here to amuse them for the weekend," she says with a laugh.
When Carlini is out with her family, viewers often recognize her. That means Carlini must always be aware of her appearance and image. "You can't just go like a slob to the mall."
After all that fun in the pool, the children are hungry, so Carlini and her friends offer the kids chicken fingers and french fries. "Not much time for the healthy stuff when you're entertaining five kids," Carlini explains. The group heads back to Carlini's house where they meet their husbands. While the children play, the adults chat on the deck until after dark. Carlini enjoys spending Friday evenings relaxing with her neighbors. It helps her unwind from her exhausting week. But even during these quiet conversations, Carlini keeps her ears open for news. The discussions help keep her connected to what people are thinking. These concerns and interests might be a news story someday.
Carlini's time with Bob and Tom
Pat Carlini's face may be known throughout Indianapolis as the Sunrise anchor on WTHR-TV, but her voice is known by radio fans in more than 100 cities across the United States as the sidekick for WFBQ's Bob and Tom Show.
"I'll go to different states and people will know me from the 'Bob and Tom Show,'" Carlini said. "It's amazing that people know me cross-country." But at the end of the last year, Carlini stopped appearing on the syndicated show due to contract conflicts with WTHR-TV. Carlini had been a regular with Bob and Tom since moving to Indianapolis in 1988. Since the WTHR and WFBQ are not affiliated with each other, WTHR had to agree annually to allow Carlini to continue the radio stint. However, management wouldn't allow Carlini's appearances to continue in 2001. Carlini is under contract with WTHR-TV and plans to honor that decision through the end of her contract next year.
Neither station has explained Carlini's absence on the "Bob and Tom Show," but following numerous e-mails and phone calls, Carlini decided to start answering the questions. "I had people asking me if they had insulted me once too often," Carlini says. "It was nothing like that. I still keep in contact with Bob and Tom socially."
Carlini's time with Bob and Tom was memorable. She appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, was featured on CDs and posters and earned top radio awards. She displays the memorabilia in a basement cabinet, which friends jokingly call the "Bob and Tom shrine."